Where are the LGBT+ Characters?

How many protagonists can you count off the top of your head that can be labeled as canonly gay, asexual, bisexual, transgender, etc.? It’s hard, isn’t it?

As an avid reader in high school, I found the library’s stock of novels that showcased an LGBT+ protagonist to be almost nonexistent. There were a few books scattered here and there that hinted at it, sure—a non-focus character comes out at the very end, or maybe someone mentions the subject once in the 400 pages of the story. As a closeted gay kid who didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or who I thought was cute—boys or girls?—it was sometimes hard to find works of fiction that I could completely delve into when all of the main characters were typically straight people. There’s nothing wrong with having straight protagonists; I absolutely adore the protagonists I grew up reading: Harry and Ginny? Love them. Tris and Four? Hell yeah. Katniss and Peeta? Of course! Those characters and their relationships are great, but we are seriously lacking in portraying the spectrum of relationships. The boy gets the girl—but why can’t the boy get the boy, or why does the boy have to get anyone? These romance arcs in stories have become so cookie cutter, copy and paste, that I can’t find joy in reading them anymore.

The sexual orientation of a main character can have a much larger impact on readers than you might think. Take me for example: when I was a young reader, I didn’t know that a relationship could be anything but a boy and a girl. There wasn’t anything else for me to base relationships off of, and I wasn’t exposed to all of the possibilities that are out there. It’s hard to accept and validate your own feelings when every book you read is about one straight couple after another. There’s no message telling kids that it’s okay to be gay, or to not feel comfortable with their born gender, or to just not be into anyone at all.

As a writer and as a member of the LGBT+ community, I want to contribute to filling the gap in diverse relationships found in literature. Because it’s such a niche topic, there are a million and two original stories waiting to be sculpted. I get it, writing these characters can even be hard for people within the LGBT+ community. As a lesbian, I’m afraid of getting it wrong when it comes to asexual or transgender characters. No one wants to misrepresent a culture that is not theirs, so it’s a writer’s responsibility to research these complex topics before putting them on paper. I hope that soon, more and more of these accurate representations will be introduced in the novels to come so that young readers can find characters they are comfortable identifying with.

How to Make a Million Bucks

I discovered my passion for writing by accident. I didn’t have a passion for writing right away, but I had the confidence to be the best. Writing was a huge part of my life during high school. In high school I won a poetry contest celebrating Oklahoma’s centennial celebration, which culminated in earning a college scholarship for creative writing. With my scholarship secured, I decided to pursue a church music degree at a Christian university instead of a writing degree.

If you’re wondering, I’m not a worship leader now. As an undergrad, I left the Christian school, and I went to the University of Central Oklahoma where eventually I dropped out. I partied too much, and I didn’t attend class. I started at UCO with a 3.5 and I left with a 0.08. I was determined to fail. What I needed now was a career change.

My career of choice was a maintenance man at my local church denomination. I spent my days fixing light bulbs, changing toilets, and fetching tools for my boss like an obedient dog. Eventually, this direction bored and it offered no purpose to my life. Cleaning toilets, helping old women move light stands, and stealing snacks from department break rooms didn’t suffice anymore. At the time I needed change, and I needed it fast. This epiphany hit me one summer day. 

This summer day was hot—one hundred degrees with one hundred percent humidity. Cleaning windows forty feet above the ground, for the umpteenth day in a row, is enough to make any man rethink his decisions. I said to myself, “I hate this. I don’t want to do it anymore.” Then, I concocted a plan to attend school again. Hot, hard labor made this man want that cushioned desk job. This epiphany wasn’t the only factor in deciding to be a writer; listening to sports radio was inspirational too.

One day I drove down 36th toward a postal office located on the service road. I was listening to The Sports Animal, waiting for recaps about the previous night’s Thunder game. A commercial came on before the recap. It was narrated by a Methodist preacher, and he told a story about how a woman discovered pie making. She made pies out of necessity to support her family, and she started selling them to the public. Eventually, the business was sold to a large corporation for nearly a hundred million dollars.


