Fall: Season of Innovation

You’re in the heat of the semester, midterms are approaching,  and three of the biggest holidays of the year are coming in hot. Do you visit with family or stay home and recover in solitude? What about that art challenge everyone’s doing? Or maybe this is the year you finally make plans for Halloween like the social human being that your schedule says you are.

Each year, questions like these seem to come out of the woodwork simply to make life harder. However, the one that keeps me up at night is probably the vaguest of all. Do I have time?

This became a real issue for me this past weekend. It began with a text on Wednesday, and a pretty unassuming one at that. On any other occasion, I love to receive texts from home. With a family like mine, a text or phone call comes maybe once every few months. Unfortunately, this text put an end to my day off before it even began.

Are you available this weekend?

That’s how I ended up spending a weekend working in a stifling and cluttered back room, helping my parents move their business. This was an event that a more mature individual might consider “character building,” but after three days of hard labor with my family, I can only describe it as hilarious, frustrating, and exhausting. I felt like I had strolled into some 1980’s buddy-film where all the kids go through some cliché experience that alters their perception on life.

Let there be no illusions. The work was gross and strenuous, and staying in a crowded building with three teenagers and two would-be adults is never conducive to a healthy family-dynamic. However, over the course of three days, I revisited the location of a significant chapter of my life, and shut it down alongside the same people I began it with. If that isn’t closure, I don’t know what is.

I’m still just as busy as I was, but I was able to make the most of my seasonal stress and turn it into an amazing experience. Autumn is a season of change, and more people need to take advantage of that. Whether it’s writing about the changing of the leaves or tackling some annual home improvement, this season has so much potential!

Now, I’m not implying that you need to actively search for some new activity to pencil into your schedule. I hate reading through an inspiring article only for the grand takeaway to be “do it” and “if you don’t have time, make time.” In fact, if I manage to clear my schedule for an afternoon, I’m more likely to catch up on sleep than anything else, and I will never regret that. Instead, take a step back and look at what you’re already doing. Why is it important to you? What is the best you can make out of this moment? How do you want to look back on this moment?

It’s up to you.

Ten Spooky Book Suggestions

October is the perfect month for reading creepy stories. Here are ten books with varying levels of creepiness to get you in the Halloween spirit, pun intended.

1. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

“For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past — and get away with murder.”

View more on Goodreads.




2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

“A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmare.”

View more on Goodreads.


3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.”

View more on Goodreads.


4. The Shining by Stephen King

“Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.”

View more on Goodreads.


5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…”

 View more on Goodreads.


6. Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

“Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Welcome to Christine’s life. S. J. Watson makes his debut with this fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento. A terrible accident has robbed Christine of her memories. She cannot remember the past – or even yesterday. Determined to discover who she is, she has begun keeping a journal before she goes to sleep. Before she can forget again. But the truth may be more terrifying – and deadlier – than she bargained for…” 

View more on Goodreads.


7. Bird Box by Josh Malerman. 

“Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from. Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster? Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.” 

View more on Goodreads.


8. Dracula by Bram Stoker

“Few readers will ever forget the nightmare atmosphere of Count Dracula’s sinister castle in Transylvania, the prowlings of the Un-dead, the blood-curdling tension as Bram Stoker’s tale races towards a thrilling climax. Dracula recounts the struggle of a group of men and a woman – Dr Seward, Dr Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker and his wife Mina – to destroy the vampire, whose sinister earth-filled coffins are discovered by Harker in a ruined chapel adjoining Dr Seward’s asylum. Cruel and noble, evilly and fatally desirable to women, Dracula possesses a terrifying lust for power and, like Dr Jekyll or Conan Doyle’s Moriarty, is one of the immortal fictional monsters.” 

View more on Goodreads.


9. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

“Dive into this classic from the singular mind of Edgar Allan Poe, who is widely regarded as the master of short horror fiction. “The Fall of the House of Usher” recounts the terrible events that befall the last remaining members of the once-illustrious Usher clan before it is — quite literally — rent asunder. With amazing economy, Poe plunges the reader into a state of deliciously agonizing suspense. It’s a must-read for fans of the golden era of horror writing.”

