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July 1, 2015

So.  Writing instructors: remember that assignment where the student writers submit their work to a publication “just to get the experience” of submitting?  Well, PR intern Mary Rose Winters, a student of Julie Wakeman-Linn’s, submitted her work to Saturday Night Reader, earned her grade and. . . her work was accepted.

Here’s what she has to say about it:

“The Tell-Tale Heartbeat” came from a story I wrote for Prof. Wakeman-Linn’s Intro to Creative Writing class. It breaches a notoriously taboo subject–abortion. Instead of writing something to make readers sympathize with pro-life supporters or pro-choice supporters, I wrote a story from the perspective of a young girl strapped into the stirrups because she thinks that is her only choice.
The extremism of pro-life/pro-choice advocates makes it seem like abortion is a black and white issue.My story is a cry of righteous indignation against the extremists who condemn women and girls in vulnerable positions. The point is this is not a black and white issue, but that each person has feelings shaped by experiences and makes decisions based on their moral integrity. It’s a sticky issue– my point was not to express my own views on abortion but to convey the validity of the conflicting emotions that make abortion a much more complex issue than it’s made out to be.
The magazine that I will be published in is called the Saturday Night Reader. I found it while searching for magazines that are looking for flash fiction written by undergrads. It is primarily an online magazine, but they come out with print issues every so often. They are based in Ontario, Canada.
My advice to my peers who are seeking publication is to play to your disadvantages. When I was thinking about what magazines to submit my story to, I thought about the things that would put me at the bottom of the “slush pile.” What makes me not as contestable as more seasoned candidates? I’m young, I haven’t graduated college, this was my first time submitting, I’m a novice writer… so instead of working to get myself published in a big time literary magazine why not seek one out that caters to publishing the new and unknown writers?
Rejection is part of life, so surround yourself with the people who will hold you up and remember in the writing world every rejection is simply one more closer to your first acceptance. I have also learned that everyone in the writing community knows this, and many have experienced it, so if you’re into writing seek out a tribe of like- minded people. I was so incredibly fortunate to have a community of writers that I felt a part of when Professor Wakeman-Linn took me under her wing as an intern with the Potomac Review. She showed me the inner workings of another world I didn’t think I was allowed to be part of because I didn’t know what a literary magazine was until I started working for one. I wrote, but only habitually. But I was welcomed with open arms by peers, professionals and mentors. Everyone should have an opportunity to be part of the experience that a writing family creates.

Introducing Lauren Wolf

June 25, 2015

This summer, PR is very fortunate to have Lauren Wolf working with us on webpage redesign.  Read about her many accomplishments below, and you’ll see why we are so grateful.

WOlf, Lauren


Lauren Wolf graduated summa cum laude from Salisbury University in 2012 with a BA in English and a minor in Outdoor Educational Leadership. Upon graduation, she traveled to South America to teach English to business professionals and returned to the States with a rescued dog and the desire to expand her knowledge in writing. Lauren is currently an MFA Writing candidate at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). There, she is fine-tuning her skills in fiction, nonfiction, technical, and new media writing. She also tutors her peers and assists in editing their coursework in SCAD’s Writers’ Studio. When Lauren isn’t working on her thesis or workshopping a peer’s creative short story, she’s exploring the outdoors, from hiking with Mila, her Chilean dog, in Georgia’s brush to wake boarding the Chesapeake Bay’s glassy estuaries.

Catching Up: Post Blogcation

June 23, 2015

As PR lifts its well-manicured toes from the water and deflates and stores the inner tube, worn and patched from so many reverie-filled trips down the old river, it can’t help but to notice, waiting impatiently on the desktop, the overflowing (much like this sentence) stack of accomplishments from our editors and contributors. So much has gone on in the past month that PR will be posting twice a week for awhile even as we work under the gentle commotion of our webpage redesign deadline.

Let’s start the congratulations party with news from our associate editors.  Here’s a  list from Robert L. Giron:

  • His poem “Spring” was published on the Mike Maggio Blog for the 30 for 30 Poetry Month celebration,
  • On May 12, 2015, he read some of his poetry and was interviewed by Dennis Price on The Radio Hotline, Fairfax Public Radio which is streamed on the Internet, along with Mike Maggio,
  • On May 18, 2015, he read from his work and was interviewed by poet Grace Cavalieri for the Library of Congress “The Poet and the Poem” program.

