Meet the Niche No. 6 Contributors!
Written by: Katya Cummins

    Amryn Soldier

    Amryn Soldier’s photographs have been published in a number of print and online publications such as Sugar Hill & Suwannee Life Magazines, The Southern Regional Honors Council, as well as a number of literary magazines. Her most noteworthy achievement was delivering a TEDx talk on overcoming fears in artistic endeavors. She has also exhibited photographs in the Hudgens Center for the Arts, S. Tucker Cook Gallery, the YMI Cultural Center, Owen Hall Flood Gallery, and the Highsmith Art and Intercultural Gallery. She graduated cum laude with a BA concentrating in photography from UNC Asheville with distinction as a university scholar earning the Leadership in Arts Award, All – Academic Athletic Award, and the International Tennis Association Scholar Athlete Award. Her most recent work focuses on self representation and utilizes a combination of alternative processes

        Bill Vernon

        Bill Vernon’s novel Old Town was published Five Star Mysteries in 2005. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Recent nonfiction publications include stories in Indiana Voice Journal, The Magnolia Review, Star 82 Review, Dryland Lit, Scarlet Leaf Review, Memoir Journal, and Heartbeat Literary Journal.

            Brue McRae

            Brue McRae, a Canadian musician, is a Pushcart nominee with over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His latest book out now, ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ is available on Amazon and through Cawing Crow Press.

                Doug Bolling

                Doug Bolling currently resides in the Chicago area while working on a collection. His poems have appeared in Basalt, Juked, Water-Stone Review, Redactions, BlazeVOX, Posit, Agave and many others. He has received several Pushcart nominations and a Best of the Net nomination, earned the MA and PhD from Iowa and has taught at colleges and universities in the Midwest.

                    Heather J. Macpherson

                    Heather J. Macpherson writes from New England.  Her work has appeared in many fine publications including Spillway, Pearl, The Broken Plate, and OVS. She has twice been a features editor for The Worcester Review, and is the Executive Director at Damfino Press. Besides writing poetry, essays, and occasional fiction, Heather teaches poetry writing workshops and works part-time as a high school librarian. She is a visiting instructor at Framingham State University. She holds a Masters in Education (Library Media Studies) and is completing her Masters in English, spring 2016.

                        Joseph Hiland

                        Joe Hiland received his MFA from Indiana University and is a former fiction editor of Indiana Review. His short story “When the Green Went Away” was published in Colorado Review, won an AWP Intro Award, and was a “Notable Nonrequired Reading” in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

                            Lana Bella

                             Pushcart nominee, Lana Bella is an author of two chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016) and Adagio (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 300 journals, including, 2RiverCalifornia Quarterly, Chiron ReviewColumbia Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review, San Pedro River Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, The Ilanot Review, The Writing Disorder, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal,  and Yes Poetry among others.  She resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps. 

                                Lara Dunning

                                Lara Dunning received her MFA in Creative Writing with a dual focus degree in nonfiction and children’s/young adult writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her essays have been published in Soundings ReviewSilver Apples Magazine, and Mountain Gazette. Her young adult novel Aleutian Pearl won 2nd place in the Authors.me YA!2015 contest.

                                    Lynn Holmgren

                                    Lynn Holmgren lives and writes in Boston. She is a community organizer, bicycle advocate and co-founder of the WWF (Women Writing Fiction).

                                        Paul Pekin

                                        Paul Pekin has published numerous stories, essays, and features in commercial and literary markets including, this year, Little Paxutent Review, Gravel, Compose, and Waterford Review. Some of his older work can be seen at his website.

                                            Peter Fortenbaugh

                                            Peter Fortenbaugh is 25 years old and from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He has been working on the fictional Chesapeake island of Johnsontown for five years. He currently lives in Madrid with his girlfriend Cecilia. This is his first publication.