The preacher asked her, “How’d you make so much money?”

She replied, “I found something I was good at and did it.”

“That’s it!” I shouted, thinking back to how I received a college scholarship for writing in high school. After that, I decided on to go back to school. I started my journey as a writer and finally obtained my bachelors in English.

I’ve now worked several jobs as a writer or pertaining to writing. I’ve been a photojournalist, writing tutor, editorial intern, freelance writer, freelance editor, script editor, copywriter, copy editor, social media manager and marketing intern—where I discovered a passion for graphic design. Each position has challenged me as a writer and challenged my creativity. Currently, I am a grad assistant for the New Plains Review, which is a literary journal at the University of Central Oklahoma. This is my grandest achievement out of all my attempts at being paid as a writer.

That damn radio commercial has influenced my decisions for the past decade. Don’t ask me how to make a million bucks just yet. So far, I’ve only made a couple hundred. But I guarantee, I’ll let you know when it happens!

Intersections – What it Means to Me

Diversity in Literature: Intersections

Literature is a preserved collection of the human experience. It transfers thoughts and ideas into a shareable medium. Literature by nature is diverse, but does it represent the expanse of the human condition? Does it provide a truly collaborative snapshot, or merely the most popular narrative?

We are all humans, and like literature, exist in a variety of forms. We are diverse in race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, occupation, etc. Literature helps us understand/comprehend the differences and the connections between us. Literature is at a point of intersection. To expand our minds, we must also expand our exposure to different perspectives.

We at New Plains Student Publishing encourage everyone to have a voice, and are excited to announce a new biweekly diversity blog series: Intersections.

Intersections will feature blogs from alternating diversity themes.

-New Plains Student Publishing

racial identity
What It Means to Me

Written by Caitlin Carnall

I would be lying if I said I had it figured out from the start, writing that is.  For the first couple of years, I was extremely self-critical of my own work and never wanted to share it in fear of judgement from my peers.  

During my fourth year on campus at the University of Central Oklahoma, I was in a Young Adult Literature course and we were studying W.E.B. DuBois’s concept of double consciousness.  The concept encompasses the idea and struggle of an individual’s identity being split and divided into two or more facets.

It was difficult for me growing up with a Hispanic grandmother who blared Latin tunes during Sunday’s chores, singing every word in Spanish, but not understanding what I was listening to.  Not to mention, I would look in the mirror and notice my skin wasn’t as dark as hers, so did I really belong to her ancestry? Or was I just this white girl living in the Mexican neighborhood in Oklahoma City?

When I first began studying the concept of double consciousness, I didn’t recognize that I, myself, was split between three different racial identities: Caucasian, Hispanic, and American Indian.  When speaking directly about the effect of my racial identities upon my writing, I rarely talk about and reflect on my American Indian ancestry for the simple fact that I know very little about it.  On my mother’s side of the family, my great grandmother’s mother was full-blood Cherokee Indian, but we couldn’t trace back the history far enough to take ownership of our benefits. On my father’s side, I know my grandfather was less than 25% Indian.  I reflect most on my Hispanic and Caucasian ancestry in my writing, especially my poetry. The divide between my racial identities add a certain kind of character to my work, where in reality causes me anxiety that I am normally uncomfortable sharing out loud.  However, through my writing, I am allowed to express this struggle I encounter with my racial identities without feeling directly judged. My writing truly allows me an outlet for overwhelming emotion, and it gives voice to a diverse individual. The following is my poem, Tough Meat:    

Girl, you crazy.

Yeah, gram.  You.

Best friend—my fear

Is my best friend.

 

Hold you close, but at a distance.

Like your skin color, like

the color my skin should be—

Stuck to my finger and stuck to my memory.

 

Mine—

Just don’t let anyone catch me

Admiring mine:

Love you at your worst.

 

Oh shit, maybe I’m crazy too.

The skip-a-generation bullshit is real.

We got tough meat—as hard as is—

Always soft.

