Literary Fiction

The field of Black Speculative Fiction is blowing up right now, with new publications that feature Black creators joining established journals and book publishers. Together, old and new provide more opportunities for authors to have their short stories given the time and space they deserve. To explore the growth in the industry, we interviewed Kenesha Williams, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine. The magazine addresses the need for diverse, non-majority writers, particularly Black women writers, in speculative fiction. Their 4th issue is available now. We talked about Lemonade, cover art, Zora Neale Hurston, and the Fireside Fiction report.

Black Nerd Problems: What’s your favorite song or scene from Lemonade. And “I prefer Rhianna’s Anti” is a valid answer. Is there a song there that fits to your style of activism?

Kenesha Williams: My favorite song from Lemonade has to be “Don’t Hurt Yourself” with “Freedom” coming in at a very close second, almost a tie. In fact I wrote an article about the song and it’s parallels to Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Sweat” on Medium, but never hit Publish because I felt like there were so many think pieces out on the album. I had written it a week after the album dropped, after 1 million articles have been written on it and then the Lemonade syllabus came out. I feel like the song, like Hurston’s story, is one about a singular marriage but it’s infused with universal truths about the relationship dynamics between men and women. And like the song, the woman Delia in “Sweat” is also a woman that can take a care of herself in a financial sense and doesn’t need a man for her survival. I think the idea of a woman having her own agency is both revolutionary and necessary.

BNP: What was the 1st piece of media that reinforced your own personal Black Girl Magic?

KW: I would say the first piece of media that reinforced my own personal Black Girl Magic had to be Alice Walker’s book The Temple of my Familiar. It was the first piece of adult spec fiction I’d ever read and the character of Miss Lissie, who was an ancient goddess who’d been reincarnated hundreds of times, was a revelation to me. This book taught me history in a way that no history class ever taught me and the character was once again a woman who had her own agency. The other main character of the book was a young woman named Fanny who finds herself by listening to her dreams, and journeys back to Africa to meet the descendants of her ancestors. It was one of the first books I read that spoke of women who look like me and had them doing fantastic and important things.

Read on here. [x]

Red = Rage. Ocean = Longing. Literary =

Every so often I have this conversation at a school visit.  

After my presentation, a student drags a beleaguered English teacher to my side.  

STUDENT (always with a rather mocking tone): So, Maggie, when you put red curtains in a scene, does that mean that the characters are angry and stuff?
ENGLISH TEACHER: That’s not quite—
STUDENT: —Because we are supposed to analyze all of these books and I don’t think any of the writers actually put in an ocean in the scene just so that two hundred years later we could read it and think the ocean stands for longing.
ENGLISH TEACHER: Sometimes a literary device—
STUDENT: I think we’re just looking for stuff that isn’t there. The writer just put in an ocean because the book TAKES PLACE BY THE BEACH. And the rest was invented by evil English teachers.
ENGLISH TEACHER: If I were evil, I'd—
STUDENT: —So, you’re the writer: do red curtains mean anger?
ME: Curtains do make me angry.

And then I was at LeakyCon, sitting in on a panel called “Is YA Literature?” to find out if I was writing literature, and this (summarized) conversation happened:

The panelists have just been asked to define what is meant by literary fiction.  

SMART ADULT WRITER: All I know is, I know literary fiction when I see it.
SMART YA WRITER: I got a look at the guidelines for assigned school reading and they suggested it be a book with enough content to be analyzed. Enough depth to support multiple interpretations.
ANOTHER SMART YA WRITER: I think literary is a ridiculous term and value is assigned by our readers, right here, right now: do they like it or not? There’s no such thing as a good book or a bad book. There’s a book that matters to a reader.

I think you can talk in endless circles about what constitutes “literary” fiction and whether it’s good or bad or has no value or can be traded for a gallon of milk. And I also think you can talk in endless circles about whether or not there are “good” books and “bad” books and who gets to decide which is which. And if you do ever find an end to these circles, you can finish up with a indefatigable dessert course of the literary writing versus commercial writing debate.

So I’m instead going to talk about the one thing that interests me about fiction: getting into your head and moving stuff around. I am in the business of changing people’s moods and making them see scenes the way that I see them and feel things the way I want them to be felt. You may consider me Very Interested in learning everything I can about doing all that more effectively.

Sometimes, dear reader, this is going to mean making the curtains red.

Please know that I’m not much for literary writing for the sake of literary writing. I enjoy a nice turn of the phrase, sure. I do enjoy picking apart novels to see what makes them tick. But my academic pleasure runs out very quickly (now there is the least sexy sentence I’ve ever written). As a writer, I am delighted to be given literary prizes, but they aren’t on my list of goals. I’m chiefly interested literary devices insofar as they allow me to more effectively get inside your head and move around the furniture.

