Opening Letters > from the Editors
Jeff and I always dreamed of creating a free-access international literary journal that put the experience of its readers first. We dreamed of a journal that responded quickly, and with great care, to every writer who submitted. We imagined a journal that provided its readers with a powerful, focused, advertising-free literary experience that actually transported them—one that challenged them intellectually and moved them emotionally.
On March 2nd, we committed to making that dream a reality, and Sky Island Journal was born. On March 22nd, I traveled west, and Jeff traveled east. We met at my land in Luna County, New Mexico, at the base of the Florida Mountains—an impossibly beautiful and rugged range of sky islands near the Mexican border that rises up from the desert floor like a battleship on the horizon. We set up our tents and camp chairs, and we let the power of that ancient place guide our mission, goals, and aesthetic. A few days later, our website was up and running. On April 2nd, our first international call for submissions exploded on Submittable with a requirement that writers refrain from including any biographical information; we wanted writers to know that we respected their writing enough to experience it on its own merits. On July 22nd—today—we are thrilled to release our first issue. It is a humble beginning, as most beginnings are, but it does succeed in showcasing some of the finest poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction in the world. Accomplished, well-established authors are published side by side with fresh, emerging voices.
The cover photo for our first issue was selected by Emma Solis. She felt it captured the duality of the human experience—“the dark mysteries of our world and the light of hope in our lives”—all in a single frame. We love that because, as editors, we saw in our contributors' writing exactly what Emma saw in this photo. We could not be more grateful to her or them.
As much as we love social media, we've elected to leave the "scroll-through experience" to other literary platforms. Our readers demand and deserve a more mindful approach. Each piece of writing that we publish opens as a read-only Word Document for an authentic, focused, and immersive experience that encourages a close, intimate, distraction-free reading of the work. We want your experience with each contributor's work to be singular, just as it would be on the printed page, with crisp white paper between your collective fingertips. We understand this is a radical departure from how most literary journals present writing to their readers online, and we think it's a refreshing change for the better.
Welcome to Sky Island. Explore. Think. Feel. Entire worlds await.
Many Thanks, Jason Splichal, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Taking a brief moment to pause for reflection along the literary terrain of Sky Island Journal, I am filled with gratitude. A few months ago this was just a dream, an idea. The support from friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers has been uplifting. Thank you!
The birth of Sky Island Journal came shortly after I lost my Grandma Pearl. She shared her love generously with friends and family for over 99 years, and her example continues to inspire me each day. Grandma loved to read throughout her life, instilling that passion in others. In her later years, she still kept books at her bedside and recited her favorite poems to make sure her mind stayed sharp. In many ways, this journal honors her memory.
We have been trusted with the ideas, emotions, and creations of outstanding writers from all over the map. The pieces included in this issue are wonderful, and exemplify exactly what we look for in transformative literature; yet, they merely scratch the surface of the fine writing we had the pleasure of reading during the editorial process. Thank you to all of our submitting authors--it takes tremendous courage to share your work with others, and we have the utmost respect for all of you.
Jason and I look forward to continuing the climb, but for now, please join us as we enjoy the view from Checkpoint (Issue) #1. You will find beauty and perspective here.
Respectfully, Jeff Sommerfeld, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Pamela Anderson > Poetry > Virginia, USA
Pam Anderson has an MFA in creative writing from the NE Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program, which also awarded her a Bisbee Fellowship. The Holocaust, particularly Czechoslovakia from 1938-1945, is the focus of much of her writing, with one of her Holocaust poems honored with an AWP Intro Journals Project award. Her work has been published by JennyMag.org, Controlled Burn, Mason’s Road, Whurk, and elsewhere. Currently, she lives with her husband in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Michelle Brooks > Poetry > New Mexico, USA
Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). She just completed a book of essays titled Second Day Reported.
Rob Carney > Poetry > Utah, USA
Rob Carney is the author of four previous books of poems, most recently 88 Maps (Lost Horse Press, 2015), which was named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, as well as the forthcoming collection The Book of Sharks (Black Lawrence Press). In 2014 he received the Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in Cave Wall, Mid-American Review, Sugar House Review, and many others, and he writes a regularly featured series called "Old Roads, New Stories" for Terrain: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments. He lives in Salt Lake City.
Anne Marie De Vito > Creative Nonfiction > New York, USA
Anne Marie DeVito holds a Masters of Arts from NYU Gallatin and a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism from Fordham University at Lincoln Center. Her fiction and non-fiction works have appeared in Thought Catalogue, Worn Stories, Blood Lotus Magazine, The Zodiac Review, Splash of Red Magazine, and Bumble Miscellany. She lives in New York City and is currently working on a short story collection.