View more on Goodreads.


10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson 

“First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”

View more on Goodreads.


Enjoy these spooky reads!

Listening to Brian Andreas’ Voices

If you were to stand in the doorway of my room, you would first look forward and see a big window, dying plant, and a cheap rug. Then you’d look to the left to find my bed, dresser, piano, another cheap rug, and pretty much everything else. You wouldn’t notice much to the right of the doorway because really, there’s only a wall. Not until you walked into my room would you give this wall a second glance. And only then would you notice the one picture hanging on it: a story by Brain Andreas.

Brian Andreas’s “stories” seem more like poems, but nowhere does he deem them so. He also combines each story with illustrations that seem to exist as extensions of the stories. In his fifth book, Hearing Voices Volume 5: Collected Stories & Drawings, Andreas explains that his stories, whether good or bad, come from truly listening to others and to himself. I feel I have taken Andreas’ advice and have truly listened to his story, and as a result, have a better understanding of my stories and those around me.

My first encounter with an Andreas story was through social media. One of my friends posted his story, “Small World:”

“We sat in the car & the night dropped down until the only sounds were the crickets & the dance of our voices & for a moment the world became small enough to roll back & forth between us.”

I felt connected to his words right after reading them. I knew that setting and those sounds and that feeling, but I had never (and would never) be able to articulate such things in the way Andreas does. After figuring out who Andreas is, I found the book to which “Small World” belonged (Hearing Voices) and immediately purchased it. As I read through, I realized that just as much as he told stories of the good, he also told stories of the bad. Somehow, Andreas transformed sad or discouraging topics into stories I found beautiful, making me realize that even our bad stories contain some good.

As a well-trained English major would, I often analyze; however, all too often my analysis skills translate into my every day life. When confronted with a problem, I analyze to find a pattern, which usually helps me find a solution. The problem is, sometimes life doesn’t provide a solution. Andreas understands this, and by listening to his stories, so now do I. Instead of becoming discouraged, I can take a deep breath, know I tried hard, and appreciate all the stories that exist—my own and others, the good and the bad.



Staff Spotlight – Joseph Zook

The following is an excerpt from The Persecuted. It is a story about three young adults that are at the wrong place and time. Scientists have created a “smart” shot to increase the intelligence of society, but lost their funding. They continued to make the product, but had no one to test it on, so they kidnap a group of children. Will they survive on their own, or will they have to rely on a stranger for survival? —

The Persecuted

”Hey, son would you like to be the first to try the smart shot?” A guy in a black trench coat says from the window of his huge SUV.

”What the heck is a smart shot? No,” I say totally confused. Two people get out of the back, and the guy who talked to him ran towards him. “Hey! What are you doing?” I start running, like the junior running back I am, toward my friends, but Mr. Black trench coat knocks me down. “Ouch!” I try to stop the guy from putting a bag over my head, but am unsuccessful. I start hyper-ventilating when it is shoved over my head and a gag placed in my mouth, effectively muffling my screams.

After a long time, “Get up you piece of trash,” says Mr. Black trench coat. “You’re here to test the shot Gomer’s made.” With that sentiment, I pass out with my mind reeling trying to find a way out of this situation.

I woke up groggy to the sound of a shot having its air bubbles taken out with a flick of a deadly finger. Tink! Tink! A guy with a white science coat enters my field of vision, his name tag reading Dr. Gomer. He got the air bubbles out. “This won’t hurt too much.” My eyes close again, because gomer gives me a shot. Where am I? Oh, yeah, I’m testing a new shot, I think as I wake up again.

I see a mirror in the room, and look at myself in it. My olive skin had turned a weird color.

“Ahhh, what the heck happened to my skin?” This mirror must be broken. CRASH! I see the glass of the mirror fall and I look at my bloody hand still throbbing. Did I punch the mirror?


