Brimming With Ideas: An Interview With Amanda McLeod

Brittany Bauernfiend, Brave Voices Fiction Editor: What does the word brave mean to you?

Amanda McLeod: To me, being brave is about knowing yourself and not changing who you are in the face of adversity – it’s placing enough value on yourself. It’s being afraid and taking the leap anyway. There’s a line from a Jason Mraz song that I think really sums it up: “Leap, and the net will appear”

BB: How can writers be brave when working on their own writing?

AM: By writing what they want to write. Tell the story you need to tell. And – hardest of all! – be ready to admit when something isn’t working and cut it out. The wonderful Stephanie Hutton gave a me a gem of advice once – she told me to keep all the things I cut in a folder somewhere, in case they are the beginnings of something else. Just because they don’t work in that particular story doesn’t make them junk – they just need a different fit. I have mined some absolute gold out of the folder of bits and bobs!

BB: Why did you choose to write Returns and Exchanges in first person POV as opposed to other perspectives?

AM: I wanted to really inhabit her mind and have the reader do that too – you need to really step into her shoes, I think, to connect with her desperation and understand why she’d want to take such a drastic step.

BB: Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when the idea for this story came around?

AM: Yes! I was standing in line to return something I’d bought that wasn’t quite right and I was people watching, looking at all the other random things people were returning and wondering why they were returning them. I thought to myself ‘wow, people will return almost anything’ which immediately led into ‘imagine if you could get a refund on your whole life’ – and there it was!

BB: If your piece was adapted to a movie, who would you choose to play our main character, Lauren, and why?

AM: Hmm. Maybe Kristen Stewart? I think she could capture the quiet darkness quite well.

BB: Can you describe your work in three words?

AM: layered, introspective, diverse (my writing group would also say depressing, but I’ve written some quite joyous pieces as well!)

BB: What can readers look forward to from you in the future?

AM: A book! My debut flash fiction collection is being released later this year (follow me on Twitter @AmandaMWrites for all the juicy details when they become available). I’ve also been editing a novel, and working on some poetry. I’m brimming with ideas! 

Amanda McLeod is an Australian author and artist. Her words have appeared in many places both in print and online including Milk Candy Review, Not Very Quiet, Chanterelle’s Notebook, and others. She is also the Managing Editor at Animal Heart Press, where she helps poets bring their books to life. She likes rain, quiet, and long walks. Find her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites or at her website


Amanda McLeod Headshot 2020

Sensual, Evocative & Powerful: An Interview with Chi Sherman

Chi Sherman is an issue #2 contributor.

Audrey Bowers: What does the word brave mean to you?

Chi Sherman: I guess being brave, at least in a writing context, means that I am finally starting to write about “myself myself” instead of the fantasy self I’ve been in poems. The fantasy self that lingers with languid lovers on lavender sheets while sipping liqueur, that is. Being myself in my writing means composing essays about potentially difficult topics, such as being a person of size, being biracial, or being gay (just to name a few identities) and preparing myself for questions my friends and family might ask. Like many people, probably, I hold back parts of myself that even my closest friends never see, so it wouldn’t surprise me if a family member read one of my essays and assumed I had leaned into the creative side of creative nonfiction a little too much. To wit, my mother read “I Ate This” and was surprised to find out everything I say in that piece is true. I guess I’ve just wanted to shield my parents from negative experiences I’ve had as a large, permanently tan lesbian, but I know it’s better to live in truth. I want and need to dig deep into the pain that has shaped me, but I also need to face myself when I do, which is definitely not as fun as watching Netflix. 🙂

AB: How can poets & writers be brave when working on their own writing?

CS: Well, if you’re me, you can stop waiting for your entire family to die so you can write some gritty stuff without any blowback. J I think it’s like any difficult mental/emotional situation: In order to heal, you need to walk through the fire. For most of my writing life, I’ve been standing just outside the proverbial doorway warming my hands instead of pushing through (and onward to more writing, better writing, etc.).

AB: Your poem I Ate This seems unapologetic and powerful. Can you explain the process of writing it?

CS: (Note: I consider it a creative nonfiction piece. J) I wanted to write something that gave a glimpse into my life as a big woman, something that wasn’t dressed up in “Someday I’m gonna lose weight” kind of outfit… sort of like a sad, fatphobic TV trope about a fat person finally being “redeemed” by diet and exercise.

