Spoken Word Recommendations For Your Zodiac Sign, By Blythe Baird

Spoken Word Recommendations For Your Zodiac Sign, By Blythe Baird


When the boy with the blue mohawk swallows your heart and opens his wrists, hide the knives, bleach the bathtub, pour out the vodka. Every time.

– “Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair,” by Jeanann Verlee.


I say, I am fat. He says, No, you are beautiful. I wonder why I cannot be both.

– “10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by A Skinny Boy,” by Rachel Wiley.


Some nights, I put on my father’s chalk outline and teach it how to walk. My face is a haunted house my mother screams at out of habit, not fear. Most days I am an alley that no one will enter alone.

– “The Drug Dealer’s Daughter,” by Siaara Freeman.


You will find her bobby pins laying innocently on his bathroom sink. Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs of spiders, splinters of her undressing in his bed. Do not say anything. Think of stealing them, wearing them home in your hair.

– “Unrequited Love Poem,” by Sierra DeMulder.


It took my mother eight years to accept me for being gay, for eight years I sat and watched my house burn.

– “Stubborn Inheritance,” by Hieu Minh Nguyen.


And like, maybe? I’m always speaking in questions? Because I’m so used to being cut off.

– “Like Totally Whatever,” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva.


You call me angry, you men who get into bar fights over football. Men who beat your wives when she don’t fry the chicken right. You men who say I talk too loud, who say that my mouth has no business looking like a shotgun.

– “Tempest,” by Crystal Valentine.


Once, I told you I was afraid of my father, and for a moment I was so human that the audience lost interest.

– “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” by Olivia Gatwood.


Which is to say that we are too old for all this shit. And by ‘this shit,’ I of course mean living.

Summer of 2009,” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.


If I will never pass, then I must be fiction. Must be a ghost, caught on camera.

– “Transplant,” by Chrysanthemum Tran.



I picture myself coming out and my parents heartbreak flooding all of India.

– “Witch Hunt,” by Arati Warrier.


This home is your shrine now. Your portrait is painted in Jack Daniel’s stains in the linoleum. The smell of your hair is trapped in billows of fireplace smoke.

– “From My Mother to Her Late Daughter,” by Aaliyah Jihad.


Meet the blogger:

BLYTHE BAIRD is an internationally known spoken word poet. Her viral work has been featured by The Huffington Post, Ashton Kutcher, Write Bloody, Button Poetry, Mic, Bustle, and more. In 2014, Baird was the youngest competitor at the National Poetry Slam. By 2016, Baird was recognized as a top finalist for the Global Young Achiever Award. Her first book GIVE ME A GOD I CAN RELATE TO is a pushcart prize nominee.

So, You Want To Be A Fiction Writer: Tips From The Best, by Caitlin O’Brien

So, You Want To Be A Fiction Writer: Tips From The Best, by Caitlin O’Brien

Have you ever finished reading a great piece of fiction…one that left you breathless, excited, yearning for more? Maybe you’ve even dreamt about writing your own work of fiction that does just that. If you are just beginning your journey into the writing world, maybe you have no idea how or where to begin. Well, you have found the perfect place to start! Consider these compiled tips on writing from successful fiction writers; because writers make the best teachers.

Stephen King: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”

The opening line of any work is probably the most important. As a writer, this is the first impression you give readers, so make sure it’s a good one! The first line should hook a reader into your work, making them want to continue on to see how the rest of the story unfolds. If your first line is a dud, you risk readers putting your work down without ever reading past that first line. Take, for example, an opening line written by Chris Wieloch:

“She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.”

Can you hear that? I think that’s Stephen King weeping after reading that abominable opening.

This is exactly the type of first line that you don’t want to start your fiction with. Chris Wieloch wrote this terrible opening for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a contest where participants write god-awful first lines on purpose. But as you can probably already tell, opening lines are so important when it comes to writing fiction.

John Steinbeck: “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.”