Carol L. Deering > Poetry > Wyoming, USA
Carol L. Deering has twice received the Wyoming Arts Council Poetry Fellowship (2016, judge Rebecca Foust; and 1999, judge Agha Shahid Ali). Her poetry appears in online and traditional journals and in the anthologies Ring of Fire: Writers of the Yellowstone Region and Blood, Water, Wind & Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers. A few years back, on two April days filled with rain and snow, Carol had the privilege and joy of driving Scott Momaday around the Wind River Indian Reservation to address a great many students. Feels like yesterday.
Linda h.y. hegland > Creative nonfiction + poetry > British Columbia, Canada
Linda H.Y. Hegland is a lyric essay, short story and poetry writer, and photographer who lives in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. Her writing and photos most often reflect the influence of place, and one’s relationship with place. She has published in several literary and art journals, and has had work nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
B.J. Hollars > creative Nonfiction > Wisconsin, USA
B.J. Hollars is the author of several books, most recently Flock Together: A Love Affair With Extinct Birds, From the Mouths of Dogs: What Our Pets Teach Us About Life, Death, and Being Human, as well as a collection of essays, This Is Only A Test. Hollars serves as a mentor for Creative Nonfiction and the founder and executive director of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild. An associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he lives a simple existence with his wife, their children, and their dog.
John Johnson > Poetry > California, USA
John Johnson’s poems have appeared in many print and online journals, most recently in Frankmatter, The Inflectionist Review, Triggerfish Critical Review, and The Turnip Truck(s). Currently he is co-translating the poetry of Ulalume González de León.
Jim Larson > Poetry > Minnesota, USA
Jim Larson has been in the vocation of architecture for several decades. His avocation in poetry has been nearly as long. In his writing, as in architecture, he enjoys exploring aspects of structure, form and detail in the service of an image. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Andrew Patrie > Creative Nonfiction > Wisconsin, USA
Andrew Patrie lives, teaches, and writes in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. His most recent work are the self-published poetry collections: Nights, Grace (2006) and Half-Life (2016). He also writes for Volume One Magazine and the underground Polish heavy metal ‘zine Burning Abyss.
Meg pokrass > Flash Fiction > London, United Kingdom
Meg Pokrass has published stories in McSweeney's, Five Points, Wigleaf, Smokelong, and over 230 other literary magazines online and in print. Her work has been internationally anthologized, most recently in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015). Meg received the Blue Light Book Award for her collection of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Press, 2016). Her other collections include Damn Sure Right, My Very End of the Universe, Bird Envy and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down. She is the flash fiction curator for Great Jones Street App, and curates the Bath Flash Fiction Festival (Bath, U.K.).
Diane Raven > Poetry > Michigan, USA
Diane Raven is a naturalist, therapist, and illustrator/writer. She holds a Masters of Education in Counseling with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Northern Michigan University. She co-founded Headwaters Environmental Station in the Keweenaw Bioregion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she taught environmental /ecological education. Her column, Field Notes, ran in Minnesota and Wisconsin newspapers throughout her career as a naturalist. She co-produced the radio program Journeys Into a Sense of Place for Minnesota Public Radio affiliate WGGL. Raven worked as a therapist developing/directing the art therapy program for an adolescent residential behavioral health agency. Most recently, she authored the chapter “Hidden Voices: Creative Art Therapy Interventions for Adolescents with Dissociation” in The Fractured Child: Diagnosis and Treatment of Youth with Dissociation, by Frances S. Waters (2016, Springer Publishing Company). She is currently working on writing/illustrating a book on the development of an ecological conscience in children. She and her husband continue to live at Headwaters.
Jeannie Roberts > Poetry > Wisconsin, USA
Jeannie E. Roberts writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Her fifth book, The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. She is the author of Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let's Make Faces!, a children's book (2009). An award-winning poet, her poems appear in online magazines, print journals, and anthologies. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education and a Master of Arts degree in Arts and Cultural Management. Born in Minneapolis, she considers both Minnesota and Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley home.
Ken szymanski > Creative Nonfiction > Wisconsin, USA
Ken Szymanski works and lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Over the past two decades, he’s written about ghost investigators, psychics, Chuck Berry’s backing band, wedding receptions, cow chasings, Star Wars extremists, Green Bay Packer football, music festivals, spirituality, and couch theft. His writing has appeared in The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Volume One Magazine, and Wisconsin West, as well as on Wisconsin Public Radio. His favorite writing assignment is always the one that’s next.
Dayeton Tolle > Poetry > Minnesota, USA
Dayeton Tolle is originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and currently resides in Duluth, Minnesota. She is attending University of Minnesota-Duluth with a double major in Secondary Education: English Literature and English Literary Studies. In her free time, she enjoys running, exploring the outdoors, and volunteering. Sky Island Journal is her first literary publication.
Alexander Zitzner > Poetry > Wisconsin, USA
Alexander Zitzner is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he serves as Editor-In-Chief to their award-winning undergraduate literary and fine arts publication NOTA.