Much like journaling, most of the text just came pouring out. As I wrote, I remembered more and more experiences. I get very upset when I see media that portrays fat people as always eating, always dieting, unhappy, never loved, etc. and I guess I wanted to say, basically, “I’m fat. Sometimes it really sucks. But fat is not, no pun intended, the whole of me.” I wanted to be seen as a person instead of just a fat girl. I hear the sound of doors slamming as I write that. As a fat girl, I have been ignored, forgotten entirely, mocked, looked at with disgust, asked when I’m going to lose weight, and threatened with locked doors on kitchen cabinets. I feel like I lose my humanity in people’s judgment, so I wanted to write a piece that said, basically, I’m just a girl who wants to go dancing with you. (Apologies for any similarities to Notting Hill. 🙂 )

AB: You write non-fiction as well. How do you find it different from and similar to writing poetry?

CS: Writing nonfiction allows me to lean into the lyricism of words. I generally like to keep my poetry short. My longest poem is two single-spaced pages and it’s a beast to read at an open mic. Generally, I like to keep my lines short and somewhat staccato (as I did in my recently published piece, “commingled”). With nonfiction, I get to float in the depths of phrases that would ordinarily be chopped up by The Stanza Machine. Just like other writers, my style is evolving and, to be honest, if I would get out of my own way and stop dropping a big old FEAR paperweight on things, I think my writing could go in an amazing new direction.

AB: Can you describe your work in three words?

CS: Sensual, evocative, powerful

AB: What can readers look forward to from you in the future?

CS: I’m still trying to decide what 2020 is going to look like. I made no resolutions or writing goals because I’m very good at coming up with great ideas at night and balking at actually doing them come morning. I’m interested in releasing a fifth chapbook and think I might make it a “greatest hits,” if you will, in which I revisit old pieces from previous books and throw in several new pieces of writing. It’s been a long time since I had a book run off at Kinko’s (hell, I’m dating myself just by mentioning Kinko’s! lol) and I’d like to get that energy back in my life. Maybe attend some readings instead of just thinking about it. I’ll definitely be submitting more work for publication!

Creativity & Compassion: An Interview with Adwaita Das

Adwaita Das studied English Literature and Film Direction. She worked in advertising, news, stage and screen. Her trilingual play Chhayankaner Jonyo (Shadowplay) won the Shyamanand Jalan National Youth Theatre Award. National-international newspapers-magazines have published her non-fiction, fiction and poetry. 27 Stitches and Songs Of Sanity are her poem books (publisher: Writers Workshop India). Colours Of Shadow is her novella and short stories (publisher: LiFi Publications). They are available for order online in hardcover (verse) and paperback (prose). Her debut feature – Karon Kolkata Ebong Onyo Golpo (‘Cause Calcutta And Other Stories) – a Bengali anthology film – is ready for release. She is currently writing epic SFF in hope of world peace, and making affirmative art for mental health awareness.

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Audrey Bowers: What does the word brave mean to you?

Adwaita Das: Awareness is brave, self awareness in particular. Asking questions, looking inside, expressing with emotion and bringing change – these are all acts of courage. For progress, it is imperative that we enact change. Real change comes from the courage of self awareness. In transforming oneself, we can see the improvement reflected in the world. Even in the face of a fearful and vengeful past, knowing that all is one and exercising peace – that is true bravery.

AB: How can artists be brave in their work?

AD: Creativity in its very essence is brave. The first stroke made on a cave wall, which became the first alphabet, laid the foundation of progress, created mathematics and technology. It has always been up to the storytellers and artists to describe and show how fantastic the future can be. Engineers still refer to sci-fi author Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics in actual research and development of robots. The humans depend on the creatives to take them forward.

We have to give them a template for peace. We have to write more stories of equality and inclusivity. We can make kindness cool and nonviolence entertaining. Tropes exist to be reforged into relevant discourses. Language keeps transforming. Artists can shape and manifest a future for the present to believe in. A place of love joy and peace. A place of togetherness and ease.

It’s tough to avoid the pitfalls of the past. They loom in our faces, in popular cliches and generic trends – particularly, revenge and violence. But we the children of creativity have to establish new meaning. I love it when words are redefined. I love non-binary pronouns. It is a brave new world. We can let go of vengeance and choose to forgive. Instead of competition, we can inspire compassion. We can lead the way by example of our art and stories, as we always have. The world depends on it!

AB: Your art merges the written word with the visual. Can you explain your process of creating?

AD: Drawing and writing are two such close facets of creation. I can barely keep myself from merging them. As I scribble an alphabet, it looks like a figure or a landscape. The written word is a painting as well. I have always felt stories or poems are more successful in expressing themselves when provided with a bit of illustration. Perhaps my inner child does not wish to let go of picture books because they were the most captivating. In conclusion, I am not sure what it is, except a primal urge that drives me to weave the work of pen and brush as one. On several occasions I am ‘drawn’ to add text to a design or vice versa, pun intended; sometimes they come together in my mind, like a balancing equation or mechanical parts fitting together with code.