Joseph Zook is an assistant editor for The New Plains Review. He was born and raised Oklahoman, and is originally from Enid. He fell in love with writing in his teenage years, and is passionate about it to this day. When he was 16 he wrote The Persecuted.

An Interview with Norman, OK’s Self-declared Poet Laureate

Johann Sebastian Baculum (JSB) is the self-declared Poet Laureate of Norman, Oklahoma and star of the podcast Talkulum with J.S. Baculum, an “OETA-rejected series” about himself and his poetry.

Mary Means (MM)   How did you come to be the Poet Laureate of Norman, Oklahoma?

JSB     Well, I’m a pretty forward thinking individual. I wasn’t just going to wait for them to figure it out. So I decided for them. And I don’t really feel like it’s something that just happens one day. I think I’ve always really known. You may be familiar with the work of Ray Bradbury and he very famously claimed that he remembered the moment of his own birth. And I have actually never had a problem remembering time even before that. So, basically from the moment of conception—I have memory from then until now—and even knowing that entire history of my life, I don’t feel like there was ever a time when I wasn’t destined to be the poet laureate of something. It’s more just a coincidence that I ended up being born in Norman.

MM     What chain of events led you to actually declare yourself Poet Laureate of Norman Oklahoma?

JSB     Going into a book store. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked in the poetry section of book stores anywhere, but, I mean, it’s just full of garbage. I think maybe it was my third or fourth journey to the local Barnes & Noble, going through the poetry section. I would just go through from A to Z just picking poetry books and flip them open to a random page and read a poem. Garbage every time. And I thought to myself, what poetry really needs is some fresh new voices who are saying real things that people are actually gonna care about. You get all this highfalutin crap from these guys. Yeats I have a personal bone to pick with, but you know, Whitman’s not much better. […] And they’re all guys. Do women write poetry? Do you know about this? Have you heard of anything like that?

MM     I actually have heard of a few women poets.

JSB     Yeah they’re not selling them in book stores in Oklahoma. I mean to be fair that’s a whole historical, sociological issue that I don’t even know that we should plumb the depths of. But, basically I was going through these book stores and they’re all full of crap. There isn’t a thing that you’d want to read in there poetry wise. So I felt like it was time to change the focus of poetry to relate more to common people and their concerns.

MM     Was there any sort of formal event to coincide with you becoming poet laureate?

JSB     Oh no. It was a very Norman event really. There’s an event they have down there once a year called the Norman Music Festival. It’s sort of a springtime thing. And I thought that was probably the perfect occasion. So normally they have a train that is the only train that stops in the train station in Norman that’s called the Heartland Flyer. It’s a two engine Amtrak that I’m pretty sure nobody rides. There was definitely nobody on it except for me and my goons. What we did was pulled into the station during Norman Music Festival. They have a stage that’s set up right at the end of it. Me and these guys bust the doors open off the train. They’re flying Oklahoma flags behind me, just kind of swirling them around, and I just went on the stage. I think they were doing a sound check. I mean if that was a performance it was pretty terrible. But I just picked up a microphone and said “I am Johann Sebastian Baculum, Poet Laureate of Norman, Oklahoma from this day forward. You’re welcome to try to depose me, you grimy bastards.” And then, me and these guys with the flags just got the hell out of there because security was getting pretty close. But yah, that was really the formal announcement.

MM     How has the city of Norman responded to your declaration?

JSB     Total and utter silence. I have heard nothing from anyone from the city. I do spend some time around the government buildings down there because I have a friend who allows me to receive faxes on the machine in his office.

MM     What other poets of note have come from the city of Norman?

JSB     [laughs] “What Norman poetry scene?” would be a better question. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Norman music scene, but as the Starlight Mints’ singer, maybe guitarist, once said when asked about the Norman music scene, “What music scene?” Now you might find this ironic because two members of the Starlight Mints actually own the Opolis, which is one of the few music venues in Norman. But just as there is no music scene in Norman, there’s also no poetry scene. I’m pretty much it. So love it or leave it, you’ve got what I’m throwing out there. Might as well get it from the best.

