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
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.


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.


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!


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.


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: 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.


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!


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.

Why You Should Listen to Music When Writing

Music, in general, helps you focus. Is the dog barking annoyingly in the backyard? Your significant other playing video games too loud? No problem! Put in some earbuds and tune into your favorite playlist as you tune out all of the distractions of daily life. Music will take you away from this world and give you your own little writing bubble. Listening to music with no lyrics, like movie scores, classical, and EDM, are actually proven to maximize your focus and memory, as it activates both your right and left parts of the brain at the same time (Godkin). So, whether you are writing a Comp II research paper or working on your first draft of a novel, choose what music works best for you.

Listening to music while you write will also get those inspiration gears going. When writing, there is something so satisfying about listening to music that pairs with the genre of your work like the way a wine pairs with cheese. For instance, say you’re writing a short story about an elf prince on his journey to secure a precious treasure while listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. It’s going to feel so much more alive, right? Or listening to techno music while writing about someone who lives on a spaceship. Even listen to rock music while you build a character who’s a total punk! Different genres of music will seep into your creativity and you will see clear results on the page.

So, moral of the story? Listen to music while you write. It helps you focus, it helps the creative process, and, frankly, it’s fun.

Reference: “Can Music Help You Study and Focus?” Northcentral University, 2 Jan. 2018. Web.

The Woman Behind the Journal, Interview with Shay Rahm

Professor Shay Rahm is the Publishing Director for New Plains Student Publishing, but sometimes we just call her “Empress.” Shay is motivational, inspirational, encouraging, and all around a great teacher. We owe her a great deal for her patient coaching and tireless leadership. Read on for more about the woman behind the journal.

Kelsey Smythe (KS): To start off, can you introduce yourself?

SR: My name is Shay Rahm and I am a lecturer of English at the University of Central Oklahoma. And I have multiple other titles, including Publishing Director of New Plains Student Publishing, Executive Editor of New Plains Review, Executive Editor of 1890: A Journal of Undergraduate Research, and Executive Editor of the Central Dissent: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality.

KS: That’s a lot of titles.

SR: Yeah, it is. And I do more, too, but those are my main ones.

KS: So, how long have you had your current role of executive editor and how did you come about the job?

SR: I have been at UCO for 17 years and I have been in charge of New Plains Review for 9 or 10 years. After doing that for several years, starting last year, working with some graduate students and very kind faculty, we developed the New Plains Student Publishing Group which encompasses three journals, not just New Plains Review. I’ve had my role as executive editor for 9 or 10 years and have been publishing director for the last year or two years that we’ve been working on this bigger project.

KS: So, what would you say drives you when it comes to teaching and leading New Plains Student Publishing?

SR: Oh, students! I don’t know, I’m old, and I’ve done a million things, thankfully. I was a corporate trainer before I was a member of the faculty here at the University. I just like students to come up with ideas and let’s just see if we can make it happen. And we might have to circumnavigate some issues and do some other things, but that’s what drives me. They’re interesting and amazing ideas and I’ve been very fortunate that people have allowed me to do the things that I’ve wanted to do, and so I want to give that back. I think that I’m selfish, obviously, and I like to learn new things all the time, and that’s why I teach, right? I think that’s in part why a lot of people teach, because they want to stay in the loop and stay caught up with things. I have students now who have gone on and are in the publishing industry or they’re professors at other places or they’re something completely different, but knowing that I gave them a chance, that they would come in with an idea and I gave them a chance to see it to fruition… I like that the most. Of anything. That’s what I like the most.

KS: So, what are you most proud of with New Plains Student Publishing?

SR: Well, I think the fact that we have it. Because no one said we could, and we did anyway. And so every time we were told “no” or “there isn’t funding” or “well, you can’t really” or “why would you?” or “how was that going to be possible?”, we just kept going forward and so then we just said, “well, we’re going to do it anyway.” And then it just became, because we were doing it anyway. I think that’s one thing I wasn’t afraid of, even when I was told no, I wasn’t afraid to just find another way to do it. And not against the college or department or university, they were all very supportive but it was more just red tape here and there and just finding a way around it, and saying, “well, we can do it this way instead of this way.” I think the fact that every day I walk into the office and there’s multiple students, as you know, in here and around, working with me or working on projects that we all started together at one point, that makes it worth it all and that’s what I’m proud of. I feel like we are an entity of ourselves now, and whether everybody else feels that way or not, I don’t care, cause that’s how I feel.

KS: In regards to looking forward, what are you most excited about accomplishing in the future with New Plains Student Publishing?