From Hananah Zaheer:  “This year has been pretty good.  I have been published in Moon City Review, The Diverse Arts Project, Inertia Magazine, Tayo literary magazine, and Willow Review. I will also be at VCCA for a residency in the summer to work on my novel.   And because I may have a touch of madness, I am in the middle of an attempt to prove Ray Bradbury’s ‘Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row’  wrong by writing a short story a week.  The agony is chronicled at Lipstick Junkies

Our contributors have been active of late as well:

Contributor Tina Tocco (“21 Days” and “Promised Land,” #54) sends us this news: “My flash fiction piece “Danny” appears in Roanoke Review’s inaugural online issue.  Also, they were nice enough to interview me on various writing-related topics.”

“As a former contributor to Potomac Review I wanted to send you a note,” writes Darren C. Demaree.  “After the Pause Press has decided to publish my book, The Pony Governor. It’s due to be released in July.”

On Thursday, we’ll present what some of our interns and friends have been up to.  We’re proud.


June 4, 2015

PR accidentally hit the “publish” button on that last entry.  Please ignore it–an edited, readable version is forthcoming.

Gisele Barbeau: The Rise of The Short Story

May 25, 2015

This week we round out the offerings of our interns with this thoughtful piece about short fiction’s ascent as THE most popular form of literature these days.  

The other day I was browsing the Internet when I came upon a Wattpad fanfiction about Ariana Grande, or specifically, Ariana Grande’s secret twin, Emily. Emily looks exactly like Ariana, except she has red hair, or one of them does, and Ariana’s boyfriend can’t tell them apart. This causes Ariana’s twin a lot of grief, and throughout the ensuing ten chapters we get a badly-punctuated play-by-play of the twins’ romantic tribulations as they try to sort out who’s entitled to poor, confused Eric. The story has four thousand views.

Author Jim Shepard, interviewed in Juked lit mag, asserts that fiction will soon “[occupy] the sort of niche that poetry occupies” in American culture. Writers write mainly for each other, he says, tailoring their work to the specifications of their peers. This trend is not a figment of Shepard’s imagination: even bestselling author Junot Diaz has remarked anecdotally that it is insanely difficult to achieve a spot on the bestseller list as a writer of literary fiction. Familiar names like Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson and E.L. James crowd these lists. Nobody expects to make money off literature; the days of Dickens’ serialized adventures are long gone. Popular and literary fiction have for the most part diverged.

But clearly, there is a demand for stories. I lifted a finger on Google and found a secret world where twelve-year-olds escape into the lives of their favorite pop stars. The market for stories is ripe. Is this the reason behind another recent trend in American literature, the rise of the short story? This form is far less constrained by the genre/literary dichotomy, and has traditionally appealed to the public with bold takes on contentious issues – think “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “The Birthmark,” “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”  Is it possible that in turning away from long-form literary fiction, the public have freed us, as writers, from a tired and dusty model? Novels have a certain elitism short stories lack; anyone can sit down and read the latter and, with a little education, grasp it fully.  Clean up that Ariana Grande story, break up those chapters into readable blocks of texts and you could have a postmodern commentary on the state of the modern short story, David Foster Wallace style.

Nicky Pham: Chasing my Dream of a Career in Writing

May 19, 2015

Our blog this week has been written by Nicky Pham, one of  our magnificent interns.  In this post, she writes of her . . .writing life.

My name is Nicky. I’m a transfer student at Montgomery College and an intern for the Potomac Review. I hope to write and make positive impact on the world through writing. I’m becoming the cat lady that I never imagined myself to be. I love creating and hope to fulfill a career in the Arts or Humanities.

Everyone reads. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, we are reading more now than ever. The emergence of tablets, iPads, and smartphones accommodated by social media has revolutionized the ease of access to information. A massive amount of information is readily available for anyone to read at their fingertips—online articles are leaked and shared among sites such as Facebook, omitted travails such as the Kenya massacres, police brutality and prejudice, and even down to the recent phenomena on the white and gold or black and blue dress, we are reading more than we ever have been. And exactly, how are we reading at all? Because… writers.