AB: How do you make your writing so succinct? How do you manage to say so much in such a small amount of words?

AD: I have always loved reading. I would feel furious when a person made flippant remarks about literature being too dense to even try perusing. Most of all, I disliked excuses about poems being too long and complicated to be enjoyed for real. I wanted everyone to read. I wanted each person to experience the joy I did from words put together in narrative sequence, poetic or prosaic. My literary fiction has lyrical sentences musing on for ages. I have dreamed of penning novels in iambic pentameter or alexandrine hexameter.

With time, I came to accept the need for shorter pieces. It happened in an organic manner. My poems began to shorten as I searched for the most precise and concise set of phrases to express the exact sentiment. Part of my quest was also for engagement. Pictures draw attention. It is the foundation of the advertising industry. Instead of selling people products, using the same concept, I started sharing ideas and emotions. Not just for others, or because human attention span runs low, but for myself. It was an inner need to understand what I am thinking, feeling and processing.

Writing has been my best friend, teacher, peer and therapist. It opens up dimensions inside and outside of me. I have always had absolute faith in the power of the written word and all other arts. When the precision of my own work helps me comprehend an emotion or an experience, there is a resonance that reaches out with genuine compassion. It is hope that someone will feel understood. Someone will know they are not alone. We are all connected. We are one.

AB: What can readers look forward to from you in the future?

AD: My book of seven sci-fi fantasy short stories, titled Quantum Tango, is coming soon from RhetAskew Publishing! Plus, you can check out weekly artwork and poetry at my online profiles.



Issue #5



Be More Houdini — Caroline Johnstone

Manic — Donna Dallas

After — Gregory Luce

preschool, you played the princess — B.N. Wattenbarger

Tethered — Blue Carrisole


First Confession — Sarah Marquez

Confirmation — James Tierney

Caught Up — Michael Cottone

An Insistent Emptiness — Matthew Little

Slaughter as Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing — Kelsey May

small matters — Sierra Rittue

WIDE — Gabbie Brandt

‘this poem is about rape’ — Quinn Zukowski

sex ed — M.A. Hoak

Because (a list) — Heather Graham

how to read the news — Maggie Wang

This is my Home — December Lace

commingled — Chi Sherman


One Last Time — Ian Blackwell

AUTUMN STRINGS — Blue Carrisole

Dear Mr Clarke — James Watson

Wendy Writes — Sinead Creedon


First Kiss — Krisa Bruemmer

Artie — Bridget Weigel

Lost — Robert Steward


Michael Cottone

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Brielle Epoh

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Issue #5 Contributors


Caroline Johnstone

Caroline is originally from Northern Ireland, now living in Ayrshire with her husband Lee and Charlie, possibly the doggiest cat on earth.  Her poems focus on philosophical, political and life experience themes, and she has been widely published in the UK, Ireland and the U.S. With another hat on, she dares people to be happier @daretobehappier.


Donna Dallas 

I studied Creative Writing and Philosophy at NYU’s Gallatin School and was lucky enough to study under William Packard, founder and editor of the New York Quarterly.  I am recently found or forthcoming in The Opiate, Anti Heroin Chic, Quail Bell Magazine, Pacific Review, Red Fez and Bewildering Stories among many other publications. @DonnaDallas15


Gregory Luce

Gregory Luce, author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), and Tile (Finishing Line Press), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. In addition to poetry, he writes a monthly column on the arts for Scene4 magazine. He is retired from National Geographic, works as a volunteer writing tutor/mentor for 826DC, and lives in Arlington, VA.

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B. N. Wattenbarger

B. N. Wattenbarger is a queer author and poet living in the Southern USA. Her poetry has been featured by Nightingale & Sparrow. When she is not writing, she is probably making coffee.


Blue Carrisole 

I enjoy writing poetry, short stories and flash fiction. I fall in love with stories so fast, especially the kind I feel are worth writing about. I don’t want you to just see the magic in my words and think they are pretty or sound nice when you say them out loud. Its not about the image created in your mind, it’s about the feelings you get. The comforting idea of someone holding your hand because of the words you read, thats what I want my readers to experience.
Caroline Earleywine
Caroline Earleywine teaches high school English in Central Arkansas where she tries to convince teenagers that poetry is actually cool. She was a semifinalist for Nimrod’s 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and for the 2019 Vinyl 45s Chapbook Contest. She was also a finalist for the 2019 Write Bloody Publishing Contest. Her work can be found in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Barrelhouse, Nailed Magazine, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Lesbian Fashion Struggles, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. She has an MFA from Queens University in Charlotte and lives in Little Rock with her wife and two dogs.
Sarah Marquez
Sarah Marquez is an MA candidate at Southern New Hampshire University. She is based in Los Angeles and has work published and forthcoming in various magazines and journals, including Amethyst Review, Capsule Stories, Crêpe & Penn, Ink&Nebula, Peculiars Magazine and Royal Rose. When not writing, she can be found reading, sipping coffee, or tweeting @Sarahmarissa338.

