Wordsmith Wednesday:

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday is an excerpt from Hope Jahren’s novel Lab Girl.

It reads:

“Time has also changed me, my perception of my tree, and my perception of my tree’s perception of itself. Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more, including the spruce tree that should have outlived me but did not.”

Winter has always felt like the time of year that we are meant to look inward, self-reflect, and evaluate our surroundings. Recently, however, I’ve constantly found that to be more accurate of the summertime. When everyone is out and present and attempting to extract every bit of life they can out of every minute of the day. That is when I find myself to be searching for happiness, for what will satiate that desire to be satisfied with my own existence and what it has culminated to. It is difficult to pause in this time of everyone’s constant joyous celebration, of movement, of momentum, and reflect on our perspectives and what we have gathered over the course of this time on this planet, but it is simultaneously pivotal in shaping our understanding of our surroundings and being able to derive happiness even from the most confusing/darkest/tumultuous of times. I write to remember these times, the difficult and the prosperous. To remind myself to never forget to reflect on the entire landscape and not just the single object in my immediate line of sight.

– KK

Jehran

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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Wordsmith Wednesday: Elliott Smith’s “Ballad of Big Nothing”

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Our words this Wednesday come from Elliott Smith’s song “Ballad of Big Nothing” off his record Either/Or (Kill Rock Stars, 1997).

The lyrics are:

“Do what you want to whenever you want to/
though it doesn’t mean a thing/
Big Nothing”

Smith is undoubtedly a master of commonplace melancholy, but these words speak to a ever-present psychic thread that pulls at my mind: life is inherently meaningless. All your desires and dreads are transient. Every personal triumph or tragedy only has as much importance as you ascribe to it. These lines always sound like a smirk in the face of people so bent on having what they perceive as freedom that they lose sight of the fact that your ability to do what you want doesn’t necessarily fulfill any ultimate end, but rather just gives you access to a million new beginnings. Real freedom probably lies somewhere between realizing there is no perfect, achievable end and being able to consciously choose which beginnings to ascribe meaning to. Oh, and I love the way he sings it.

– NR

ElliottSmith

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