                                                Richard Vyse

                                                Richard Vyse has shown in galleries in Manhattan, Boston and Honolulu. He has studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and taught at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. His art has been featured in Agave Magazine, The Magnolia Review, and was the critics choice art in Heart Mind Zine Magazine. His art is in the Leslie+Lohman museum in New York City. Visit vyseartpuncturedmindscapes.blogspot.com for more information.

                                                    Ryan Francis Kelly

                                                    Ryan Francis Kelly is a two-time Pushcart nominee whose poems, stories, and articles have appeared in dozens of print and online journals. You can find a full list of his published work at his website or message him on Twitter @RFrancisKelly.

                                                        Sheila Moeschen

                                                        Sheila Moeschen is a Boston-based writer who’s work has appeared in Huffington Post, Feminine Collective, bioStories, and Red Line Roots. She is represented by Full Circle Literary Agency.

                                                            Sidney Taiko

                                                            Sidney Taiko is the Editor-in-Chief of Storm Cellar, a literary Journal. She is the recipient of several creative writing awards including  the John L. Rainey Prize in fiction, the Junior Quinn Award in poetry, the Thatcher H. Guild American Academy of Poets Award, and the Florence L. Healy Scholarship. She graduated with an MA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she was the recipient of the Ellen Hunnicut prize in fiction. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Sage Hill Press, CutBank, PANK, Comstock Review, and Montage. You can listen to her read her two flash fiction pieces here.

                                                                Stephanie Papa

                                                                Stephanie Papa is a poet and translator living Paris, France. She has an MFA degree in Poetry from the Pan European program at Cedar Crest College. She is poetry co-editor of Paris Lit Up magazine. Her work has been published in NOONgreat weather for mediaFour Chambers PressParis/AtlanticLiterary Bohemian5×5, RumpusCleaver MagazineCerise PressThe Prose Poetry Project. She organizes anglophone writing workshops in Paris. Listen to her reading “Lebanon on a Map” and read her interview at Niche here.

                                                                    W. Jack Savage

                                                                    W. Jack Savage is a retired broadcaster and educator. He is the author of seven books including Imagination: The Art of W. Jack Savage. To date, more than fifty of Jack’s short stories and over four-hundred of his paintings and drawings have been published worldwide. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California.

                                                                      Journal Spotlight: Bird’s Thumb
                                                                      Written by: Katya Cummins

                                                                      As Niche is gets closer to launching our next issue, and as it is submission season, as it were, we thought we’d jump into the fray with a Journal Spotlight. I am very excited and pleased to invite the co-founder Anitia Dellaria of Bird’s Thumb to Niche Features. I want to take this opportunity to thank her again for taking the time to conduct the following interview.

                                                                      NICHE: One thing I love about Bird’s Thumb is how welcoming it is to unpublished writers. Your header states that Bird’s Thumb is “dedicated to the discovery and publication of emerging writers.” Why was it important for you and Sahar Mustafah to launch a literary magazine that keeps emerging writers firmly in mind?

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA:  Sahar and I are writers and have spent decades (collectively) teaching writing, participating in various writer groups and classes so, having had our share of rejections and successes, we came to this project with a lot of experience knowing there was a ton of great writing out there waiting to be discovered. We felt that because of our experience we could actually be helpful to emerging and new writers not just in providing a venue for publication, but in being editors and working with our contributors when we see promising work. Writers need dedicated editors and editors need dedicated writers. But I do think we were a little surprised at just how thrilling this grassroots venture is. We are not constrained by any institution or the need to be profitable. We donate our work, time, and expertise, and it’s awesome.

                                                                      NICHE: I know only of a few other literary magazines that take time to work with contributors when they see promising work. Most publications ascribe to the idea that, if a piece of writing needs work, then it shouldn’t have been sent out. How do you personally feel about that opinion, and how much time do you, as editors, devote to working one-on-one with contributors? Could you speak a little more about what that work with contributors entails.

