Editor’s Note for Issue 6

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The following is the full Editor’s Note for Issue 6:

One cannot walk this winding street with pride
Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed,
Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.
One wonders if one has a home.
– Gwendolyn Brooks, “One wants a Teller in a time like this”

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
– Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday

I’ve come home again.

I sit in my car in the morning waiting for the engine to heat up, for my bones to stop creaking. I speed down country roads lined with cornstalks, green and strong until they are harvested or left to turn dead-gold. I drive past the cemetery where my friend’s grave is on the way to and from work, sometimes slowing down to look through the narrow gate and across rolling headstones. I ride the Metra line downtown to avoid the Dan Ryan, the one my dad took for years when he worked at Wrigley, the one that goes through my childhood hometown and Brooks’ Bronzeville, too. I walk suburban streets with my dog, I walk from the L to my friends’ apartments, I walk down high school halls, weekend alleyways, the steps to my parents’ basement. I sleep in my middle school bedroom on an air mattress. I dream of Chicago and its sprawl because I’ve come home again.

Home doesn’t always feel that way. When I left Illinois for Tennessee almost four years ago, I swore I’d never miss this place. I told myself nothing tethered me here besides family and the familiar. Graduation from college had been followed by a failed job hunt, a funeral for a close friend, and sixty-hour work weeks in food service. Lost and apathetic, I’d unconsciously distanced myself from the people and places that reminded me of my past, of myself. But I hadn’t been able to hide. I’d haunted my old campus, broken shouldered and cloudy eyed, for months until I’d moved back in with my parents to try to piece together part-time teaching jobs around Chicago. I’d felt lonely, pathetic, and out of place, no longer at home in the spots that were once mine. Winding through the suburbs and the city’s south and west sides, I wondered if I had a home.

Sobotka grew out of that emotional homelessness. Kathy and I needed something to focus on besides day jobs, and we felt we could provide a platform for people seeking that same connection: a community built not from place, profession, or past, but from words. So we started working on this project nights and weekends, with nothing but a feeling and few hundred dollars.

In the years that followed, this magazine helped create one of the most stable communities in my life. It connected me to Chicago while allowing me to explore creative opportunities in Nashville. It has provided me the space to express myself alongside artists I respect. It has introduced me to the writers, readers, editors, and bookstore owners that continue to breathe life into this magazine and other creative pursuits. It has showed me that a community can grow from a gut feeling, hard work, and a dedication to kindness.

Now, after three years away, I have come home again. This time I find comfort in the cornrows and the creak of airbrakes. I feel the magic in the streetlights, in the midnight train’s horn. The mythos of the Midwest feels present in the memories of my past, in the spine of this place, in myself. I ran from these streets at my sickest, but now I’m back having combated the disease of loneliness and emerged stronger. Time may heal most wounds, but community heals the rest. We want this magazine to be a meeting place for like minds to warm their hands and heal a bit with us from the stress and stimulus that daily life can bring. Come sit down by the fire a while. Make yourself at home.

We are proud to bring the pieces in this issue under one roof. The works here deal heavily with loss, confusion, frustration, and the search for a sense of comfort. They examine the idea of a home (or lack thereof), whether in the literal sense, in relationships, or in one’s own body. They range from the deeply personal to the slyly humorous to the bizarre, but all offer a space for the reader, whether it be a quiet seat in the corner to observe or a spot at the table for an intimate conversation. The authors within may not know for sure the way back home, but they’re willing to walk with you, to help straighten your shoulders and calm your eyes, to keep you company down this winding street.

As always, we hope this makes you feel human and unalone.

Nick Rossi
Chicago, November 2017

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Editor’s Note for Issue 5

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The following is the full Editor’s Note for Issue 5:

“When Nick and Kathy asked me if I would be interested in helping them edit another great issue of their magazine it was one of those wonderful opportunities that seem to come out of the blue, at exactly the right moment. A last second shot to force overtime. A bloop single to extend an inning.