MM     How has your work been influenced by living in Norman?

JSB     You might ask just as easily how the algae influences the water boatman, a small insect that does something like rowing—I think maybe people somewhere call them skiff bugs—they kind of float on the top of the water, they spread their legs out really far, they sort of look like ores, kind of like a rowing team, but like how does algae affect them? It’s the same thing. I’m there. It’s a part of me. It’s barely even conscious anymore. All pervasive influence.

MM     You no longer live in Norman. How has that affected your position as Poet Laureate of Norman, Oklahoma?

JSB     Well I find that having a little bit of reflexive distance actually makes it a lot easier to write about Norman. You know, sometimes you don’t really see things the same when you’re looking at them from the inside as you do from the outside. And now I’ve really been in both places. I’ve wrote about Norman from the inside of it, and now I’ve written about it from a different part of Oklahoma that’s basically the same. So my perspective has totally changed.

MM     How so?

JSB     Well hmm, I use fewer semicolons. And uh fuck. [pause] Just punch something up about rhymes or something.

MM     When did you start writing poetry?

JSB     Well I don’t really like to think about it in terms of me writing poetry, because really poetry writes all of us. But if you want some sort of practical answer: I think really when I first learned how to form letters I was immediately writing poetry. You know the simple poetry of A-F-N-L. Just the letters themselves, if you have the right attitude, are really their own form of poetry. The sounds. The shapes. The things that they denote. It’s truly all poetry. I mean I’ve only gotten better as time’s gone on.

MM     What kind of advice would you give your younger self?

JSB     Don’t ever listen to or take seriously the opinion of anybody about anything you’ve ever done. Just do whatever you wanna do whenever you feel like it with very little consideration for other people. And I think really that’s it. Because I’ve spent a lot of time second guessing myself and it had a lot to do with, you know, I was always mystified at why people were so interested in consuming complete and utter garbage and so I kept trying to write to that low common denominator and, I just, I couldn’t do it. I was submitting things to magazines—anywhere from Poetry, which is the biggest poetry magazine in the world, to things like the New Plains Review, and I wasn’t getting responses anywhere. And I really think when I stopped censoring myself, and when I decided that I really didn’t give a shit about whether or not anybody was understanding what I was trying to do, and just declared myself a genius, then things really turned around for me.

MM     Is that the same advice you’d give aspiring poets now?

JSB     Well they can feel free to try it. I mean, I’m not making any promises, because a lot of talent is what people use to refer to as God-given. What-people-used-to-refer-to-as-God is all one thing. Like put all those words together with hyphens and then whatever that entity is- given talent.

MM     Thank you for letting me interview you today. Do you have anything else you would like to share with our readers?

JSB     Listen to my podcast. You can find it on Stitcher, which means that it’s somewhat legitimate. It’s called Talkulum with J.S. Baculum. It’s very educational. You’ll learn a lot about poetry, culture, […] writing exercises, and all kinds of practical advice. It’s worth your time.



How To Address Writer’s Block

We all have it. That abrupt halt in the intense, speed-of-light journey that is writing. Some call it writers block, others see it as a need to figure out exactly what they are attempting to say. Whatever we call it (doesn’t matter), we all find ourselves slaves of this mystical force.

If I am blocked, which happens too often, I usually just start writing whatever enters my head. I do this until I feel some give to the wall of diamonds blocking the road to the completion of my prose or poetry. Therefore, just keep writing, the block is not permanent, it is simply an obstacle that, if properly worked through, will improve your writing as all negative things can improve you, given the chance.

Have you ever arrived to the point where you realize you haven’t written in months? Exercising your creative muscles is important, and ignoring it can be a major contribution to writer’s block. So even if you have to make time before bed, or work, or on your lunch break for 10 minutes, make time for writing. The daily practice will help you learn how to avoid or work through any mental blocks.