James Tierney

James Tierney’s poetry was first published in 2017 as part of the Poetry Society’s ‘I Am the Universe’ climate change project. He has since been shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and continues to write about issues close to his heart.


Michael Cottone 

Michael Cottone (he/him) is a photographer originally from the Indianapolis, Indiana region. He is currently a senior at Ball State University, studying photojournalism and peace studies. He likes to live his life in color, through how he dresses, the picture he takes & his outlooks. His passions in photography lie in portraiture, as well as the fashion and music industries. His work can be found in places such as Veracious magazine, PATTERN magazine & now Brave Voices. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @cott0ne.


Matthew Little 

I’m 28 years old and live in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I’ve been writing poetry since 2012 after being introduced to the works of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. I’m very much into exploring realism and staying true to the reality of the situation, to the point where I hope the grittiness of my words make their way underneath the readers’ hands.

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Kelsey May

Kelsey May  is a writer, educator, and activist from Grand Rapids, MI. Her work has appeared in NonBinary Review, Turnpike Magazine, and Anti-Heroin Chic, and she interviews poets and other miscellaneous people at Hyype.


Sierra Rittue
Sierra Rittue is a writer originally from the Bay Area, currently slinging coffee in Western Massachusetts. Her work has been published in Rabid Oak, Rose Quartz Magazine, Mojave Heart Review, and elsewhere. You can find her at and on Twitter @unsavorywench.

Gabbie Brandt

Gabbie Brandt is a senior studying English Publishing & Writing at Minnesota State University Moorhead. She also interns at New Rivers Press and is the current managing editor of their student-run literary magazine, Red Weather. You can follow her @gabbiebrandt if you want to see her post too much about theatre and books. “WIDE” is her first published poem.

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Quinn Zukowski
I go by many names, but to these pair of eyes, Quinn Zukowski. I recently turned 24, the mirror loves to remind me. I reside in the upper left corner of the United States, fueled by black coffee, jet engines, and Microsoft chips. More specifically, a small town a few hours awat from Seattle. I started taking writing seriously about three years ago. Since that time, I published a poetry book, and as of yesterday finished writing my second. All of us need something to do, all of us need something when the “do” gets tough. For me, writing is both my purpose and escape. Hopefully, in some way or another, my words do the same for you. Twitter/IG: @Zthepoet

M.A. Hoak

M.A. Hoak is a chronically-ill, disabled, domestic violence survivor. She is allergic to light, the kyriarchy, and general asshattery. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing, her poetry can be found in The RumpusSaw Palm, and Culturework Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @hoakwrites.

H.E. Grahame
H.E. Grahame is a writer and poet with work included in Folio, Z Publishing House’s Emerging Poets and Writers series, and SLCC Anthology. She has also won chapbook community college competitions for both poetry and memoir. She is a student at the University of Utah in the Writing and Rhetoric Studies program, minoring in Gender Studies with an A.S. in Psychology from Salt Lake Community College. In addition to her writing and education, she works as a writing consultant at SLCC Writing center and as a publications coordinator for the SLCC Community Writing Center. She has also worked for Folio – SLCC’s Literary Magazine as both Literary Editor and Design Editor. She enjoys cooking, travel, photography, music, and words. (
Maggie Wang
Maggie Wang is seventeen and originally hails from Virginia. Her poetry has appeared in Girls Right the World, the Alexandria Quarterly, and ASH. She has also been recognized by the Parkmont Poetry Festival, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network. When not writing poetry, she enjoys taking walks and playing the piano.

December Lace

December Lace is a former professional wrestler and pinup model from Chicago. She is a Best of the Net nominee and has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Cabinet of Heed, Pussy Magic Lit, Vamp Cat, Twist in Time, Dark Marrow, and Rhythm & Bones YANYR Anthology, among others as well as the forthcoming Pink Plastic House. She loves Batman, burlesque, cats, and horror movies. She can be found @TheMissDecember or

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Chi Sherman 


Ian Blackwell
Ian Blackwell has been living in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, for the last nine years. He enjoys travelling, experiencing new cultures, and different ways of thinking. A stray cat chose him as his human and he inherited a sheep skull called Bernard who has the final say in the most important matters. He has been published in The Sirens Call eZine and Dark Dossier Magazine. He is on Twitter and Facebook as @ianblackwell27. His website is


Blue Carrisole 

I enjoy writing poetry, short stories and flash fiction. I fall in love with stories so fast, especially the kind I feel are worth writing about. I don’t want you to just see the magic in my words and think they are pretty or sound nice when you say them out loud. Its not about the image created in your mind, it’s about the feelings you get. The comforting idea of someone holding your hand because of the words you read, thats what I want my readers to experience.
James McKenzie Watson
James McKenzie Watson writes short and novel-length fiction, much of which focuses on rural Australian experiences. He has been a winner or finalist in competitions including the International InkTears Flash Fiction Contest, the Newcastle Short Story Award, Grieve Writing Competition and the Kingdom of Ironfest unpublished novel award. He works as an oncology nurse in Sydney. Visit his website at or follow him on Twitter @JamesMcWatson.