I don’t want to be a “writer,” I want to write. But according to my jobless friend who graduated with a C average in Computer Science and still lives with his parents, while on his 3rd double IPA and working his 5th cigarette of the day… in broad daylight, my seizing writing as a career is equivalent to becoming, and I quote, “a broke alcoholic, cigarette smoking hobo with body odor and greasy hair.” When people ask me what I’m studying, what my major is, and what I’m going to do with that major after graduation, I want to rip my arm off, backslap myself in the face, then throw it at them and take off. There is no point in speaking about something nonexistent, knowing an opinionated life lecture is forthcoming. So, in response to those questions that dictate my life and question my entirety, as my insides would scream while a squeamish qualm would tickle my guts, I’d utter lies to dodge their opinion on, “realistically,” what I should really be doing with my education.

The hypocrisy of education in America has been parasitic to the lower to middle class minorities of my parent’s generation, eventually infecting the majority of the kids in my generation. The American Dream was ever so tangible, ideally bedazzling. Opportunity for success marketed at the price of education. And little did my father know, the promising dream for prosperity and success would cost… prosperity and success. An eye for an eye, and I’d be entrapped by extrinsic motivation for a higher education if I’d remained obedient. A lawyer, engineer, doctor, biochemist, or business executive is exactly what my family had in mind when sending their youngest and last hope to college. And I have to admit, it isn’t their cup of tea that writing is one of my areas of interest. My best friend’s mother, Rhonda, whose house I often visit for late night study sessions, frequently enjoys creeping about the room, without announcing herself while startling me to a near heart attack, to offer me some more food. Though, I’ve already force-fed myself the inhumanly large plate she’s prepared out of love. Then, she weasels her way into nagging me about my future career choice and compares me to her acquaintance’s daughter who is 25 and working in Wall Street. I seldom nod and make erratic eye contact with her while she attempts to inspire me to pick a stable field to study. Over half an hour later, I’d managed to completely tune her out while petting my cat, Casper, until his highness bites and run to hide somewhere—something I’ve considered doing to Rhonda.

Yet, realistically, to all the currency contaminated eyes, success can only be measured by mansions and Mercedes. My definition of success does not entail wealth. The adverb “realistically” followed by a gerund as despicable as “speaking” often resounds through opinionated voices as I go about my days. I’ve grown absolutely sick, yet, terrified of this misconception of pragmatism for realism. Torn between the dollar, they’ve become reluctant of dreaming; and, adrift along the current, they’ve been imprisoned by capitalism. Stagey and accosting, I know, but realistically, even science defies the social standards.

The intrinsic reward I achieve from writing defies even the nourishment I get from wine. The study of psychology suggests intrinsic motivations to be psychologically and intellectually nourishing, as oppose to extrinsic motivation. Motivation is a basic human initiation to act. As motivation is active, a reward is anticipated. When one participates in an activity and is motivated by extrinsic means, such as going through medical school for the future assurance of a 6 figure salary, or exercising to show off one’s aesthetics, the motivation for rewards eventually ceases. However, an intrinsically motivated chap is scientifically proven to perform more productively, creatively, and progressively. Enjoyment and appreciation is internalized, stimulating the overall continuation of that motivation.

Ever felt so empty and uncertain? Most of my peers are going or have already gone through this frustration. That specific void we’ve felt, that’s our intrinsic motivation screaming to be nourished. While the temporarily fulfillment of by extrinsic rewards remain insatiable, the soul remains hungry for the nourishment of intrinsic rewards, leading one to seek alternative means for the neurochemical reward experienced through intrinsic motivations. This is why I’ve learned to excuse the pungent taste of vodka. All my friends are high; “I like having something to look forward to,” my friend, the medical school student and golden child of his family, justifies himself for being doped on MDMA every weekend at Echostage.