Once I return to writing after a long time away, I seem to always hit a wall, but all I do is laugh. It thinks it can stand against the force of creativity, but as a writer, I know better than to let it stop me. All we need to do is destroy it by continuing to write.

So, if you feel a block coming, don’t worry about the blinking cursor, or the blank sheet of paper. Fill them with fantastic stories until the block quits in despair.

My Childhood in HD – Studio Ghibli Fest 2017

I was one of those kids who found a single movie and stuck with it, watching it whenever possible. For me, that movie was Studio Ghibli’s 1986 classic Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Aided by Hayao Miyazaki’s unique art style and directing, which is touched upon in a previous article by Janet Cowden, the film inspired a sense of magic and determination in me, as well as a never-ending desire to be a nefarious, sky-sailing pirate with bushy pink hair.

(One day.)

I wanted to see more of Ghibli’s movies. But as I was born in 1996, my only exposure to Studio Ghibli’s films were through VHS or DVD, and many of them were released between 1980 and the mid-2000s. It never even crossed my mind that I might get to watch them in a theatre.

Enter Studio Ghibli Fest 2017.

Hosted by the film distribution company GKIDS and Fathom Events, Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 is a six-month event during which one of Studio Ghibli’s six most famous films is shown in select theaters for the course of two-three days per month.

I had the opportunity to see Castle in the Sky at Tinseltown in OKC, surrounded by perhaps three dozen other people who were just as excited as I was. The feature was preceded by three shorts, courtesy of GKIDS, all of which were very entertaining and only added to the anticipation radiating throughout the theater.

Once it began, it was like the movie had taken on a whole new life, as the theater provides a very different experience than a fuzzy VCR. It had been remastered to better suit the silver screen, the music surrounded us from all sides, and I’m fairly certain many scenes were included that I’d never seen (or perhaps just never noticed) before.

GKIDS and Fathom Events put together a marvelous experience during which I was able to see one of my favorite movies like I’d never seen it before. And there’s more to come! The series is now half over. That leaves Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle to run the last weeks of September, October, and November. Each film can be seen in either the original Japanese with English subtitles or the English dub, though the date and time of showings will vary based upon which is chosen.

For those who are interested, tickets for one of the three remaining movies can be bought either through Fathom Events ahead of time or in person at one of the select theaters participating in Ghibli Fest. Tickets are not the cheapest, running about $15 each when you factor in tax and convenience fees, but if you have the time and money, I believe that the opportunity to see one of these classic movies in theaters shouldn’t be passed up. Personally, I don’t plan on missing many more.

See you at the movies!


My First Loss in the Age of Social Media Grieving


This week I unexpectedly lost my best friend, platonic soulmate, and “every day” person. By “every day” person, I mean we had that special relationship where we told each other the little things that don’t seem important to anyone else. I find myself still wanting to text him every time something small happens. Having my entire world turned upside down in the matter of a day was difficult enough, but I never expected to be so horrified by the public response to his death.

I preface this by saying I know grief is not a competition. I know everyone handles death in their own way and has a right to respond to it as they will. I am at no point saying that anyone’s grief or expression of love toward someone is invalid or a lie. I only offer a perspective that I did not previously understand before losing someone so close, and know many people simply do not understand. My friend’s death was quickly publicized by the news, radio, and social media. Many people I was not even aware knew my best friend were suddenly expressing their unconditional love on all forms of social media. One stranger wrote “RIP” before he was even gone. Others shared stories about that one time they played a show with his band.

At this point, one might be thinking, “I don’t see the problem here. Everyone is expressing their love for the person. How is this insensitive?” It’s true, no one had a single bad thing to say. It was all sympathetic and positive and loving. So why does it bother me so much? The first reason is social media is simply an insincere platform. Expressing grief on social media is like writing “happy birthday” on someone’s Facebook wall. If you’re really their friend, why aren’t you just calling or messaging them? My friend’s death has been turned into a #trend. Everyone feels the need to be publicly included in the grieving.