In short, before this issue, I had been drifting from the literary sphere for quite some time. I was starting to get further from writing than I had been since before I decided to pursue a degree in Fiction six years prior, as a naive and hopeful college student. By the time I graduated college, my writing was well-practiced and a big part of who I was. I found my voice and compiled a manuscript. I edited the university literary journal. I won awards and got published. It was all coming up roses. But suddenly, after graduation, I was in the real world and everything–like every single thing–was more complicated. The routine and deadlines were gone. The feedback was harder to come by, and I struggled to put myself out there. The time to write was replaced by a full-time job. I got caught in a bad situation. And I got tired.

I had a few successes in the following years that kept the fire alive somewhat. For instance, appearing in this magazine’s debut, something I still am very proud of. And my podcast somehow managed six episodes of great content before calling it quits last July. I tried desperately to hold onto the show, but I found I couldn’t chew what I was biting off. All the while, I was kicking around on an idea for a novel, one that would never really take flight. It just turned into another thing I felt guilty about neglecting.

My passion for storytelling still seemed to be there somewhere. I’d get the itch every now and then, if a moment caught my eye. But the stories started getting buried by everything else. Work. Relationships. Financial obligations. The uncertainty of it all. I became jaded, distant, and felt like I had no answers. I started to doubt why I ever wrote in the first place.

That’s when Nick got ahold of me. I have always been a fan of Sobotka, but really I am a fan of these editors. I’ve followed their journey closely, and admire their dedication to their journal and their cause. Working on this issue and experiencing their persistence to fine-tune the content was exactly what I needed. I needed Kathy’s positivity and Nick’s encouragement. I needed to read again. I needed to write and revise this editor’s note twenty-seven times. I needed to do this. The writers and poets whose works appear in this journal should be commended for their dedication to the craft that is written word, for pursuing a duty in truth telling beyond the lens of common observer.

Because that is what writing is. It is persistence. It is revision. It is fine-tuning yourself and your reality. It can teach you discipline and show you compassion. It can grab you by the shirt collar and remind you that nothing is over until you pull it all together and finally say it’s finished.

So that is why this issue exists, and why people like Nick and Kathy make magazines.  For those of us who need the buzzer-beaters, for those who can deliver the shot. The writers and poets whose works appear in this issue have all persevered for the reader’s sake, toiling and trudging through drafts and rejections, throwing aside certain stories and poems that never seemed like they’d pan out, only to revisit them again and again until they were triumphant. They are champions of the page, and I am very happy to present the product of their labor in a physical medium that can exist in your hands.

I encourage you to acquaint yourself with the images, characters, and themes of this journal. And then I invite you to pass along what you’ve seen and what you’ve read. Share this book. Lend it to a friend. Ask for it back, and then lend it to another friend. Leave it on your coffee table, or in the back seat of your car. Tell people where to buy it, or where they can submit their own writing. Because literature is best described as a cycle. It is experience, followed by reflection, followed by expression. The cycle restarts when we come across the stories that inspire the reflecting that allows us to digest experience. It helps us laugh and cry, shudder and flex, and ultimately cope and grow. We have done our part as editors, to find these words and make them available. Now it is up to you to perpetuate the spirit of Sobotka. Now it is in your hands.

Grant Garland
Champaign, February 2017”

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Editors’ Note for Issue 4

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 4:

“There are few things more frightening than being alone.

The solitary entrance into your new school’s lunchroom, hands gripping the flimsy plastic tray as if for physical protection. The silent wait on your doctor’s exam table, wax paper crinkling as you squirm in anticipation of a diagnosis. The empty stage before your first solo recital, a dull hum of conversation behind the closed curtain. The walk up to the open casket with only your memories and last remarks.

While these are all moments of loneliness, and certainly anxiety inducing, they are finite and conquerable. Real terror is infinite loneliness. True social isolation. That barren horizon that appears to keep rolling along ahead, regardless of your vain attempts to slow down and seek refuge in the care of a gentle friend or the compassion of a family member. Just a sad, endless marathon to death.

The majority of the two years we’ve spent working on this magazine thus far have been spent shifting closer towards the cusp of social isolation. Whether it be moving away from home to live alone in the outskirts of a new city or sacrificing days to build a skill set in a prospective career as friends disperse, we’ve found ourselves separate and alone, searching for stability in something other than the conversations and company of our core group of friends. We’ve had to rebuild our essential communities, find our space in our respective cities and occupy it the best we could. This magazine has served as a source of comfort and familiarity through the changes these past couple of years have brought, providing us a thread to a shared past and a foundation for a connected future. It has given us a sort of surrogate community where we could engage with and share the ideas of others even when our social circles were nearing nonexistent. Basically, it kept us from feeling we were running that marathon.

