Poetry Collection by Natascha Graham

Natascha Graham is a lesbian writer of stage and screen as well as fiction and poetry living on the east coast of England with her wife and two young children.

Her poetry and fiction have been frequently aired on BBC Radio and published in Every Day Fiction, Acumen, Litro, and Yahoo News to name but a few, while her stage work has been staged at the Mercury Theatre, Thornhill Theatre London, and won the best monologue prize at Fifth Avenue Theatre New York. Her short films have been selected by Pinewood Studios, Lift-Off Sessions, and Cannes Film Festival

My Girlfriend the Narcissist read by Vee Tames

The Husband read by Vee Tames

When Gillian’s Here read by Vee Tames

Sunshine Pie

Editors: We Contain Multitudes

It was exhilarating to receive my first copy of the New Plains Review. I’ll never forget what it felt like to flip through its pages and share my work with my friends and family… and that might sound a little odd. My work. Of course, I didn’t write the stories or create the art features. I didn’t even get to decide the font we used. That said, I had spent the last sixteen weeks diligently revising every single story, blurb, and byline in that issue. No one outside of the editing room knew about the knock-down drag-out debates that we had over misplaced commas, but for the first time in my college career, I had physical proof of what I “do” for a living. Unlike the stories and anecdotes that I had picked up from the various odd jobs I had held up to that point, the journal in my hand was something I could pull out at a moment’s notice to answer every concerned aunt, uncle, or family friend who wanted to know what I planned to do with a BA in English.

Needless to say, when I then began to work with digital publications, it felt somewhat “empty” to know that I would never get to physically hold the manuscripts I slaved over. Sometimes, these projects didn’t even end in a book or journal. Instead, I found myself writing email templates for business communication, calls for submissions, or onboarding material for my future coworkers. I thought this would be boring. These documents weren’t résumé material. They were filler designed to get us from point A to point B. That said, I began to see them the same way I looked back on those editing sessions with the New Plains Review. I wasn’t just editing the journal; I was helping to create a framework that extended past me. My documents were being used by graphic design artists, social media managers, and even university faculty members. As I seemingly sank into the background, I was rapidly entering the larger realm of technical writing.

Now, as we continue to explore what the working world looks like amidst a pandemic, I find myself appreciating these digitally born documents more and more. While nothing quite mimics the act of physically marking up a draft, that style of editing is becoming increasingly impractical. Even the process of keeping up with thumb drives feels tedious now. These days, it doesn’t matter if my fellow editors are a block away or in another city entirely; we are working together on documents seamlessly. File hosting platforms that I previously took for granted have now become crucial to my daily tasks. In fact, I have not one, not two, but four of them pinned to my taskbar right this second.

It took me several years to see that being an editor meant so much more than simply revising manuscripts. As a freshman, I had seen the endless lists of titles like “copyeditor,” “line editor,” and “content editor” and assumed that these each represented a unique editing faction—one of which I would have to commit the rest of my career to. Now, as a grad student, I see how these skill sets intertwine, not only with each other but with the jobs and tasks surrounding the publishing process. It seems that one day I’m a research assistant and the next, a website administrator, and yet my paystubs still credit me only as an editor. I may not have a bookshelf lined with every document I have created and/or revised, but that doesn’t rob my work of any validity. If anything, it has encouraged me to support other digital publications in kind. These massive digital archives allow users to instantly follow literary and academic rabbit holes that previously took years to develop, and people like me are making these connections happen. And that’s what’s most important: the community is still here, whether we physically print or not. It has never been a better time to be “the man behind the curtain,” even if you’re the only one who can really see the extent of it.

Dyslexia: Spell Check is for the Weak

As an editor, it can be hard to admit that my greatest passion is also the source of one of my biggest inhibitions. A big part of this stems from the fact that not many people are vocal about learning disorders, and those who are aren’t always the most constructive. I’ve known from an early age that I am dyslexic. Even though this isn’t anything world-ending, or even something that’s necessarily complicated, I’ve noticed that there is still a significant amount of stigma surrounding learning disorders. Being a student of the Liberal Arts means that I am surrounded by bright and intelligent people on a daily basis, who not only analyze everything they read, but are obnoxiously good at it. Initially, this intensified a fear that I’ve harbored since the first grade, in which I feel that everyone around me understands something that I don’t, and that my cover will be blown at any moment. Of course, the only logical response to this was to double up on literature classes and enroll in a second language. Because that’s not overcompensation, right?