 

Lithium over easy atop my enchiladas

¿Por favor Abuela?

Over easy brain,

Over cooked heart, impenetrable.

 

Impenetrable

I am crazy, but

We got tough meat—as hard as is—

Always soft.

 

¿Duele?  Swallow pills like Portia

Swallowed fire. Your neuro

home is not a home any longer.  You

know the medicine is there in your food, your brain.

 

I stopped taking my happy pills and

I’ve been searching for the roundness

in light, caramel dermises on the streets.

We got tough meat.  Always soft.

Within the piece, I am questioning my identity as a Hispanic female, but also, I am questioning my future mental stability as the grandchild of a woman who suffers from a severe case of bipolar disorder.  So, not only do I struggle with a divide in my racial background, but also, I struggle with the fear of my genetic mental state. The personal tear I experience when dealing with such issues is flavorful for my writing.

 

Throw Away Your Television

That day when our minds roam free,

We began to live without agenda.

That beautiful release for you and me,

We can all flourish in beautiful hacienda.

Where we do not live by another decree,

And we can relax in peace.

Outgrow our nervous nature,

And we will find peace of mind,

As far as can be seen

Not a worry is in sight,

And not one involuntary notion,

Not a single distraction from divine delight.”

READ MORE…

Suga by Fierce Sonia (Editor’s Pick Winner)

Fierce Sonia’s work, Suga, has been selected as our Editor’s Pick by New Plains Review’s Visual Art Editor, Stella Kim. We found the piece to be beautiful, strong, and one of our favorites from this round of submissions.

Fierce Sonia is a mixed media artist. She builds a substrate with acrylic paint and collage. A narrative is constructed by the tension between the lush layers moving to dreamy feminine mindscapes with a brighter palette. If you listen closely her work has a soundtrack, a rhythm, a pulse that will give you a magic carpet ride to a fairytale that restates your own heartbeat. She has a public studio at Torpedo Factory: 105 North Union Street, studio 5 Alexandria, VA 22303 Follow on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/fiercesonia
Or @fiercesonia on instagram

Suga, mixed media acrylic piece, 18″ x 24″, 2018.

China’s Top 3 Ancient Books

China, known as one of the world’s four ancient civilizations, and the written history of China dates back to the Shang Dynasty which is over 3,000 years ago. In such a long history, literature has an important position at all times. Here are China’s top 3 ancient books, which all have historical significance and remain valuable today.

Three Character Classic

It served as a child’s first formal education at home from 13 century to even late 18 century. The text is written in triplets of characters for easy memorization. Among all the children primers in ancient China, Three Character Classic is a valuable heritage of ancient history and culture. Children learned many common characters, grammar structures, elements of Chinese history and the basis of Confucian morality, especially filial piety and respect for elders. Even nowadays, the first four lines of the book are very familiar to most youth in China. Though the work is no longer taught at public schools, some parents still use this classic to teach their young children to pronounce Chinese characters.

The Classic of Poetry

It is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC. It can be divided into three parts which are “Airs of the States”, “Hymn” and “Eulogy”. “Airs of the States” is the most famous part because it relates to the people deeply. It often speaks of love and courtship, longing for an absent lover, soldiers on campaign, farming and housework, and political satire and protest. It’s interesting that all the poems in ancient times can be sung as songs but the art is lost, unfortunately. Now, we can only find the written record.

The Analects of Confucius

This is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, and his contemporaries, traditionally believed to have been compiled and written by Confucius’s followers. It is believed to have been written during the Warring States period (475–221 BC), and it achieved its final form during the mid-Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). Though lots of emperors used this book as one of their governing tools in spirit, we can’t deny the advantages of it nowadays.

Submitting to a Literary Magazine

Do you have some stories or poems you want to publish in literary magazines, but you don’t know how and where to start? Have no fear, for I am here to tell you how! Follow along as I take you on a step-by-step process, and then you’ll be able to submit your work in no time.