We’ve learned firsthand that literature can provide the community, both of place and purpose, necessary for avoiding the intellectual black hole of social isolation. You can find solace or strength in a story that puts words to something you thought you alone felt. A poem can express an emotion or an experience in a way that gives you a kind of clarity that simple, logical advice cannot. The acts of writing and reading should be a conversation, no matter how distant or indirect. They allow you to shape your perspective in response to the presented perspective of another.

In a time when political theater and its all-too-real repercussions have become bizarrely terrifying, the solace that sentences and stanzas can give becomes an invaluable resource for those reaching for a reassurance that love, community, and beauty can still exist in the face of hate, fear, and bigotry. Literature can provide a welcome escape from reality, but, more importantly, it can shape reality into something you don’t feel the need to escape from. It can provide you that vital conversation that assures you that you’re not alone in the often overwhelming swirl of stimulus or struggle to act in the face of a seemingly interminable slew of common tragedy.

The prose and poetry in this issue creates a conversation about the comfort and conflict that human connectedness causes, providing insight into the rewards and risks of closeness. Pleasure can be a placebo. Pain can be empowering. The acceptance that life is a continuous, unavoidable mixture of the two can provide a sense of calm knowledge. All the works in this collection gave us some sort of insight into the intricacies of people, both isolated and interconnected. Every piece is done with an empathy that touches and teaches us, like talking softly with a close friend.

Ultimately, they made us feel human and unalone. We hope they do the same for you.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Chicago/Nashville, June 2016”

Issue 4 Editors Note 3

Editors’ Note for Issue 3

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 3:

“Anxiety can either cripple or drive you.

It can drag you down like a stone, trapping you on the murky psychic riverbed to choke on seaweed and self-critique. It can be the palm that holds you underwater, screaming bubbles and scratching at the invisible force. It is the sound in the distance, the figure in the dark, the uncertainty of the answer to a difficult question. It is the thing that stops you from enjoying any taste of success by planting the thought of a more satisfying success just ahead yet unseen. It is FOMO and the neighborhood watch and small town racism and narrow-mindedness in all forms. It is the smoke break and the bitten-up fingertips and standing on the back porch at 4 am.

It can also be the motivation that forces you back to the surface, making you flap your arms until you figure out how to turn slapping hands into a doggy paddle into smooth strokes propelling you for as long as your mind muscles allow. Anxiety can feed off fear, turn frustration into fuel. It can be the foundation for great innovations, inspired music, transcendent literature. It is that thing that must be alleviated through expression, the need to take some internal pressure and spit it out into the world so that somebody else can chew on the idea for a while. It is the desire to find solutions.

The tricky conundrum is that anxiety can also suppress that expression, trapping everything inside your skull. What if what I think is stupid? What if what I made isn’t good? What if what I did isn’t important? What if people laugh in my face? What if they laugh behind my back? What if they laugh in the comments? What if nobody cares at all? Anxiety can be completely paralyzing to creativity, killing all motivation before the process has even begun. The effect can be especially fatal if the primary motivation is to create something impressive or cool in the eyes of others instead of trying to give a voice to that gnawing thought in your frontal lobe.

The real trap is allowing anxiety to breed off itself, choosing activities and developing habits that perpetuate rather than alleviate that stress weighing on your brain and strengthening that pressure pushing down from a place unseen. This seems to be the elemental basis for addiction, whether it be to drugs or beauty or success or anything else. They all appear born of the idea that acquisition or achievement of some formless, yet theoretically attainable, thing will take away the “bad stuff” i.e. the generalized anxiety associated with just being alive.