As unhealthy as it may sound, this has been my approach to tackling dyslexia for years. It’s almost like a vigorous hike; every time I start to get winded, I see that the peak is that much closer and I force myself to pick up the pace. When I first learned to read, this was how I kept myself going. If a book tripped me up, I would pick up another and read them back to back until they both made sense. Even today, I still read roughly five to six books at a time to keep myself engaged.

Before I go any further, I suppose I should explain what dyslexia means for me. Most people understand dyslexia as that thing where kids sometimes confuse the letter “b” with “d,” but dyslexia can go so much farther than that. In fact, once my parents had realized what was going on, mirrored consonants became the least of my concerns. My biggest challenge was, and still is, the struggle of being inconsistent. What is a reflex one day is foreign the next. Just the other day I tried spelling “optimist” as “optemest” and had to review Greek and Latin root words until I could understand where I went wrong. This word has never been a problem in the past, and I use it pretty frequently, but out the window it went.

I can see when my words come out wrong and I can recognize broken sentences and phrases, but this is because I had to develop an intuition that could save me when my brain short circuited. This is how I first developed an interest in editing. Suspicious, right? In a way, every error I catch and every student I tutor justifies the ridiculous amount of time and effort I’ve put in to learning the written English language.

Dyslexia may not be particularly interesting for those who are unfamiliar with it, but for me it’s like the ultimate challenge. It has forced me to think outside the box and learn things in unconventional ways. It’s popular advice that writers should read the works of their favorite authors so they can emulate their writing style. I took this a step further and turned to literature for lessons in grammar. Not only was I trying to capture the elegant sentences of Poe and the subtleties of Philip K. Dick, but I was also trying to figure out what the heck a dependant clause was and why my teacher kept circling mine but not my partner’s. In my case, dyslexia has driven me to better understand the written word, because I can’t handle the idea of being inherently bad at something. Of course, being dyslexic still has its issues, and it always will. The takeaway here is not that learning disabilities can be cured, but that they can be overcome, and every step I take as an editor is a massive victory.

Fall: Season of Innovation

You’re in the heat of the semester, midterms are approaching,  and three of the biggest holidays of the year are coming in hot. Do you visit with family or stay home and recover in solitude? What about that art challenge everyone’s doing? Or maybe this is the year you finally make plans for Halloween like the social human being that your schedule says you are.

Each year, questions like these seem to come out of the woodwork simply to make life harder. However, the one that keeps me up at night is probably the vaguest of all. Do I have time?

This became a real issue for me this past weekend. It began with a text on Wednesday, and a pretty unassuming one at that. On any other occasion, I love to receive texts from home. With a family like mine, a text or phone call comes maybe once every few months. Unfortunately, this text put an end to my day off before it even began.

Are you available this weekend?

That’s how I ended up spending a weekend working in a stifling and cluttered back room, helping my parents move their business. This was an event that a more mature individual might consider “character building,” but after three days of hard labor with my family, I can only describe it as hilarious, frustrating, and exhausting. I felt like I had strolled into some 1980’s buddy-film where all the kids go through some cliché experience that alters their perception on life.

Let there be no illusions. The work was gross and strenuous, and staying in a crowded building with three teenagers and two would-be adults is never conducive to a healthy family-dynamic. However, over the course of three days, I revisited the location of a significant chapter of my life, and shut it down alongside the same people I began it with. If that isn’t closure, I don’t know what is.

I’m still just as busy as I was, but I was able to make the most of my seasonal stress and turn it into an amazing experience. Autumn is a season of change, and more people need to take advantage of that. Whether it’s writing about the changing of the leaves or tackling some annual home improvement, this season has so much potential!

Now, I’m not implying that you need to actively search for some new activity to pencil into your schedule. I hate reading through an inspiring article only for the grand takeaway to be “do it” and “if you don’t have time, make time.” In fact, if I manage to clear my schedule for an afternoon, I’m more likely to catch up on sleep than anything else, and I will never regret that. Instead, take a step back and look at what you’re already doing. Why is it important to you? What is the best you can make out of this moment? How do you want to look back on this moment?

It’s up to you.