When first drafting a story, it’s important to turn off your inner-critic—that annoying little voice in your head telling you that there are issues with your writing. When you first sit down to write, make sure that the pesky critic is off duty, and allow yourself to write completely free. The main goal here is to get that first draft out of your brain and onto the paper, and the critic will just get in the way at this point. You can welcome the critic back during revisions!

Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.”

This is something that every writer needs to hear. It’s better to learn to accept it now, even before you’ve written a first draft. Knowing that the first draft won’t be any good can also take the pressure off of those perfectionist writers out there. Your first draft won’t be that good, and that’s okay. That’s normal.

Jodi Picoult: “Write even when you don’t feel like writing. There is no muse. It’s hard work. You can always edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.”

To be a writer, you have to write. It’s as simple as that. If you are afraid that what you write won’t be good enough, then I sure hope you read Mr. Hemingway’s tip up above. It doesn’t matter if what you write is complete garbage. Thankfully there is this thing called revision and editing, and it can turn that foul smelling trash into something beautifully written. You just have to start by putting something on the page.

Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

I’m sure this has been drilled into the head of every writer: show, don’t tell. But it’s easier said than done. When writing, it’s important to remember those sensory details: hearing, sight, taste, touch, and scent. This is how we make sense of the world around us, so it’s so important to add these details into the fictional world you’re creating. You want to ground your readers in your writing, to make them believe that they are also a part your story; there isn’t any better way than by drawing readers in with the senses. Your work becomes more concrete when using these specific details, and it could breathe life into your writing.

Sarah Waters: “Read like mad. But try to do it analytically – which can be hard, because the better and more compelling a novel is, the less conscious you will be of its devices. It’s worth trying to figure those devices out, however: they might come in useful in your own work.”

Read widely, and read often, because learning to read as a writer is one of the most beneficial things an aspiring writer could do. When you read as a writer, you keep your eyes open to what the writer is doing, and how they are accomplishing it. Once you figure this out, you can begin to emulate it in your own writing.

Joyce Carol Oats: “Write your heart out.”

And never quit!

Meet the blogger:
CAITLIN O’BRIEN is a recent creative writing major graduate of Hamline University. Dabbling in all genres of writing, fiction will always remain her favorite. She is passionate about literature, writing, and drinking too many vanilla lattes.



Magic Binds, by Ilona Andrews, Reviewed by Rachel Bakke

Magic Binds

Ilona Andrews 

Ace Books 

September 2016

ISBN: 978-0425270691

336 pages

Reviewed by RACHEL BAKKE 

In 2007, Ilona Andrews introduced readers to Kate Daniels, who stomped through Post Shift Atlanta with a sword in her hand and vengeance in her heart, ready to slice and dice bad people into much less dangerous pieces. Fast forward to 2016, there are 9 novels in the main series, 12 novels, novellas, and short stories branching off, and Kate is still as compelling, complex, and confident as ever.

In Andrews’ latest novel, Magic Binds, Kate gets to deal with one of the most relatable and at the same time most far out struggle to date, marriage. In a world permeated with both magic and technology, a wedding is not just a wedding- especially if it is on one of the most magical nights of the year. Never mind the fact that the father of the bride is determined to stop it and Kate is struggling with magic that is beyond her control.

What is so great about Kate Daniels that readers have been enthralled for nine novels?

She loses. All the time. She does not win every battle. She does not find every clue. Sometimes she is too late to do anything but clean up the mess and she certainly does not come out unscathed. Her actions have real consequences for her and everything around her- which is something we see a lot in this novel, with the help of the Witch Oracle.

Another thing that makes this series so amazing is Andrews’ world building. Kate’s world is overflowing with magical forces from all regions and religions, from Arabic djinn to Russian volhvs and everything in between. There is history surrounding the city and its new Post-Shift features, places where the magic runs so deep it never goes away even during tech. It is certainly not the idyllic world, there is still racism and sexism- and now speciesism- but now people have to be a lot more careful because someone can pull magic just as easily as pulling a weapon. It is such an incredibly cool place to explore while you read.