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: First, let me say that most of the work we accept only needs careful copy editing. However, if we think a piece has promise, we’ll offer to work with the writer, and often will go through more than one re-write. I want to stress that we’re not re-writing the piece. We can’t tell the writer what to write; we can only help the writer to make it better. It’s a fine line and we walk it carefully. When we do extend an offer to look at rewrites, we reserve the right not to publish it if we can’t agree with the writer on the final version. With fiction, we might ask for more character development, sometimes a change to an ending, sometimes removing sections, sometimes rearranging things. If a piece has heart and life and is interesting and the writing is alive and engaging but just needs a little (or more than a little) work, we’ll give it a shot. All pieces — fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — get careful word by word and line by line editing. Having said that, we are more likely to reject a poem that isn’t done yet than a work of fiction or nonfiction. We believe it is the job of editors to help writers make their work better.

                                                                      NICHE: You’ve stated before that you admire writers who take risks, and play with form. Can you speak a little to what taking risks in writing means?

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: This question is harder to answer than I thought. On the one hand, to say you want work that takes risks isn’t really saying anything risky, because who wants writing that doesn’t do that? On the other hand, it’s really hard to define what taking risks means. Sometimes it’s subject matter; sometimes it means playing with form, and, in the case of poetry, actually writing formal verse can be very risky. To write honestly is probably the biggest risk there is.

                                                                      NICHE: “Keep Evolving” is an interesting phrase.  By this, do you mean that writers should remain open to innovative ways of writing stories audiences may have “seen before?” Or does it merely mean that writers should keep challenging themselves, pushing beyond the boundaries of their own work, whether it’s through language, form, voice, etc….

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: Yes to both meanings you suggest. (I don’t think they’re exclusive of each other.) I think the phrase “keep evolving” together with the image of the bird with the thumb is a better expression of our sensibility. Yes, there’s change, adaptation, evolution, but also there’s also the vestigial feature. We’re not scientists, and we’re not saying that birds do, in fact, have thumbs, but we love the image: four feathers and a thumb. It’s startling, kind of funny, might make you wonder if it’s true, and definitely makes you wonder what it means. Come to think of it, that might be an editorial policy.

                                                                      NICHE: A lot of the stories and poems published in Bird’s Thumb are those that seem to value clarity of image, coherency, compression, and above all, significant human moments. Is genuine emotion one of the main things you look for when reading submissions?

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: That’s a very perceptive and accurate description of the writing we tend to favor. And yes to “significant human moments.”  I’m not sure we’re necessarily looking for genuine human emotion when we’re reading but we sure notice when it’s missing. I would also add that endings are important, as are a diversity of voices, styles, and subject matter.

                                                                      NICHE: You’ve written and published work yourself. Has being an editor of a literary magazine taught you anything new about writing or the writing process, and if so, what?

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: Not so much anything new, but it has sure reinforced what I already know. Things like, good writing is re-writing. More than process, editing Bird’s Thumb the journal and running Bird’s Thumb the organization with Sahar has shown me that there are many ways to be part of a writing community.

                                                                      NICHE: What is next for Bird’s Thumb?

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: We’ve instituted an annual reading series and have recently launched a blog called “Write Here, Write Now” devoted to writing on writing. We are also in the process of planning the first in an annual chapbook series. We’re very excited about the ways we’re expanding.

                                                                      NICHE: Is there anything else about Bird’s Thumb that you want our readers to know?

                                                                      ANITA DELLARIA: In addition to being an online and literary publisher, we are also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which means donations are tax deductible. We depend on donations to keep running, and it takes very little to keep the doors open. So, if our readers are inclined, they can make a donation on our site (birdsthumb.org) or visit our fundraising campaign on Generosity. Also, we love for our readers to stay connected with us. Find us on Twitter, Facebook and join our mailing list to receive our not too frequent newsletter. We can be reached at anita@birdsthumb.org or sahar@birdsthumb.org.

                                                                      Anita Dellaria is a playwright and the poetry editor at Bird’s Thumb, which she co-founded with Sahar Mustafah in 2014. She lives in Chicago.