 And they do. Allow me to demonstrate.

Here are two paragraphs from one of my favorite sequences from The Dream Thieves*:

 *these are not spoilery, although they are from the middle of the book, so if you want to be totally uninformed on the action of Book 2, I suggest you wander to another corner of the Internet.

External image

Oh, I had such


for this party scene. I wanted the reader to see it just like I did. The all-encompassing luxury, warm and old and unquestioned. The complexity of the political world, the beauty of wealth, and the stagnation and corruption of old, unchallenged value systems. Adam, as my point-of-view character, is feeling and thinking about all of these things, and I wanted the reader to experience it with him.

I could have told the reader all of those things. Point blank. I could have gone with a barebones description of the driveway:

The circular driveway was packed with so many elegant vehicles that the valets had to turn cars away.

And then just had Adam muse in italics about his feelings on being there. But then you would only


it. You wouldn’t have


it. I wouldn’t really be getting into your head and moving things around unannounced. I’d be walking in, hanging up a mirror, then pointing and saying “there’s a mirror. It’s yours now.”

 Here’s another snippet from later:

External image

Okay, the curtains aren’t red. But the runner is purple. How noble!

Man, I was working hard in this little section. In reality, the hallway of the house is lush and content and established. But inside our two protagonists, trouble brews — you can see it in the mirror. The side table, on the outside of the glass, is


But the mirror-image of the tidy hallway is






. Again, I could’ve just told you: on the outside, the boys look foxy and orderly in suits, but on the inside, they are hot messes. But I don’t want you to know. I want you to feel. And our old friends, those countless literary devices of simile, metaphor, allusion, figurative language … that’s the way in. It’s not about fancy literary prizes. It’s not about seeming impenetrable or smart or high fallutin. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I am trying to make you feel a story, that’s all. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe in the literary/ commercial divide. And I don’t believe that literary is good or bad. I believe that good novel makes readers feel, and the more readers I can make feel, the more successful I will consider that book. I also believe that sometimes that means making the curtains red.    


THE COMET SEEKERS - Helen Sedgwick

Róisín and François first meet in the snowy white expanse of Antarctica. Their shared desire to explore the world has brought them here, but to do so both have left family and loved ones behind.

As we loop back through their lives, glimpsing each of them only when a comet is visible in the skies above, we see how their paths cross as they come closer and closer to this moment. Theirs are stories filled with love and hope and heartbreak, that show how strangers can be connected and ghosts can be real, and the world can be as lonely or as beautiful as the comets themselves.

The Bayeux Tapestry plays a significant part in the story so we felt embroidery was the perfect medium for our jacket design. We commissioned Chloe Giordano to create the artwork, and asked her to depict François and his mother beneath a sky full of celestial activity. The comets on the jacket are inspired by old astronomical diagrams, including Halley’s Comet which appears throughout the story.

Chloe kindly took photos of the embroidery throughout the process. You can see more of her beautiful work here

The Comet Seekers is published by Harvill Secker in August 2016

Last year, the National Association of Scholars looked at 341 colleges and universities and the 231 books they assigned.

The books are often selected by the campus — by professors, current students and the incoming class, or a combination. They tend to be contemporary reads: NAS’s 2014 report found that more than half of the books assigned were published after 2010.

In recent years, schools have featured books like Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.

This year’s selections cover a range of topics; many are nonfiction, and several focus on race, sex and other social issues.

From a community college in Kentucky to a liberal arts campus in Wisconsin, here are a few of the reading assignments for this year’s freshmen.

What The College Kids Are Reading

Photo: Lydia Thompson/NPR

Useful English Lit. Links

I’ve decided to clean out and share some of the bookmarks I accumulated during my final semester! I hope some of you English majors find these helpful because I sure did! If you have any questions about Eng. Lit. or being in the major, feel free to ask! Good Luck!