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Sinéad Creedon

Sinéad is a recent graduate of English Literature, currently working full time in book distribution. Also published in The Attic, Ireland’s Zine, Nothing Substantial, WOW: Women On Writing and Crannóg 49, Sinéad was selected as Young Writer Delegate for the Irish Writers Centre in 2018. In 2019, she was longlisted for the Marian Keyes Young Writer Award. Sinéad is now at work on a short story collection.



Krisa Bruemmer

Krisa Bruemmer lives in the woods and the rain not far from her island hometown in Washington State. She enjoys performing at Moth StorySLAMs and other storytelling events. Her writing has been featured by Sammiches and Psych Meds, Mothers Always Write, San Diego Memoir Showcase, and Olfactory Memoirs Project. She has been working on her first book for years. You can find her on twitter as @NeonKrisa.


Bridget Weigel
Bridget recently graduated from Lesley University with an MFA in creative nonfiction. She was previously Boston’s smallest bouncer, and currently Gallatin College’s weirdest writing professor. While not teaching undergraduate writing, she is working on a book about her time working security at one of Boston’s most famous music venues. Her work can be found in Metafore Magazine, Silver Needle Press, Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, and of course on Twitter @lackingtheme.
Robert Steward 
Robert Steward teaches English as a foreign language and lives in London. He is currently writing a collection of short stories, several of which have appeared in online literary magazines, including: Scrittura, The Creative Truth, The Ink Pantry, Adelaide and The Foliate Oak. You can find them at:


Michael Cottone
Michael Cottone (he/him) is a photographer originally from the Indianapolis, Indiana region. He is currently a senior at Ball State University, studying photojournalism and peace studies. He likes to live his life in color, through how he dresses, the picture he takes & his outlooks. His passions in photography lie in portraiture, as well as the fashion and music industries. His work can be found in places such as Veracious magazine, PATTERN magazine & now Brave Voices. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @cott0ne.


Brielle Epoh

Brielle’s style of art displays the raw and gritty experiences of minorities; predominately those within the African American and LGBTQ+ communities. The self-taught photographer has discovered perfect juxtaposition between up-close and intimate portraits of strangers who share their stories with her and the staged shoots she creates to share a story with us. Born and raised in the Deep South, it didn’t take the Alabama native long to realize she had an immense passion for photography and how it could be used as a combatant against discrimination.

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Healing, Tattoos, & Purple Lipstick: An Interview with Kristin Ryan

Kristin Ryan is a poet working towards healing, and full sleeves of tattoos. She is a recipient of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor’s Prize in Poetry, was listed as a Write Bloody Finalist, has been nominated for Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. Her poems have been featured in Glass, Jabberwock Review, Milk and Beans, and SWWIM Everyday among others.  Her debut full length poetry collection, MORNING, WITH BANDAGES is forthcoming June 2020 from Bone & Ink Press. She holds an MFA from Ashland University and works in the mental health field.

Kristin Ryan September 2019

Audrey Bowers: What does the word brave mean to you?

Kristin Ryan: For me, the word brave means going back to my five-year-old self and loving her every single day. It is kissing her forehead, telling her that she is safe. 

AB: How can poets & writers be brave when working on their own writing?

KR: Be gentle with yourself. Have coping skills when you’re writing the dark and gritty stuff. Don’t push through, feeling like you need to do everything at once. Take breaks, no matter how long they are, and eventually come back to your work.

AB: Your poem in issue #1 titled Case Study: Husband seems to be about the speaker’s husbands’ perception of them and their eating disorder. Can you explain what inspired this poem?

KR: It is based on true events. I suffered from a severe eating disorder from 2002-2012 that nearly killed me. One day I asked my husband to write his first impressions of me when we met in undergrad back in 2009 (when I was at my sickest) for a poem I was working on. He was able to see through all my tricks, and tried his best to help me. The poem was his response word for word.

AB: You were Brave Voices’ very first poetry editor. Can you explain what that experience was like?