STEP ONE: FIND LITERARY MAGAZINES TO SUBMIT TO

Pretty simple step, right? But it’s important to know how to classify your work so that you submit them to the right kind of magazines! It would be silly to submit a fairy tale to a horror fiction magazine, wouldn’t it? It would also be wise to read the stories/poems they’ve published so you can get an idea of what they’re looking for. Don’t forget to subscribe to the magazines you’re interested in! That small step may come in handy later to mention in your
cover letter.

Did You Know? If you subscribe to CARVE magazine, you’ll get one free submission! That’ll save you one $3 submission fee.

STEP TWO: READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES, HOW AND WHERE TO SUBMIT, AND KNOW THE SUBMISSION DATES

This is a very important step, so pay close attention when you’re reading the submission guidelines. The worst way to make a bad first impression of yourself to the staff behind your literary magazine of choice—especially if they’re a top-tier magazine—is to make it very clear to them that you didn’t read their rules, submitted your work by mail when it should be submitted through the Submittable website, and/or missed the deadline. Rule breakers are usually automatically tossed aside, and of course you don’t want that to happen to you!

Did You Know? New Plains Review accepts blind submissions—that means your name and contact information must not be included in your submission. Make sure to quadruple check that your name does not show up anywhere in your file before you submit!

STEP THREE: PUT YOUR MAGAZINES-OF- INTEREST IN A TIER ORDER

Have a few magazines you really want to be published in? Make those the magazines you first submit to. Secondary interests should go in the middle-tier; submit to those when all of your top-tier magazines have declined your submissions. The rest go in the bottom-tier. Be sure to also keep in mind which magazines are more popular and have lots of competition; it may take several months for you to hear back from them. If you start submitting to magazines in your other tiers when you haven’t heard back from those in the top-tier, you run the risk of getting your work published in those magazines…and THEN receiving an acceptance letter from a top-tier magazine.

STEP FOUR: PREPARE A COVER LETTER

All submissions require that you include a cover letter. You need to make sure it’s short, to the point, and professional. Not cute or clever lines here and there, no synopsis of your submission, no long paragraphs of your life story—your submission will automatically be discarded just for having a bad cover letter.

Here’s a useful article written by New York Times’ bestselling author Michelle Richmond on how to write a good cover letter: https://medium.com/a-writers- life/how-to- write-a-cover- letter-for- a-literary- journal-submission-df0d3687907d. If you’re not sure if your cover letter is on point, you may ask someone who’s done this plenty of times before to look it over for you.

STEP FIVE: READ OVER THE WORK YOU INTEND TO SUBMIT SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE YOU SUBMIT

Track down those grammar mistakes. Edit any lines that seem wonky. Take out any mentions of your name if the submission is supposed to be a blind one. Have someone read through and make note of any errors or if parts need improvement. Edit, edit, edit! If there are far too many mistakes, your submission will likely be discarded. And of course you don’t want that to happen!

STEP SIX: SUBMIT

Once you feel that you have everything ready (your story/poem, cover letter), go ahead and submit. And then relax. Go on a walk, take a drive, get that snack you’ve been craving for. All of the required work is finished. Now the hard part is waiting. If your work gets declined, don’t despair! Every writer goes through many rejections—you’re not alone. Pick yourself up and start over again. That’s what being a writer is all about!

Did You Know? You can familiarize yourself with rejection letters by looking up your magazines-of- interest on Rejection Wiki. Some magazines have a standard rejection letter, while others will have special ones that indicate your work was highly considered and passed along to upper staff but was rejected in the end.

Best of luck to you all out there, my fellow writers!

Orality vs. Literacy

In Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy, he noted the differences between literate and illiterate cultures. Ong emphasized speech being the primary and more vital language used as opposed to written texts. Although speech is still prominent over writing, this current “high technology” age gives writing more weight on a scale of importance. This ability to write and record gives us a wider range of accessible knowledge than oral cultures.