                                                                       

                                                                       

                                                                      Virtual Reading: “Milepost 350, 2:33 AM” by Heather J. Macpherson
                                                                      Written by: Katya Cummins

                                                                      Heather J. Macpherson writes from New England.  Her work has appeared in many fine publications including Spillway, Pearl, The Broken Plate, and OVS. She has twice been a features editor for The Worcester Review, and is the Executive Director at Damfino Press. Besides writing poetry, essays, and occasional fiction, Heather teaches poetry writing workshops and works part-time as a high school librarian. She is a visiting instructor at Framingham State University. She holds a Masters in Education (Library Media Studies) and is completing her Masters in English, spring 2016.

                                                                      CLICK TO LISTEN TO HEATHER MACHPERSON READ HER POEM “MILEPOST 350, 2:33 AM” BELOW

                                                                       

                                                                       

                                                                      CHATS WITH AUTHORS: HEATHER MACPHERSON

                                                                      NICHE: I’ve always been curious about beginnings. When did you begin to write?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: I started writing when I was in elementary school, making-up stories on my own, or with my friend Allison. I have fond memories of our precocious stories, and sitting at my mother’s typewriter, pecking away at the keys. I started writing poetry in high school, but developed a more serious attitude toward the genre in college.

                                                                      NICHE: How do you personally begin a poem?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: I observe and watch. Many of my poems are based on personal experiences, but also observations of others. I take a lot of ‘notes,’ recording everything and anything swimming in my brain whether it makes sense or not. Then I focus on word choice, next, the line and punctuation, play with form. I’ve come to realize that not every poem works syllabically or formally. It’s fun to play.

                                                                      NICHE: How has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON:I would say that my idea of “what poetry is” changed after constantly reading and re-reading an anthology called “The Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review. Through that particular volume I discovered poets like Stephanie Brown, Yusef Komunyakka, and others I had not engaged with in my reading life. It was an incredible experience to discover this volume, which then led me to reading single poet collections, journals, and international poets.

                                                                      NICHE: Who are you reading now?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: I am reading a few different things at the moment. I am currently at work on my thesis, which focuses on the relational discourse in some of the animal poems by Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. I am constantly reading and re-reading those specific poems, selected letters, and other sources. Besides that, I am reading Patrick O’Brien’s novel Master and Commander. His writing has a wonderfully lyrical line that reminds me of one of my former professor’s novels, Ever and Ever. Besides, it is always fun to learn the language of a subject that is unknown to me. I don’t know anything about ships or sailing, and it’s a whole other diction to explore.

                                                                      NICHE: I’m interested in the idea that there is a space in writing where poetry and fiction intersect. Which sentence from Master and Commander strike you?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: One sentence in particular that stands out for me in O’Brien’s novel is the following from chapter 10:

                                                                      “The Sophie was standing in with her starboard tacks aboard, steering west-north-west; hammocks had been piped up and stowed in the nettings; the smell of coffee and frying bacon mingled together in the eddies that swirled on the weather-side of her taut trysail” (362).

                                                                      Reading a novel so out of my comfort zone allows me to consider language I might not otherwise encounter, i.e. ‘tacks’, ‘eddies’, ‘trysail’. O’Brien uses sensory detail, assonance, alliteration, and the rhythm in his lines, throughout the novel, mimic the oceanic motion of the sea. There is a lot to admire and consider as both a reader and poet. I think stepping away from what typically draws us in is a good thing.

                                                                      NICHE: I noticed that you’re also a scholar. Most recently, you wrote a paper entitled, “The Impenetrable Wood: Gender Identity in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Moose.” It was published in Parlour: A Journal of Literary Criticism and Analysis. Congratulations on this recent publication! I got my degrees in English Literature and creative writing, and I found that, as a scholar, I was taught to look at writing differently than I do as a writer. Do you believe that viewing poetry as a scholar enables you to write poems better? Or do you feel these pursuits are separate?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: Quite honestly I have difficulty separating poetry writing from analytical and critical writing because, for me, I think there are ways when both areas are complementary to each other. I definitely think my poetry writing is influenced by scholarly work in the way ideologies are examined and I often include a silent commentary in a poem whether it is about gender identity, politics, or one of poetry’s favorite topics, love. Although I love writing both poetry and essay, I love the challenge of brevity in poems and what I can get away with. You can break rules in poetry that you cannot in other genres and I like that rebellious nature of the writing process.