The catch of course is that if a little is good, then more must be better. And so we overdose. We want so desperately to relieve that near constant anxiety associated with not feeling good that we cease to even let the uncertainty enter our lives by developing habitual coping mechanisms. We get high. We apply makeup. We work to exhaustion. We check our phones incessantly, hoping for communication from a friend/acquaintance/news source/etc. We make sure the boogiemen of doubt and depression don’t creep into our minds by making sure every crevice is filled with entertainment or consumption or communication. We are constantly doing regardless of what is being done. Some may say we do these things to feel good, but it seems more likely we do them to not feel so bad. And there is a difference.

This magazine itself probably started as a way to relieve some anxieties we hadn’t wanted to face yet. Anxieties about achievement and value and creativity and success and death. The fear that we were just floating through life thoughtlessly, consuming without creating and, thus, feeling empty and unsatisfied. A looming uneasiness that we were stagnant, being pushed in directions we didn’t want to go because we were ourselves directionless. Neither of us had dreams of starting a literary magazine. This isn’t a career move or a resume builder. This isn’t about social capital or appearing intelligent to our peers. This isn’t self-worship. This is two lost people on a park bench. This is sure why not. This is screaming into the void.  This is the need to do something.

The pieces of writing included in this issue are great examples of why we chose literature as our something rather than another medium. They make us feel connected to the authors, the world around us, and ourselves. They are nuanced and subtle yet moving, just as the more vivid parts of life often are. They relieve some of our own existential anxieties by giving us proof that people are finding ways to live despite the ever-present pressures. They inspire us to try and do the same.

Above all, they make us feel human and unalone. We hope they do the same for you.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Chicago/Nashville, October 2015″

Sobotka Issue 3 Editors' Note

Editors’ Note for Issue 2

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 2:

“At the time this note is being written, spring has officially sprung.

As the sun begins to hang a bit longer in the sky each evening, melting the snow and seasonal depression into the softening earth, we again find ourselves tempted out of our apartments, houses, and other human habitats back into the world, moving among and around each other on city streets and country roads like ants in sidewalk cracks.

It’s been a long winter since we published our first issue, characteristically cold and grey, with plenty of time spent looking at the skeletons of trees through thick panes of glass. After months of struggling against the stir crazy, alone in our apartments in separate cities, this spring seems to serve as the type of rebirth for the two of us that it so commonly does in literature. Whether it’s the sounds of life floating in through an open window, the relief a warm weekend provides from the pressures of full-time employment, or the vitality that comes from soaking up some Vitamin D, this season teems with a sense of rediscovery and renewal that is much welcome after the duotone days of winter. We want to be back out among the other ants in our shorts and sunglasses, gathering around barbeques, back alleys, and bonfires.

It is often in these moments of human convergence and conversation that we find meaning. Not the type of meaning that comes from buying a new t-shirt or double-tapping a phone screen. The type of meaning that makes you stop looking and actually see the people around you, to move past the point of distant empathy to that of dirty, direct connection.

Curating that connection can sometimes be difficult because it can remind us of one the most basic yet buried understandings that we have as sentient animals: we as individuals are not special. We do not have Ultimate Purpose. We are not “chosen” in any celestial sense. Our lives do not inherently possess any more value than that of the dogs at our feet or the trees on our lawn. We will exist, just as the leaves on that oak, for a limited time, branching out, becoming strong, supple yet green with youth. And just as variation in nature, both inherent and external, transforms each leaf as it ages, we too take on a reddish hue or tones of yellow until finally we fall down among the others to be raked and bagged into a twenty gallon black garbage bag. The universe will not be deeply affected by our Instagram posts or our new haircuts. We are not important to the gas on a planet revolving around a distant star.

This should not depress us.

Our inherent insignificance in relation to the whole of the never-ending blackness that surrounds us is OK. Just because we haven’t been delicately painted into the scene by an Almighty artist does not mean that the piece does not possess beauty or, at very least, the possibility of such. Once we realize that our actions and reactions are not part of a predetermined final product, designed and developed towards some Higher Purpose, we are free to be inspired to pick up the brush and use our experiential palette to add a bit of our own color to the small world constantly being reworked around us. The pleasure cannot come from our product, since it will undoubtedly be amended or painted over by the next person. It is possible, however, to take pride in the idea that our addition to the mural in our tiny spinning corner of the universe may inspire a fellow or future human to connect with our experience and create their own mark alongside ours, unified yet unique.