English Major Specific Links
The Best Internships for an English Major
In Defense of English as a Major
The Ideal English Major
Why Steve Strauss Should Stop Hiring English Majors

Novel and Fiction Writing Links
Novel Writing Tips and Fundamentals
Blog Your Block
Fan Fiction Plagiarism 
The Writing Center: Style
Participial Phrases? C’mon, You Made that Up
Prologue in Fiction
Critical Feedback and You
Confusing Sentences that Actually Make Sense
Editing Tips for Effective Writing
How to Write a Bad Review
Guideline to Simplify your writing
How to Write a Cover Letter
Purple Prose vs Beige Prose
How to Critique Creative Writing
Live, Write, Thrive
Bondwine Books
The Give and Take of Critique
Professional Writing Vs. Fanfiction
The Publishing Process in Gifs
How to Write a Novel
Top 5 Tips to Cut Clutter
200 Common Redundancies
Periodic Table of Storytelling
Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction

Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s One Need not be a Chamber
Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s The Soul has Bandaged Moments
Shakespeare Sonnet 116
Toni Morrison They [Annotated]
Pam’s Poem Portfolio
EliteSkills Analysis Mark Strand Keeping Things Whole
Analysis of Mark Strand’s Keeping Things Whole
Beat Quotes
Emily Dickinson: Poet and Recluse

Drama and Theatre
Sparknote’s Richard III
Fu Jen University Analysis of Eugene O'Niell’s The Emperor Jones
The Importance of a Physician’s Wit: A Critical Analysis of Science in Medicine
Analysis of The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
Culture quake: The Second Mrs Tanqueray
Enotes The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
The Drama

Articles, Essays, and Papers
Unspoken Stories: Silence in the Literature of Atrocity
The Social Construct of Gender: A Comparison of Tennessee Williams ASND with Eugene O'Niell’s LDJIN
Korea’s Literary Tradition
A Survey of the Critical Writings of Jane Austen
Literary vs. Genre Fiction: What’s All The Fuss About
Isn’t it Ironic?
Three Dystopic Novels
Why is Jane Austen guilty of “cacography?” (Are you guilty, too?)
A Collection of Literary Essays and Creative Writing
A Review of Jane Austen’s Persuasion
Marlana Eck, “‘I’ll be Post-Feminist When Our World is Post-Capitalist’:Anarcha-Feminism”

An Encyclopedia of Prose Quotations
Eugene O'Niell’s The Emperor Jones
The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction
Medieval Joyce 
James Joyce Araby
Jane Austen Persuasion
The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself

College is Causing a Mental Breakdown
Writers and their Typewriters
Linguistic Family Tree

General Overview of the Victorian Era and Timeline
Victorian Era Child Labor
Victorian England an Introduction
Characteristics of Romantic and Victorian Literature
Victorian Literature
Literary Devices

Postmodern and Beyond
The End of Postmodernism: It is Dead and We Have Killed It
After Postmodernism: Performatism in Literature
General Introduction to the Postmodern
Beyond the Postmodern Toward an Aesthetic of Trust
A Search for a Post-Modern Theory of History
Postmodernism is Dead
The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond
Postmodernism: The 10 Key moments in the Birth of a Movement
Medicine, postmodernism, and the end of certainty

Me vs. My Undergraduate Thesis: The Fatal Flaw

Yeah Write
Spill Your Ink
Write World

Literary Criticism
Literary Critism Wiki Educator
Ars Poetica Translation Notes
An Analysis of Aquinas’s View of Metaphor in Scripture
Corneille–Of the Three Unities
A History of Literary Criticism and Theory: From Plato to the Present
Essay on Pierre Corneille 
Alexander Pope
To Write Alright: Pope’s Essay on Criticism
Sir Phillip Sydney: The Defense of Poesy
Sidney’s Apologie for Defense of Poesy
Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy
Summary Notes on Henry James The Art of Fiction
Summary of William Wordsworth Preface to Lyrical Ballads
Lecture Notes: Poetry of William Wordsworth
Immanuel Kant: Aesthetics
Summary of Kant’s Aesthetics
Kant and Art for Art’s Sake
Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy
Henry James and the Modern Novel
Henry James Reconciliation of Art and Morality
The Art of Fiction in Henry James’ Novel The Wings of The Dove
Emerson’s The American Scholar
Summary of Frye’s “The Archetypes of Literature”
Summary of Freud’s The Uncanny
Summary of Mikhall Bakhtin’s “Discourse in the Novel”
ENotes John Crowe Ransom “The New Criticism”
Antonio Gramsci, schooling and education
Explanation of Roland Barthes From Work to Text
Roland Barthes Death of the Author Essay
Derrida for Dummies

Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure
Jude the Obscure Themes
Turning the Century with Thomas Hardy
Themes Analysis in Jude the Obscure
Shmoop Jude the Obscure

Julian Barne’s The Sense of an Ending
On making sense of oneself: reflections on Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending
Stupidly English: Review

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Feminism v/s Gender equity: Socio-Political Activism in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns
Mariam’s Search for Meaning of Life in A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Literary Basis of Feminism: An Analysis of Persuasion Through the Eyes of Vindication
Suns and Daughters: The Role of Marxism and Women in A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Sense of an Ending Explained