Staff Spotlight – Joseph Zook

The following is an excerpt from The Persecuted. It is a story about three young adults that are at the wrong place and time. Scientists have created a “smart” shot to increase the intelligence of society, but lost their funding. They continued to make the product, but had no one to test it on, so they kidnap a group of children. Will they survive on their own, or will they have to rely on a stranger for survival? —

The Persecuted

”Hey, son would you like to be the first to try the smart shot?” A guy in a black trench coat says from the window of his huge SUV.

”What the heck is a smart shot? No,” I say totally confused. Two people get out of the back, and the guy who talked to him ran towards him. “Hey! What are you doing?” I start running, like the junior running back I am, toward my friends, but Mr. Black trench coat knocks me down. “Ouch!” I try to stop the guy from putting a bag over my head, but am unsuccessful. I start hyper-ventilating when it is shoved over my head and a gag placed in my mouth, effectively muffling my screams.

After a long time, “Get up you piece of trash,” says Mr. Black trench coat. “You’re here to test the shot Gomer’s made.” With that sentiment, I pass out with my mind reeling trying to find a way out of this situation.

I woke up groggy to the sound of a shot having its air bubbles taken out with a flick of a deadly finger. Tink! Tink! A guy with a white science coat enters my field of vision, his name tag reading Dr. Gomer. He got the air bubbles out. “This won’t hurt too much.” My eyes close again, because gomer gives me a shot. Where am I? Oh, yeah, I’m testing a new shot, I think as I wake up again.

I see a mirror in the room, and look at myself in it. My olive skin had turned a weird color.

“Ahhh, what the heck happened to my skin?” This mirror must be broken. CRASH! I see the glass of the mirror fall and I look at my bloody hand still throbbing. Did I punch the mirror?

———–

Joseph Zook is an assistant editor for The New Plains Review. He was born and raised Oklahoman, and is originally from Enid. He fell in love with writing in his teenage years, and is passionate about it to this day. When he was 16 he wrote The Persecuted.

My First Loss in the Age of Social Media Grieving

 

This week I unexpectedly lost my best friend, platonic soulmate, and “every day” person. By “every day” person, I mean we had that special relationship where we told each other the little things that don’t seem important to anyone else. I find myself still wanting to text him every time something small happens. Having my entire world turned upside down in the matter of a day was difficult enough, but I never expected to be so horrified by the public response to his death.

I preface this by saying I know grief is not a competition. I know everyone handles death in their own way and has a right to respond to it as they will. I am at no point saying that anyone’s grief or expression of love toward someone is invalid or a lie. I only offer a perspective that I did not previously understand before losing someone so close, and know many people simply do not understand. My friend’s death was quickly publicized by the news, radio, and social media. Many people I was not even aware knew my best friend were suddenly expressing their unconditional love on all forms of social media. One stranger wrote “RIP” before he was even gone. Others shared stories about that one time they played a show with his band.

At this point, one might be thinking, “I don’t see the problem here. Everyone is expressing their love for the person. How is this insensitive?” It’s true, no one had a single bad thing to say. It was all sympathetic and positive and loving. So why does it bother me so much? The first reason is social media is simply an insincere platform. Expressing grief on social media is like writing “happy birthday” on someone’s Facebook wall. If you’re really their friend, why aren’t you just calling or messaging them? My friend’s death has been turned into a #trend. Everyone feels the need to be publicly included in the grieving.

While there are many sincere people who loved my friend and still chose to post, there were many who used my friend’s death to draw attention to themselves. Posting a selfie with a caption telling everyone to “live life to the fullest and not regret anything” is insensitive. I question if some of my peers are more upset at the reality of death than the actual death. Even if they don’t realize it. Yes, I’m sure they are actually upset. Again, I’m not trying to invalidate people’s feelings. BUT, the choice to post self-centered posts that draw attention to themselves for the sake of getting likes makes me want to scream, “I HOPE MY BEST FRIEND’S DEATH IS GETTING YOU ALL OF THE LIKES YOU WANTED.”

Grief is the most personal and heart-wrenching experience in my life. Having all of my peers constantly make insensitive public posts is overwhelming and I feel like the worst experience in my life is being put on display. I find myself wanting to be territorial over my friend. It might not be a competition of who loved him most, but grief makes the griever irrationally emotional. It doesn’t have to be fair. It doesn’t have to be “right.” I feel what I feel, and what I feel is a lot of anger.

In a week, most of the people who made these posts will be able to continue their lives normally. I don’t get that. Those closest to him don’t get to go back to normal lives in the next week or month. At worst, they’ll think back about his death, be sad, and think “that was such a shame.” At best for me, I’ll make it through the day without crying every time I’m alone a year from now. All I want is for everyone to think before they post about the death of someone. It may be making the grieving experience worse for those closest to the person. I love you best friend. Forever.