The authors featured on the following pages used their palettes to produce pieces that vary in style and substance, but their coalescence lies in the fact that they provide distinct and deft voices to a literary conversation without end. The stories, poems, and essay included in this issue all made us feel as though we were gaining perspective into another person’s creation or conceptualization of meaning; thus, the compilation and facilitation of conversation between these works helped us construct meaning for ourselves through the minds of others.

We thank you for choosing to spend some money and time on this collection of written words. We’d like to remind you that you likely won’t find your purpose in a cereal box, your bank account, or a bottle, but you might just find it in a conversation with a friend, whether across a bonfire or in the pages of a book.

As always, we hope this makes you feel human and unalone.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Urbana/Nashville, March 2015″

We send our sincerest thanks to everyone involved in the making of this magazine, whether directly or indirectly. The submissions, support, and encouragement we have received through this project has truly inspired us. We hope Issue 2 can return the favor soon. Thank you.

Editor's Note Issue 2

Submissions for Issue 2 Closed

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Thanks to everyone who submitted in the past months. We truly appreciate the opportunity to read all the great short stories, poems, and essays that have been sent to us this second time around. We will be making our decisions on which works will be included in Issue 2 in the coming weeks and will be sending out notification to authors when the selections have been finalized.

Again, sincerest thanks to everyone that submitted. We are beyond excited to dig into the task of editing/compiling/designing/printing this issue over the next few months.

Yours truly,
Nick Rossi/Kathy Klimentowski

Sobotka Thank You

Editors’ Note for Issue 1

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 1:

“Life as a human is hard. Plain and simple.

Life on this spinning rock is sometimes nasty, often brutish and always short. As digital technology continues to become more pervasive, ever increasing our connectedness to the other people scattered all over our floating space stone, it seems as though the Hobbesian state of nature counterintuitively becomes more present. We have constant and instant access to all of our species’ triumphs and tragedies, past and present, sitting side by side in our taskbar or in our App Store. Brunelleschi and beheadings in 1080p.

We live at a time of human hyper-cognizance, unprecedentedly exposed to the nastiness and brutality that exists in our midst and increasingly aware of the shortness of the time we have to counteract those forces. We are now confronted with everything all at once, all the time; consequently, we can feel powerless to affect anything. The empathetic twenty-first century human struggles with the knowledge that there is so much collective pain in the world and that there is relatively little they can individually do about it, especially as they deal with those growing feelings of alienation and lonesomeness that come from this realization. That sense of simultaneous responsibility and impotence can crush the spirit and/or strangle the soul.

It is out of an unconscious duty to this feeling of responsibility and to combat this feeling of impotence that Sobotka Literary Magazine was born. We believe literature provides an outlet for the alleviation and externalization of some of that intangible psychic pain that seems elemental to our experience, both for the author and the audience. A story can make us forget our personal pressures and a poem can give voice to an emotion we never noticed existed inside of us. Most importantly, literature provides us a unique insight into the experience of one of the other human beings that we share this tiny corner of the universe with and, in the best pieces, helps us learn a little about our own experience as well. David Foster Wallace expressed our sentiment well when he said of fiction, “There’s a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.” With this first issue, we hope we can foster a conversation that helps writers and readers, not to mention ourselves, feel more human and less alone. To us, literature is the only medium that allows us to transfigure the nasty, brutish and short into something satisfying, beautiful and transcendent despite its transience.

We chose the following works not only for their inherent strength as individual pieces, but for their collective ability to give life and light to the bloody, beautiful nature of our existence here on this crowded sphere that we share. Every one of these stories and poems, while varied in structure and style, strengthened our belief in the illuminative elements of literature in a world that can too often seem dark and daunting.

We sincerely thank you for picking up this little booklet of printed words when you could be spending your time with any one of the billions of stimuli available to you at this very moment. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation with you and look forward to speaking to you again sometime soon.

Above all else, we hope this makes you feel human and unalone.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Urbana/Nashville, 2014”

Sincere thanks to everybody who has been involved in helping us take this magazine from an idea born on a bus stop bench to being the box of books that is going to show up on Monday. Thank you.

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Photo Credit: Sarah Genis