KR: It was a blessing, and so much fun to be poetry editor. As the saying goes, the more you read, the more you write. Reading everyone’s submissions pushed me to make my poems the best they could be, and helped me gauge which poems to send out to journals. I firmly believe that everyone should try to be an editor, or at least volunteer to read submissions for a journal. It just makes you a better writer.

AB: Your poetry collection MORNING, WITH BANDAGES is coming out in 2020. What can we expect from the book? What was the writing process of the book like?

KR: When people ask me what the book is about, I usually clam up and turn red. It is very personal, and shame creeps in. The best way I can describe it is how my good friend and MFA director Christian Kiefer described it: a surreal, lyrical, trauma narrative. It’s very dark, dealing with childhood sexual abuse, eating disorders, and snippets of therapeutic conversations.

Writing the book broke me, quite literally. While I was in my MFA program, I started a sort of Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at a sexual assault support center. Not knowing how to cope, I started writing about what I was experiencing in therapy and in my body—memories of the abuse—for the first time.

By my thesis semester, I was exhausted, severely depressed, unable to write, and actively suicidal. I spent two and a half days in the hospital on a behavioral health unit. There are two long poems in the manuscript that deal with this event: one chronicling the intake process, and the other composed of fragments of all the poems that come before in the manuscript, as the speaker realizes the weight of the abuse for the first time.

I spent about six months away from the manuscript once I graduated, and then spent two years in deep revisions, and countless rejections until it was finally picked up at Bone & Ink Press, which was on my list of dream publications.

AB: I know you’re dabbling in CNF, how has that genre been different than poetry for you?

KR: I am not sure just yet, to be honest. Even though I took a CNF class over a decade ago, I don’t remember much, except that I was very resistant, and fought the entire way when I was told to dig deeper. But you grow a lot between 19 and 29, and I am finally ready to write. It is kind of like therapy, you need to be willing to do the work for it to help you heal.

What I do know is that for me, poetry is so much easier to write. I can hide with surrealism and metaphor, distance myself with third person.

I found out last week that someone gifted me the opportunity to take Katherine Standefer’s 8-week, CNF class, “Unlocking Tough Stories” which focuses on learning tools to craft the stories that have resisted telling. This is a huge, huge gift, in so many ways. I have been trying to write this braided essay about meeting Amanda Palmer, my inability to cry, and processing new trauma memories since May of this year. Every time I go to start writing, I get hung up, filled with fear and shame, and guilt. How do I possibly begin? How do I give myself permission to write about myself? About those things that still rattle me? I am hoping Katherine’s class will help me with this. Just because I was able to write about what I have gone through doesn’t necessarily mean I am healed. I still have a long way to go.

AB: What else can readers look forward to from you?

KR: More healing, more tattoos, more purple lipstick, and hopefully a finished CNF essay. MORNING, WITH BANDAGES will be out June 2020.



Mama by Venus Davis

After mama died in 1987, our daddy still tried to make summers special by driving us down to the beach house every now and then. We’d all pile into the hatchback with the mosquitos and humidity behind us. It was just the boys now and we took full advantage of that by doing whatever we could to bond. 


We all missed mama but we’re men and couldn’t wallow in that for too long especially around daddy. He was not a very touchy feely kind of guy. Dad was a drink beer, watch cop shows, and go fishing to forget kind of guy. The most emotional I had seen him get at that point was when the Raiders won the Super Bowl in ‘84. 


Though, he did have these nights where he would tell my older brothers to watch over me and stay in the house while he went fishing down by the dock. We all thought it was kind of weird but there wasn’t much we could say or do about it. Most nights we stayed inside like he told us to. My brothers would talk about the girls in their classes and what they planned to do on their dates. I would usually read or just go to sleep because there wasn’t much to do without company. 


One night, I decided to wait until my brothers went to sleep and see what dad was doing at the end of the dock. I pretended to fall asleep on the couch in the den and crept down to the basement when I could hear them snoring. I opened the screen door a bit and the moon lit up the end of the dock just enough for me to see daddy with his fishing rod just sitting there waiting for something to bite. I could see that he only had one fish in his bucket despite having been outside for hours already. 


The sky began to fade from a dark distant black to periwinkle  and it looked like he was about to get up — it was nearly dawn. The birds began to chirp and daddy looked up at the sky just as a seagull flew down to stand right next to him. I wanted to open the screen door further to hear what he said but there was no time and he definitely would’ve heard me. I saw him pet the seagull and feed it the fish from his bucket. I’ve never seen a bird get so close to a person and be so quiet. He leaned down to the seagull and I could see his lips move but I was too far away to hear any words. From the side, I could see a tear trailing down his face. Though, he looked so happy to see that bird. He looked like he was in love. 