Over the series, Kate’s sharp edges have rounded out some. A former mercenary who is used to lone wolfing it now has to become diplomatic- a skill she never really had to have before. She has allies she can call on, and those allies have forces to lend to her battles. Hundreds of mercenaries, shapeshifters, police officers, mages, and vampires willing to charge forth into battle with her. A woman who was terrified of what her power could do to a child suddenly decides that children would not be so bad. Maybe it is all just part of Kate “wising up”, but it is good to see that not all of her changes. She is still witty and sarcastic. She still tries to solve everything on her own and does not always know when to ask for help. In this book, Kate really has to take the time to re-evaluate who she is and who she wants to become.

The major villain of the novel is the father of the bride, Roland, and this is the novel where he really gets to become a fully fleshed character. Roland and Kate had been estranged for most of Kate’s life- in fact, she had been raised to kill him because he is an evil wizard that killed her mother. Now that Roland is truly in the picture, we get to see more than just the shadowy figure of the evil wizard who is literally millennia old. He is an ancient tyrant who believes he can make the world a beautiful place if only people just did what he told them. Unfortunately, they do not so he has them killed in horrifying and agonizing ways. Every villain thinks they are the hero of their own story, and Roland is no different,

“If only I would just go along with your blatant disregard for your own word, none of it would happen. You’ll pretend it’s really my fault. It’s yours, Father. Your own sister chose to die rather than live in the world you wanted to create” (36).

Roland has this habit of doing whatever he wants. People are either too afraid or too weak to do anything about it, but the few who resist are slaughtered indiscriminately. Except for his daughter. He really just wants Kate to come rule at his side until she too will inevitably betray him and he has to kill her. Just like all of his children before her.

For all of the amazing magic and fantastical elements, there are real life issues at play. A father does everything he can to stop his daughter’s wedding. A woman comes into a great deal of power and fights not to be utterly corrupted by it. Ilona Andrews does amazing work with this series, and this is probably one of the most real to life ones yet.

Meet the blogger:
RACHEL BAKKE is recent Hamline University graduate with a degree in creative writing. She can usually be found on a theatre set armed with a drill, writing, or playing some kind of table top game.

The Boiling Point: Critical Contemporary Albums on Blackness, by McKinley Johnson

The Boiling Point: Critical Contemporary Albums on Blackness, by McKinley Johnson

Race is a subject that bring with it many negative emotions, making it hard to talk about, and some people avoid it all together. But some musical artists think of this as an entry point to the conversation, jump past or sometimes right into the middle of those historical wounds to give us language to understand the institution of race and its effects on the people that are being hurt by it

1.) To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

While this may be the most dated album on the list, it is the hardest hitting sound, the message is there from the second the album starts. Nestled deep in the track list is “The blacker the berry.” This rap describes in no uncertain terms exactly the effects and feelings about race relations that are personal to Lamar, giving us a snapshot of the anger and frustration that have built up in this society. While some have deemed the album inaccessible to certain audiences, I say it is a cornerstone for the dialogue of race.

2.) We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest.

Released recently after a sixteen year hiatus. Its first track, “Space Program,” details the mentality of and the frustration around gentrification, framing it with outer space imagery that calls out the fact that blacks are not wanted among those that will go to space, much like we’re not wanted in whatever neighborhood is considered the new bastion of civilization. You need only look at Brooklyn to see what I mean.

3.) 4 Your Eyez Only by J. Cole.

This album is a story from beginning to end, a letter from father to daughter about the life he lived and pulls back on a lot of the preconceived notions that haunt young black men when it comes to the lifestyle, reasons and causes that put us in the roles of drug dealers and gangstas. What it does best though is allow you to see beyond the glitz and glamor of those life choices to the prices paid for living in that system and the heartbreak it can cause, a daughter left fatherless and a friend of his she never met relaying the tale of his life, it’s tragic but it opens a window.

4.) Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper.

The source of #BlackBoyJoy is the other side of the coin, expressing an utter joy in living that in a way that only black people could, expressed from the first second of “No Problem” with an upbeat tune and a choir in the background you’re transported to a party, the emotion is infectious throughout and spontaneous smiles and dancing are just the beginning of the symptoms from listening to this album.