            Literate cultures exist in a world where a great amount, if not most, of our knowledge can be stored inside computers. Literacy provides more convenience in accessing all this information, yet it is also encouraging a more hushed way of living. While using our physical voices will never fully fade, it is an oddity if someone in our society shies away from technology. Although we can now expand our minds silently, the lack of physical conversation could stagnate other types of learning.

In relation to literature, books and recordings aid us in a way in which we can teach ourselves independently. We do not have to rely on mentors to teach us certain skills or practices. Literates could also have the closest replica to the sound and writings of significant works that could have been falsely remembered by those of oral cultures. Our anatomical memories are, at times, not the most reliable. This increase in independent learning could also be seen as a negative in a society where people need to learn from each other, which can turn into a preference of social detachment over time.

        Being able to capture art, literature, and music in a tangible form helps it become more diverse. Writers, musicians, and artists can be influenced or inspired by each other without having to meet in-person. Even with artists who have passed away, we can still have access to their work. Oral societies may have a more difficult time diversifying their literature and art because of a lack listening ears or a gradual changing of the original stories over time.

Ong emphasized throughout his book that oral and literate cultures use different types of learning and storing information, which is not to say that one culture is superior over the other. It is more a separation of the types of learning, like auditory and visual, which are all present in our society today. Throughout his book, it became apparent that literates and illiterates hold valuable information that they can teach each other.

Top 5 Writers for Children’s Literature in China

Children’s literature in China has a much shorter history compared to other kinds of literature. Even though the history is short, there are a huge number of classics. With the development of the genre, people in China now pay more attention to children’s education, which encourages the development of children’s literature in return. Here are the top five writers of children’s literature in China.

5. Shen Shixi

He is a bestselling children’s author in China. He is best known for his animal stories and is called the “King of Animal Stories”. However, all his animal stories have sad endings. The animals are eventually killed by other animals or people.

4. Qin Wenjun

She loves children a lot, and her stories are always written from the perspective of children. She uses details expertly. Her stories are humorous and impressive.

3. Yang Hongying

She is a bestselling Chinese writer of children’s fiction, who has been called “China’s J. K. Rowling.” As of 2013, her novels had sold more than 50-million copies. Her most popular works are the Ma Xiaotiao series and the Diary of a Smiling Cat series. The Ma Xiaotiao series is my favorite.

2. Zheng Yuanjie

He was once described as the “King of the Fairy Tales” in China. He’s famous for his characters PiPilu, LuXixi, Shuke, Beita, and Luke—these characters are even registered trademarks. His literature is well-known for being both delightful and educational.

1. Cao Wenxuan

The first winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children’s writing in China. He was hailed as a pioneer of Chinese children’s literature. His novels have been translated into different languages and have a strong influence in many countries. He is good at using simple words to describe the complex emotions.

Five* Spotify Playlists by Writers (or Inspired by Them)

Spotify playlists have taken over as the preferred way to listen and discover music. It has also become a popular way to share playlists with friends and family. Curated playlists are also becoming popular, specifically ones created by artists and celebrities.

If you do not have a Spotify account, signing up is free. You will have to listen to ads here and there, but if that becomes unbearable, Spotify offers premium accounts for students at a discounted price.

Here are five* Spotify playlists created or inspired by some well-known writers/artists:

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Miranda (Hamilton) created this playlist for sufferers of writer’s block.

Ernest Cline

The author of Ready Player One personally created a playlist inspired by the bestselling book and upcoming film.

Haruki Murakami

Although it is not by Murakami himself, Open Culture created a playlist of over three-thousand songs based on the author’s personal vinyl record collection.

John Cameron Mitchell

Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) created a ‘song of the day’ playlist, filled with classics and lesser-known gems. And yes, it is updated daily!

Patti Smith

Spotify user Beth Miller created a playlist of all the songs mentioned in Smith’s award-winning memoir, Just Kids.

*BONUS PLAYLIST: George R.R. Martin

Even though the final season of Game of Thrones is still a year away, this playlist inspired by the Night King will help fans of the show and original novels rock out.