While there are many sincere people who loved my friend and still chose to post, there were many who used my friend’s death to draw attention to themselves. Posting a selfie with a caption telling everyone to “live life to the fullest and not regret anything” is insensitive. I question if some of my peers are more upset at the reality of death than the actual death. Even if they don’t realize it. Yes, I’m sure they are actually upset. Again, I’m not trying to invalidate people’s feelings. BUT, the choice to post self-centered posts that draw attention to themselves for the sake of getting likes makes me want to scream, “I HOPE MY BEST FRIEND’S DEATH IS GETTING YOU ALL OF THE LIKES YOU WANTED.”

Grief is the most personal and heart-wrenching experience in my life. Having all of my peers constantly make insensitive public posts is overwhelming and I feel like the worst experience in my life is being put on display. I find myself wanting to be territorial over my friend. It might not be a competition of who loved him most, but grief makes the griever irrationally emotional. It doesn’t have to be fair. It doesn’t have to be “right.” I feel what I feel, and what I feel is a lot of anger.

In a week, most of the people who made these posts will be able to continue their lives normally. I don’t get that. Those closest to him don’t get to go back to normal lives in the next week or month. At worst, they’ll think back about his death, be sad, and think “that was such a shame.” At best for me, I’ll make it through the day without crying every time I’m alone a year from now. All I want is for everyone to think before they post about the death of someone. It may be making the grieving experience worse for those closest to the person. I love you best friend. Forever.


Interview with Constance Squires

I have an audio version of this interview, but the sound quality is terrible, so here’s a text version for you all to enjoy.

Constance Squires is the author of the novel Along the Watchtower (Riverhead), which won the 2012 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction, and a novel and short story collection which are both forthcoming in 2017: Live from Medicine Park (University of Oklahoma Press) and Wounding Radius and Other Stories (Ferry Street). Her short stories have appeared in Guernica, The Atlantic Monthly, Shenandoah, Identity Theory, Bayou, the Dublin Quarterly, This Land, and a number of other magazines.  Her nonfiction has appeared in Salon, the New York Times, the Village Voice, the Philological Review, Largehearted Boy, and has been featured on the NPR program Snap Judgment.  A regular contributor to the RollingStone500 (thers500.com), she also reviews literature and music with work that has appeared or is forthcoming in World Literature Today and The Collapser. She composed the screenplay for Sundance fellow Jeffrey Palmer’s 2015 short film, Grave Misgivings, and co-edited the first and second edition of Speculations: An Anthology for Reading, Writing and Research (Kendall Hunt Publishing).  In 2014, she was the guest editor for This Land’s summer fiction issue, and she participated in the Tulsa, Oklahoma episode of Literary Death Match as a judge. Currently, she is working on a third novel, The Real Remains.

Dr. Squires teaches Writing Short Story, Writing the Novel, Fundamentals of Creative Writing, Rock and Roll Literature, Editing and Marketing and English Composition I and II at UCO. She also directs the Everett Southwest Literary Award, a bi-annual prize that awards $5,000 in alternating creative genres. She received the college of Liberal Arts’ for Outstanding Scholarly/Creative Activity in 2010 and the Faculty Merit Credit Award for Creativity in 2013.

Connie Squires/oklibs.org


A Letter to My Year as a Student Editor

Dearest Year,

You were a challenge. You often lacked oxford commas, which I found annoying, bothersome, and emotionally painful. You presented me with many formatting issues. I will still never understand why anyone chooses to center justify anything. Your crown jewel was the day the internet and, consequentially, Submittable broke. It seemed like you never wanted me to be productive. Between your typos and tight deadlines, I felt like I was going to lose my mind.

However, I would not wish you away for anything in the world. You made me stronger. I learned from you that a semicolon is just a period with a fancy high heel. I learned that anything and everything can be funny with just a pinch of sleep deprivation. You presented me with many trials and I am all the better for them. You made this journal grow into something bigger than anyone could have ever wished for. I would not have survived you without the amazing team that works so hard to put New Plains Review together. We came (to class). We saw (all the comma errors). We conquered (the final draft).