Hopefully seeing these albums will get you to listen to not only what I’ve already provided, but to the whole albums. If you can also step out to find more albums to get in on the discussion, please do.

Meet the blogger:
McKINLEY JOHNSON (assistant editor, poetry) is a Hamline student with plans to teach overseas and dreams of becoming a writer the likes of Bao Phi and such, but for now he’ll settle for making his deadlines. 

Blogging Past the Block: Jump Start Creative Writing with a Blog Post, By Justin Delzer

Blogging Past the Block: Jump Start Creative Writing with a Blog Post, By Justin Delzer

You’re a student who has been in multiple writing classes before. You’ve written a few stories that impressed your teachers, your friends, your parents. That red A-plus written on the top corner of your Magnum Opus still smiles at you when you collect the milk for your Cheerios in the morning. You’re no newbie to writing, this is true.

But now you’re in college, and you’re staring at a blank page. The professor in your Introduction to Creative Writing class wants a blog entry to post on the class discussion board by Monday morning. The blue neon clock on your dresser is piercing your weary eyes at midnight on Sunday. What in the world are you going to blog about?  And what is a blog, anyway?

The blog appeared in the late 1990s as a shortened form of the weblog, consisting of online content similar to an essay, but which started a conversation. The World Wide Web swarmed with content evolved into a global commentary. Blogs contained content ranging from pizza toppings, to historical sites, types of sponges and even sandpaper. As life became faster and social media integrated further into society, blogs taught the world to communicate with fewer and fewer symbols. Twitter showed us that stories could be written in 140 characters. As a society, we learned how to say more with less.

Desperate for topics, you pull up the Google and perform a search on blogs. But your search is random. One result leads to a real estate blog covering changes in a Chicago neighborhood.  Another result gives you ten thousand entries covering various types of cheese. The third leads you to a webpage about defeating aquatic monsters on Metroid Prime. You toss your fourth can of Mountain Dew into the recycling, but its sugary contents fail to keep you awake.

Blog posts can be about anything. Think about things that interest you. Maybe you’re the only student in your dorm who’s finished the latest Fallout game. Write about that. You volunteered for your old elementary school? Fantastic, write about that. Before returning to school, you served two tours in the Navy? Thank you for your service. Write about anything that’s declassified. If it’s a subject that interests you, write about it – the more obscure and the more off-kilter, the better. The best part about blogging is that there are millions of people on the web these days, and odds are at least two people in the world might be interested in any given subject that you choose.  

Once you have your topic in mind, think of how that subject affects you. Have you engaged in this subject with others, or is it more of an individual activity? Does it have the potential to start a conversation among its patrons? Even if you’re stuck wondering whether or not these questions can be answered, remember that it’s a public record. Anything you say online may be there forever. Be prepared to stand by your words. If you’re passionate about your subject, and can defend your words with honest conviction, you’ll be surprised at what kind of conversations can result.  

Go write that blog about what it was like the first time you used Elmer’s Paste in second grade. Write about that day you fell down the stairs and broke your leg. Write about a time that you ordered other than your usual at your favorite restaurant. If it’s a topic that gets people talking, you might discover a different angle to your subject that has challenged your own views and interpretations. You might even decide to expand your understanding of the subject, or even related subjects you‘ve never researched before. Not only will your professor be happy, but in a few years you just might be writing a dissertation that leads you to that six figure job, pitching your ability to creatively attack a solution, all because of how you decided to look into the origin of a subject as innocuous as cottage cheese.

Above all, don’t be afraid to pick a subject that challenges you. At the end of the day, blogging is just freestyle writing that starts a conversation among peers.  

Time to write that paper.  What will you blog about today?

Meet the blogger:
J.D. DELZER is a published author with two novels of adventure fantasy. He is also a recent graduate of Hamline University with a BFA in Creative Writing. You can often find him either in front of a computer writing or with a Nintendo controller in his hands. His three greatest inspirations are nature, novels, and his cat. 

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