Just like that, the bird flew away with the fish and daddy sat back down at the end of the dock.


Mama always loved birds. 




Meet the Writer

Venus Davis is a 20-year-old nonbinary writer from Cleveland, Ohio. They are the editor in chief of the Periwinkle Literary Magazine. They are also a former poetry reader for Random Sample Review, a social media content creator for Ayaskala, and a podcaster for Prismatica Magazine. Venus is a regular contributor for Marias at Sampaguitas and Ayaskala. Their work has been featured in InQluded, Marias at Sampaguitas, Royal Rose, Ayaskala, and is forthcoming in Crepe and Penn. Currently, they are working on self-publishing their astrology themed microchapbook, Sensitive Divination. Aside from writing, they love learning about philosophy, astrology, and the Korean language. They also play guitar, ukulele, and piano for fun sometimes. Their main goal is to be confessional and compassionate in their writing and in life.


Issue #4



Cycle by Carey Cecelia Shook

Forgetting by Lisa Lerma Weber

I Didn’t Say No by Bina Perino

Sanguine Sonnet by Ottavia Paluch

pronouns by Salam Wosu

DAMICO – 4 haiku by Marzia D’Amico

dissonant by Clarissa

growing pains by Taylor

to the white boy in the maga hat by Adi McNally


Material that Matters by Leslie Lindsay

where did the music go – wait, I found it_ Arian Farhat by Arian Farhat

This is Womanhood by Iona Murphy

Hugs and Drugs by Ariane Ryan


Paradise Lost by Ms Cheryl Diane Parkinson

cin / cout by Michael Bettendorf

I Wish He Had Gone by Tom Gumbert

The Fifth Number by Jason Jawando

Violet by Dan Cardoza


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consumerism by Hannah Rose






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Kaylene Jackmore

Allie Jane


Waste by Mikayla Meyers

Issue #4 Contributors


Carey Cecelia Shook works in digital marketing by day and is a writer & mental health advocate always. Her passion is raising awareness of mental health through publishing, which she pursues by editing at semicolon literary journal. She has a BFA in creative writing & a publishing certificate from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her nonfiction can be found in Capulet Mag and X-R-A-Y—”Cycle” is her first published poem. She believes in happy endings and being kind to everyone. She loves all dogs ever, iced vanilla coffee with almond milk, words of affirmation, and sushi. You can find Carey on twitter @careyshook.

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Lisa Lerma Weber lives in San Diego, California with her husband and son. Her work has appeared in Crepe & Penn, Headline Poetry, Tiny Essays, Nightingale & Sparrow, Mojave Heart Review, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @LisaLermaWeber

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Adi McNally, originally from Santa Cruz, California, is currently attending Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. There, he will soon get his bachelor’s degree with a major in English writing with too many minors to list in a short bio. Their poetry has been published in “Script” and “The Fruit Tree” and is also available on Instagram @peas.and.poetry


Bina Ruchi Perino is a University of North Texas post-baccalaureate student, seeking a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing. Her work can be found in GASHER Journal, Sink Hollow, and more. Her flash fiction is forthcoming in Euphony Journal.

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Taylor is a creative writing major from Maine. She love snakes, tea, and rain.


Salam Wosu, a poet and aspiring novelist, is a Chemical Engineer from Nigeria. His works interrogate grief, depression, love, antichauvinism and sexuality. He was shortlisted for the Korean Nigerian Poetry Fiesta  award 2017 & 2019. His works are on or forthcoming in Glass Poetry Press, Kissing Dynamite, Dream Noir, PIN, RIC journal and Mounting the Moon (anthology of queer Nigerian poems). He is @salam_wosu on all platforms.

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Marzia D’Amico is an academic and poet writing and performing in Italian,
English, and Britalian. Her prose, poetry, and cultural contributions featured on radio, on paper, and online. She collaboratively runs a monthly newsletter on transnational feminisms (Ghinea). She is a queer antifascist grrrl born in Rome, living in Oxford, and settled on the Internet as @atamarzia.

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Clarissa is an aspiring poet, writer, and storyteller from the midwest United States. She has been writing all her life, penning her first poem at age four, but only really become serious about it during college. She loves all genres of writing, but poetry has always felt like coming home. Her work has been featured in The North Branch literary journal.



Leslie Lindsay is a mother, wife, and writer living in Chicagoland. Leslie is the award-winning author of Speaking of Apraxia (Woodbine House, 2012). Leslie‘s work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Common Ground Review, Cleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, the Ruminate blog, Manifest-StationThe Mighty, and the International Bipolar FoundationLeslie has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series ( She is at work on a memoir. Leslie is a former child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic.