                                                                      NICHE: You’re also an editor. You’ve been a feature editor of the Worcester Review twice. What do you, as an editor, look for in a poem?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: As a features editor at The Worcester Review I looked for poems that made solid connections to the features topics and also to the essays accepted. Typically a features section for that particular journal requires ties to the Worcester County area. I am actually working on a third features section on screenwriter John Michael Hayes who was born in Worcester and went on to write screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock among others. He also adapted Peyton Place. Submissions are open for the features section….I need submissions!

                                                                      NICHE: What can you tell us about Damfino Press?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: Damfino Press is a concept developed by my partner, Lea C. Deschenes and I. We were ready to create something of our own focusing on poetry and essay and we also wanted to publish print books. We have our Five Poem chapbook series, and so far we’ve also held our Annual Afternoonified Poetry Chapbook Contest, and we’ve received outstanding submissions. We also host workshops. We have a weekend workshop coming up with Ilya Kaminsky in August, but this year we are really going to focus more on marketing. Submissions to our journal are open through September 1st and then we’re taking a brief hiatus to overhaul our website. Writers can submit to the feature section by emailing me directly at heathermacph@gmail.com Submissions remain open! Send us your writing! Everyone!

                                                                      NICHE: What advice would you give to aspiring poets?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: Don’t give up. In 2015 I received over 200 rejections. You have to keep going. Every once in awhile I have moments where I don’t think I can take another “your poem just isn’t the right fit for us” but the best thing you can do is turn your rejection around and send it to someone else. Also, read a lot, find your inspiration don’t wait for it, get into a supportive and constructive poetry workshop if that is of interest, and be a strong observer. Explore areas that may not be of interest because you never know what you’ll find. Be fearless in your writing and have conviction.

                                                                      NICHE: Can you expand on this idea of being a “strong observer” and exploring interests? This particular idea/philosophy, if you will, seems important to you. You said, for example, that you’re reading Master and Commander in part because it allows you to explore a different type of diction. I’d think that opening yourself up, or having access to new language, words, diction would be very important to any writer but poets in particular, right?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: Observation for any type of writer, I think, is crucial. When writing fiction you observe your characters as if they are real people, watch their development, eavesdrop on conversations. As a poet you must be willing to observe with all the senses and take in what is around you whether it is uncomfortable or not. I spend a lot of time people watching, listening. I wrote “Milepost…” after stopping at a rest area at 3 AM. I walked in and this young person is watching an instructional video on youtube; it was fascinating, but at the same time I felt intrusive. The moments in that experience, passing by the individual and catching everything I could see, and then stopping at a nearby sink allowed me to observe and capture moments that reminded me of another experience from many years ago, which is why I attempt to play with time in “Milepost”. Twenty years ago I worked in a bookstore, stepped into the restroom and a beautiful transvestite was applying lipstick in the mirror. The connection between that memory from the bookstore restroom and the more recent rest stop experience drove me to respond in some way.

                                                                      NICHE: What are you working on now?

                                                                      HEATHER MACPHERSON: Well, besides my thesis and a features section for TWR, I have a few poems in the works, and I have an idea for a chapbook collection, although I likely won’t flush the concept out completely until my thesis is done. I’ve also submitted a few conference proposals so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to participate in one of those, but we’ll see. If not, I’ll try some others. I also recently interviewed poet Stephanie Brown, which was very exciting, and I’m looking to place that piece and I’m sure it will happen eventually.

                                                                      Be sure to follow Heather on Facebook and WordPress!