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Collecting Literature: A Collage by PR Intern Livia Pavlova

December 18, 2014


At a young age, I developed an interest that has remained a facet of my personality.  This interest is to absorb things.  I derive pleasure from learning, discovering and collecting.  Over the years I’ve collected various categories of things. From animal parts (feathers, bones, insects) and fashion (vintage, cashmeres, silks), to plants (mostly succulents that I manage to kill) and pictures.

But one of my favorite things to collect is literature. I get more out of my literature collection than any of my other collections.  This is because with literature price and rarity are only trivial aspects of the collecting process.

The real value comes from the verse and prose inside the book. I have included here pictures of some of my favorite books and other items–






Like Sylvia Plath on vinyl, or a press photo of Plath,


and a vintage ad for the American publication of Lolita.


Writing the Personal

December 16, 2014

PR’s intern, Farrin Seferoglou-Oliver, finishes her semester of exemplary work with us with these reflections:

Recently I have been working on a non-fiction story, however, the personal nature of the story keeps me from typing its literary label. I wonder how many other authors are stuck in the same dilemma.
To all the writers who can relate to this I ask you to take strength from the literary community. Move your hands to the home row and your pens to the top corner of your paper and know that your story must be told. Type out that single heart-wrenching word because only you can share your story.
Perhaps even use a pseudonym to ease your mind. I recently conducted a poll on the Potomac Review’s blog asking our audience if they had ever used a pseudonym. The results were not statistically substantial because of the low response rate but it showed that not many authors have tried this. My suggestion is that this could be a great way to ease author’s minds about revealing personal information linked to their name. Why not give it a try?

Bio: Farrin writes “ I recently graduated from Montgomery College as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. My involvement in the Chickasaw Nation community was a big help thought school providing me with many scholarship opportunities. In my spare time I do freelance work that is mostly graphic design based.”

Gone Grading

December 4, 2014

We’ve drifted into the busy port of Gradepapersland,  where we’ll be whisked away to a tower of portfolios guarded by red-ink spewing dragons.  Or maybe we’ll be spewing ink.  Regardless of who is doing the spewing, we know this much:  the tower must be reduced by the frequent application of rubrics. And so we stretch our rubric-ready limbs portfolio-ward, and we promise to return in a week.

Expect to see us floating back here with a flotilla of news, pics, and –best of all–a new Facebook site.

More Good News

December 3, 2014

Several of our talented associate editors have been published this fall:

Hananah Zaheer reports that her story, ” ‘Sparkle, sunshine’ is out in the Fall 2014  of Concho River Review,  and [she adds] I also have another story ‘Eight o’ clock on Friday ‘ coming up in Willow Review in Spring 2014.”

Robert Giron will be representing Gival Press at the Writer’s Center’s Holiday Book Fair. Be sure to stop by if you’re in Bethesda this weekend.

Speaking of this weekend, on Sunday,  Kateema Lee will be reading her poetry at  “An Afternoon of Poetry: Readings by Tim Seibles and Cave Canem Poets” at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday.

And, Mike Maggio will be reading this Saturday at The Parkville Bookworm bookstore.

Congratulations to Courtney R. Fisher on her new marriage! And congratulations on having her poem, “A Sound Far Off,” published in the 2014 edition of Grub Street Literary Magazine, from Towson University.

Marianne Szlyk will be teaching a distance learning version of Introduction to the Creative Writing of Poetry.  Have a look at this flyer, Resolve to be creative, if you’re interested.  She’s fantastic.



November 20, 2014
Poet Marianne Szlyk sends up this good news about her current publishing activities:
“Valeri Beers reprinted my poem “Augusta, Maine” at Poetry Pasta;
Karen and Gayle O’Brien chose my poem “Memories of Summer Rambles” for Whispers;
And, Sandy Benitez of Poppy Road Review chose to interview me.”
We’re fortunate to have Marianne among our associate editors.

In Favor of Setting the Bar Low

November 18, 2014

This afternoon, associate editor Karolina Wilk gives us a pep talk and some practical tips about dealing with writer’s block. Enjoy!

We all start off with great intentions—they pave the road to hell, some say. In any case, life can creep up on us sometimes.   In such instances, I am in favor of setting the bar low. Not because you can’t do better—because, hey, you’re human, and that’s just really hard sometimes. You deserve a break, really, and your psyche will thank you.


When I was younger, I played competitive tennis. I practiced at least eight hours a week and played matches on weekends. I made varsity my freshman year of high school, but before my sophomore year, I injured my knee and had to take it easy for a while. When I started up again, it was hard to come back since I was out of practice and low on confidence.


Luckily, I had a great coach who told me only to complete half of as much as I felt I could do. At the end of our practice, I would go back and do however many more of whatever I felt up to. This took the pressure off because the expectations weren’t as high, so without even noticing, I got better and ended up doing more on my own account. This strategy of “setting the bar low” was meant to do two things: build confidence, and build habit.


Though much of my graduate work is reading and writing, due to other personal obligations, jobs, etc.—I’ve still found myself feeling like I haven’t been writing or reading enough, mainly out of my own sense of guilt, and wanting to do more, better. The stress of not meeting my own standards can make me feel pretty bad sometimes—and that’s definitely not conducive to creativity!


Talking to a few writing friends, I noticed a pattern that so many others were worried about not doing as much as they wanted or not doing as well as their peers, or feeling frustrated when life got in the way—so much so that it set up a mentality of writing-performance-anxiety. It reminded me of my tennis coach’s strategy for eliminating competition and anxiety by setting reachable goals. I think the solution for writing can work the same way. Instead of worrying about not doing better, just temporarily reset your standards and set the bar low until you’re back in the groove. The blank page can be a daunting, but no one else other than yourself has any expectation of what you will put onto it.


For me, setting the bar low means writing at least 750 words a week about something other than what I’m working on for school, whether that’s a blog post or a response (however terrible) to a prompt of some sort. After setting my new minimum, I’ve been surprising myself with new ideas and rekindling old projects. Some weeks I can do more, and some I don’t—but overall, I’m back in the swing of things. Maybe your low bar is just writing ten minutes a day, or one poem a month, or if you’re very prolific, perhaps your low bar is actually much higher and writing a novella a month is a piece of cake. Perhaps shaking up your own expectations can put you back in the writing zone as well.


If you’re feeling stuck on what to write, try to get your pen or your fingers moving with some prompts and exercises. The important thing is just to keep going and stick to your minimum, even if it’s lower than what you really want. Some of my favorites online prompt suggestions are from Poets&Writers, Writer’s Digest, and the aptly named Tumblr page “Writing Prompts that Don’t Suck.” So go ahead, I won’t tell… Set the bar low. As they say, practice makes perfect—and before you know it, you’ll be hitting aces.



A Poll About Pseudonyms

November 12, 2014

PR intern Farrin Seferoglou-Oliver has created this poll as part of some writerly research she’s doing.  Take a minute and help her out.  She’ll be back in a week or so with the results.



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