Born and raised in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Arian Farhat is a first-generation American with parents hailing from Afghanistan. She has attended the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst College and Oxford University where she has studied and fangirled over literature alongside public intellectuals and fellow bookworms. She wishes to pursue biology and creative writing after high school. Arian has been published in The Brown Orient and Nightingale & Sparrow. 

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Iona Murphy (She/ Her) is an Mst(res) student at The University of St Andrews, trying to navigate her way through her early twenties in her own messy way. She is a feminist, bisexual, mental health advocate, and is forever reading Sylvia Plath. You can keep up with her on Twitter @write_with_iona and Instagram @ionasmurfy

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Ariane Ryan is a 21 year old from Brisbane, Australia, who is currently studying a Masters in Writing, Editing and Publishing. She is passionate about all things books and publishing, and writes a mix of YA speculative fiction and creative non-fiction.



Ms Cheryl Diane Parkinson is an author and educator of 14 years, teaching English Literature and Language, GCSE and A Level at an all boys catholic school in London. Her publishing history includes articles for The National Union of Teacher’s newsletter, The Voice Online as well as online magazines. Currently she is in the final year of a PhD in Creative Writing at Birmingham University, part of the Russell Group.


Operations Manager by day and daydreamer by nature, Tom Gumbert co-authored the anthology, “Nine Lives.” He is a 2019 nominee for Best of the Net, and the winner of The Sunlight Press 2017 Spring fiction contest. Tom is honored and humbled to have previous work published in a host of fine publications, including Anti-Heroin Chic, Mystery Tribune, Dodging the Rain, Porridge Magazine and Riggwelter Press. When not reading or staring at the Ohio River, Tom works on his writing. Twitter @TomGumbert

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Michael Bettendorf earned an English degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2012. His work has recently appeared in The Weird ReaderThe Mark Literary Review, and Culture Cult Magazine. He is a Language Arts mentor for the Lincoln Public School district and consumes books, comics, and podcasts. He’s busy juggling a couple of novels and an audiodrama he swears he’ll record someday. He lives in Lincoln with his wife, where he tries to convince the world that Nebraska is too strange to be a flyover state.


Dan A. Cardoza’s work has most recently been featured in Brave Voices, Cleaver, Coffin Bell/2019 Anthology, Dime Show Review, Entropy, Gravel, New Flash Fiction Review, Poached Hare, Spelk, and Vamp Cat.

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Jason Jawando writes prose and drama. He has had stories published in several magazines, including ProleBandit Fiction and Under the Radar. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the Open University and lives in the UK.20190515_135350.jpg


Kaylene Jackmore is a senior film student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. While she is primarily focused on filmmaking, she loves telling stories through fictional writing and physical images, including photography and painting with watercolors. Her work typically strays away from reality to a more magical, colorful world. Her doodles and photography can be found on Instagram @doodlingandetc.

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Lisa Schantl is a graduate student of American literature at the University of Graz. She works as publishing assistant at Leykam Buchverlag and is the founder and editor-in-chief at Tint Journal. Motivated by her interest in international relations, she holds the position of vice-president at the Initiative Group Alpbach Graz. Her journalistic work has appeared in Music-NewsPARADOX and The Montclarion, and her creative work in The Normal Review, PubLab and Frankfurter Bibliothek.

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Allie is an American college drop out trying to put a stinking reality through an aesthetic lense. Focusing mainly on portraits and surrealism, Allie aims for a universal human desire, to communicate the crazy in your head in way other people can understand, but with, like, Really bright colors. Allie also animates on her off time, favoring 2d animation, with passions for practical effects and sfx makeup as well.

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Hannah Nathanson is a 20 year old artist based in New York State, where she studies creative writing at Binghamton University and explores the parks in her hometown of Buffalo. For more information visit or check her out on Instagram at @h.annahrose.


Sha’Ron Robertson is a 20 year old emerging artist from Chicago,Illinois. She creates beautiful realistic portraits and character sketches.

Thirty five year old Adwaita is from India. She studied English Literature and Film Direction. 27 STITCHES and SONGS OF SANITY are her poem books (publisher: Writers Workshop India). COLOURS OF SHADOW is her novella and collected short stories (publisher: LiFi Publications). Her debut feature – KARON KOLKATA EBONG ONYO GOLPO (‘CAUSE CALCUTTA AND OTHER STORIES) – a Bengali anthology film – is ready for release. She is currently writing epic SFF in hope of world peace, and making affirmative art for mental health awareness.


Courtney Gunter is a 27 year old photographer based out of the Topeka, KS area.


Mikayla Myers graduated from Susquehanna University with three majors in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Publishing & Editing. She is beginning a career as a Special Education English Teacher. In her spare time, Mikayla writes novel-length fiction and hopes to self-publish her debut novel in 2020.