To the bigot, materialistic, and self-proclaimed ‘realist,’ you and your stagnant office cubicle are welcome 9-to-5 your life away. You can question my appetite to fulfill my dreams, but I’ll remain insatiable even if you lavish me with money. You can tell me I’ll starve, suffer, and die a nobody. But, you can’t lie to me about the naked truth that modern civilization is built on dreams. Dreams live. Dreams live in the nights of snoring fathers and restless insomniacs. Dreams have been living across our centuries for as long as starlets have chased the stars to conquer the skies they now occupy. Dreams have erased the illusion of race and unchained our brothers and sisters of slavery. Dreams have ignited cities by cities and awoken those whose lives belong to the night. Dreams have conquered as they have killed those who’ve died chasing them. For what it’s worth, I’d rather starve, suffer, and die chasing my dream than live, floating alongside the current as another byproduct of the social standards.

Writing Naked

May 12, 2015

Associate Editor Hananah Zaheer reflects on the idea of nakedness in this smart essay.

Naked (nākid/)
1. (of an object) without the usual covering or protection. Vulnerable.
2. (of something such as feelings or behavior) undisguised; blatant.

Writing naked is not a new exercise. But it is an admirable one.

Victor Hugo famously instructed his valet to hide his clothes so that he would be forced to stay inside his house and thus do nothing else but write. Hemingway wrote not only nude but also standing up, more defiant than inebriated in my imagination although the anecdotes say otherwise. D.H Lawrence did not merely like to write in the nude but apparently also to climb Mulberry trees while naked in order to gain inspiration—an enviable act of courage. In fact, my dedicated following of all films that showcase “a writer’s life and angst” as their main premise, reveals that most writers, at some point or another, are found in a state of undress while creating. Nudity is tantamount to art, somehow, my brain concludes.

On the one hand the idea speaks to me of utter abandon, a stripping away of all pretense and outward appearances to, literally, be present–the stuff of clichéd dreams. On the other hand, I imagine hot coffee, an accidentally unlocked door (perhaps defying the purpose of nudity anyway?) and a free peep show for the workers who seem to be permanently occupied with the foliage on the road beside my house.
It has also not escaped my notice that most of these writers are men, the women restraining themselves at writing in pajamas (like Francine Prose) and perhaps the odd composition in the bathtub a la Agatha Christie.
Either way, I simply don’t have the…er…cajones.
In truth, who can really recall what they were wearing when they created a particular piece of poetry or fiction? It is more likely that one remembers the emotional state one was in, perhaps the feelings of joy, or truth, or sadness, or even fear. To me, this writing naked business is not merely a physical act of artistry, but a reflection of the mental state one needs to be in to write well, or at all. A writer saying, “Here I am, as I am,” driving themselves to expose the imperfect truths about human lives, laying bare thoughts and emotions one would not normally voice. That, too, in my book, is a defiance, a declaration of intent, a situation to restrict one’s self to the naked truth.
I understand this concept well even as I find myself struggling, at times, to reach that place of complete abandon. There is always a covering, a veil, partly because us as writers have to be cognizant of lifting from real life. Also, because there have been many times when an acquaintance has pulled me aside to express sympathy because they read a story and assumed I am the character in my own stories.
And perhaps part of the restraint is due to the writing culture I belong to.
As a writer of Pakistani origin, I often find myself congratulating writers, especially women, who tackle things like relationships, sex, depression, all the taboos that are cultural whispers, observed but not talked about. Once, I showed a story I was working on to someone close to me (See? I can’t reveal who it is). The story involved a sort of twisted act of revenge sex and after a quiet moment, the person’s response was: “Why do you always have to write about sex?” I don’t. Always write about sex, that is. I write about people, and relationships, and traumas, and identity, and so many other things. But clearly the one thing that struck a cultural nerve for that person was the idea that such an intimate thing would be put out there for the world to think of, that somehow I revealed myself as a wanton person, depraved even, by exposing those thoughts, that brain, that act. And worse, that perhaps I was exposing this in others, admitting out loud that this kind of thing might happen.
That has been my own struggle to nakedness, fighting against cultural norms, against perceptions of my own “community,” being measured against writers from the same traditions as the ones I came from. Which, if I were to draw a Venn diagram of social class, religious beliefs, professions, family names, skin color, height, eye color, would be, give or take, twenty people. Twenty people who like the idea of values and whose voice says in unison: Why don’t you write something with a moral?
And I argue that I do. Except the moral I am reaching for is the idea of being truthful and present. And completely, utterly, naked.

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