SR: Well, I want it to blow up. And I want more students from different departments involved. I really want to get some sort of business or marketing class involved. Poor Michelle [Art Director & Production Chief] needs a whole team of graphic designers and other art people involved. I’d really like to see, across the campus, every college, that there’s people involved in all those areas. Ultimately, I want to become a University Press and that’s a huge thing, and so you gotta take those little steps along the way.

KS: I know you tell your students a lot to read more, so what does your reading life look like?

SR: To be honest, right now, my reading looks more like BBC News or Salon or NPR, just apps on my phone. I get up really early in the morning when it’s still quiet and dark outside and I pull up an article or something and then I do that whole, you know, follow the rabbit down the hole and try to find the most obscure, random articles I can, about things like hot air balloons or something random, because of a very short opportunity to read in that case. When I have more time, I do read fiction. I read a lot of speculative fiction, I read a lot of Sci-Fi stuff, I’m big into Charles Yu, Ken Liu, just look at my bookshelf. Daniel Wilson. I’m really big into futuristic. Anything that involves a robot, I’m most likely going to read it. I’m really into AI, understanding that. And half of it I don’t understand because my science side of my brain doesn’t necessarily work. But for some reason when I’m reading fiction, I feel like I really understand what’s going on. I read a lot of short fiction, not a lot of novels anymore. Partly because of time and partly because I like to read stuff by a lot of different people, so if I can do some short fiction I can read various authors.

KS: So, if you had to pick one favorite book?

SR: Charles Yu. I would say Third Class Superhero is one of my favorites. If we’re talking about what I’m currently reading, Charles Yu is one of my favorite authors. Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust, is probably the novel that made me become an English major. I was a physical therapy major, now I’m an English professor.

KS: Those are pretty different majors. So what’s the next book on your TBR [To Be Read] list?

SR: On my TBR list… I’m going to have to reread some short fiction for a presentation I’m giving. It’s a collection of short fiction, sort of sci-fi. So that’s next on my TBR cause I have to do it. But it’s all good, it’s not a bad thing. It’s all by Gen X authors, people my age, including Third Class Superhero and Sorry Please Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu.

Song Analysis: “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of a Bay” by Otis Redding

Otis Redding has been noted as one of the greatest soul singers and composers of all time. Also known as the “The King of Soul,” he is remembered mostly because of his powerful voice, soulful lyrics, and who he inspired.
Redding did not only influence the masses, he influenced many famous musicians. Some artists that Otis Redding have inspired or have covered his songs include The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Willie Nelson, Al Green, Pearl Jam, Etta James, Rod Stewart, and Kanye West. Even if Redding had a seemingly-short career, his sound will carry on for many generations.

The song I chose to analyze lyrically is “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of a Bay.” The reason I chose this song is that it is unlike his many romantic and love-centered tracks. This song is more introspective and discusses an inner battle as opposed to having problems with a significant other. Although it could be thought of as a song he wrote in a moment of happiness and peace, my impression was more pointed towards defeat. Redding wrote it after being influenced by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He listened to the album during a week he spent at a houseboat in California while performing at San Francisco’s Fillmore West Theater in 1967.

There are some noticeable influences The Beatles had in this song when comparing to Redding’s former music. Like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, there were moments of musical simplicity and lyrics that mostly talked about oneself, instead of a proclamation of love. He was unable to finish writing the last verse though, as he passed away just four days after recording began. His co-writer Steve Cropper decided to fill in the last verse with Redding’s whistling. Before learning this, I thought the whistling was intentional and fit perfectly, representing how the meaning of a song could be understood without words being spoken.

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” sold over one million units and was Redding’s first number one single on Billboard Magazine’s pop chart. The song also won two Grammys in 1968. This song is credited with further influencing the soul movement by combining R&B and folk.

Inspiration is Fleeting

Inspiration, that fickle little beast that makes you unable to concentrate, let alone do anything else until it uses your pen to leap onto the pageor at least that seems to be how it feels for me. Don’t let it fool you though. Inspiration is something that doesn’t show up often, and most times you might have a deadline.

You might not have time to wait for inspiration to strike. Don’t be waiting for it, lure it out with the following ways: you could sit down and determine to write on a writing prompt every day; you could get with your friends and pose hypothetical stories through brainstorming (a verbal Madlib if you will); you could read your favorite genre and use that as a jumping off point.

Never let lack of motivation or inspiration not firing paralyze you, because it will stop your dreams quickly, if not immediately. Sitting down and writing on somethingeven if it is a promptdoes many things for your imagination. It stimulates it, and keeps it stimulated so that you can go from prompt to writing project, whatever form that manifests itself in. The brainstorming just gets the story generator pumping through the system checks it needs to push out something for you. Reading your favorite genre usually does a little more though, simply because it reminds you of the necessary rules and limitations of the genre, as well as it puts you back in the role of the reader.