 

5 Tips For A Great Spring Break For Writers

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Many of us will soon be starting spring break – a glorious week off from the stresses of school. Some will be jetting off to the beach; others will be picking up extra shifts at work. No matter what your plan is, here are some tips to use this time wisely as a writer.

1. Don’t forget about the BREAK part of spring break.

Whether you’re an English major, or you’ve been tirelessly working on your next great novel, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break. If you feel stuck, over-worked, or unsure about your writing, check out this link below. It provides a 7-day plan (perfect for your week off) for getting out of a writing funk.

It’s Okay To Take A Break

2. Read some inspiring literature.

If you need a good book to read during your vacation, I recommend The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. Labeled as “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self,” this book provides daily writing exercises to help writers tap into their creativity and write more consistently.

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3. Write morning pages.

Taken from The Artists Way, morning pages are “three pages of whatever crosses your mind- that’s all there is to it.” “Morning pages will teach you that your mood doesn’t really matter. Some of the best creative work gets done on the days when you feel that everything you’re doing is just plain junk.” This stream-of-conscious exercise helps you learn to write without judgment and clear your mind, which allows your creativity to flow better.

4. Share your work at an open mic.

Now that you have some free time during, consider going to a local open mic to share some of your creative work. We guarantee, that no matter where you are, there are various mics almost every night of the week that welcomes poets. If you’re in the metro Oklahoma area, District House in the Plaza hosts one every Monday, and Sauced in the Paseo hosts one every Wednesday night.

5. Give yourself a pat on the back.

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Writing is HARD. Take some time to reflect on how far you’ve come as a writer and how much you have accomplished this semester. It can be easy to focus on everything you haven’t done yet, but taking time to be proud of your achievements will help you become a more confident writer.

Happy Spring Break everyone! I’m going to take a 7-day nap.

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5 Tips To Get Published in a Journal

We know you want to be published, and we know it can be daunting. So we, New Plains Review, present to you a brief list of precautionary measures you should take before submitting your work to anywhere. (But primarily to us, right?)

1. Research the journal itself
Every journal has a specific form and style. You want to make sure you’re submitting to the right kind of journal for your work.

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2. Read the Directions
READ THE DIRECTIONS. I can’t say it enough. It seems so simple, yet people fail to do it every year. Every journal has a specific set of guidelines for submitted work. If they require a 3-poem limit and you submit 10 poems, you run the risk of your submission being thrown out just for not following the rules.

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3. Read past issues
Reading past issues will better help you understand what they are looking for. While every piece is unique, you will notice an overall cohesive style in each journal.

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4. Make sure the grammar and formatting is flawless
This is SO important! Before submitting your work, double-check that every single comma is in place before you click submit. It’s easy to overlook small errors as the writer, so make sure to have someone else look over it. Once you feel like it is perfect, read it one more time. If you want your submission to be taken seriously, take your work seriously.

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5. Don’t be discouraged if your work is not selected
Again, every journal has a specific style. Your work may just not be what they’re looking for this year. Just because your submission wasn’t selected by one publication, doesn’t mean it’s not perfect for something else. Try, try again!

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We hope that these tips are a big help for your publishing adventures!

Local Open Mic Provides Space For Unique Performances

The Oklahoma City creative community has seen a lot of exciting growth in the past few years, and if you haven’t had a chance to check out local open mics, you’re truly missing out! Comics, singers, magicians, and all other artists are able to show off and improve their skills in welcoming environments around the city through these opportunities.

READ MORE…

UCO Reveals New Gender and Sexuality Journal

New Plains is really excited to reveal its third peer-reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal, The Central Dissent: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality, and is set to debut in September 2017!

Based out of the University’s of Central Oklahoma Liberal Arts College, and sponsored by the Women’s Research Center and the LGBTQ+ Student Center, this is Oklahoma’s first academic journal the will specifically publish work within the Gender and Sexuality studies field.

“Our mission is to gather and disseminate quality research, poetry, and academic reviews that explore gender theory, gender identity, as well as how race, class, and ethnicity shape society’s expectations of the individual both currently and historically,” according to Central Dissent’s Editor-in-Chief, Luke Provenzano.

The journal will give graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to be published, which is a great chance for students to improve their resume or CV.

The Central Dissent is accepting scholarly reviews, research papers, poetry, prose, and art.

As a UCO student, I am extremely proud of the University for its progressive strides in the field of Gender and Sexuality. The new Women’s Research Center and the LGBTQ+ Center are both impressive additions, and many students are excited to see the Gender and Sexuality minor added to the curriculum. And now we have a Gender and Sexuality academic journal.

For more information, like The Central Dissent on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/TheCentralDissent

To submit work for the inaugural issue, email thecenteratuco@gmail.com!