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Opening Letters > From the Editors



Winter is a time for reflection. The season finds us astonished by, and thankful for, how far we've come in three issues. For years, Jeff and I had dreamed of creating a 100% free-access international literary journal that put the experience of its readers first. We dreamed of a journal that handled every submission with care, responding quickly and respectfully to every writer who submitted—a journal that leveled the playing field for authors by not allowing bios or cover letters to accompany the work they sent. We imagined a journal that published accomplished, established authors side-by-side with fresh, emerging voices. We wanted to create a journal that provided its readers with a powerful, focused, advertising-free literary experience that transported them: one that challenged them intellectually and moved them emotionally.

Last March we took a few days off from work and family, traveled across the country from our respective states, and met at my ranch land in Luna County, New Mexico: a rugged patch of isolated wilderness at the base of the Florida Mountains—one of the state's few remaining sky islands—near the border with Old Mexico. We spent the days climbing and talking. We spent the nights watching the stars, enjoying a little tequila, and taking notes on an old legal pad by headlamp. Within days, we had a blueprint for our project. Weeks later, the journal was born. We are grateful for the hundreds of writers around the world who have trusted us with their precious work in order to make those dreams a reality three times now. Whether you're new to Sky Island Journal, or you're one of our 14,000 readers in 104 different countries, we're confident that the new writing in our stunning third issue will find a home in your heart. 

While social media certainly has a place in our lives, we've elected to leave the "scroll-through experience" to other literary platforms. Our readers deserve a more mindful approach. Each piece of writing that we publish opens as a protected 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, but we think it's a refreshing change for the better. It's okay to slow down. It's okay to take your time. Savor all the beautiful worlds that our contributors have created for you. Out of the 810 individual pieces that we received from around the world for Issue 3, these 45 are the finest.

Welcome to Sky Island.  Welcome home.


Jason Splichal, Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief


Following the close of 2017, with 2018 underway, thinking about this current issue continually brings me back to the word "perspective."  Growing up in Wisconsin, winter carried certain images and expectations that were turned on their head when my family and I moved to the Sonoran Desert of Tucson.  Here in Arizona, I feel like I earn my chops by enduring the sweltering heat of the summer, and bask in the temperate glory of these blissful winter months, but it's all a matter of perspective.  In regard to Sky Island Journal, both readers and writers alike have asked us what kind of writing we look for as editors and whether or not a certain piece would be better suited for a spring issue than a summer, fall, or winter one.  The answer is that it all depends on perspective.  We seek writing of the highest quality that has the power to transport us intellectually and emotionally; the exact time when a reader finds a poem or narrative, as well as where the reader is physically, mentally, and emotionally often plays a role in how they respond to a literary work.  Consequently, both the person and piece have the potential to be transformed by each other.  Writers offer their perspectives, while readers often see the work through the lens their own, and the joy of guiding these two elements to coalesce is precisely why we exist.

Last weekend, my wife and I loaded into our car with a pair of our best friends and made the trek along Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon, hoping to catch a glimpse of snow.  What I found was even better.  During one of our stops, I sat down on a large rock slab, rewarding my eyes and spirit with the breathtaking view from high up in the mountain range that towers over our city.  As my friend reminded me later, photographs and videos make a valiant effort to capture these views, but the beauty and sheer depth are best understood by experiencing it personally.  Similarly, with the full lineup of pieces from Issue #3 spread out before me in panoramic view, the range, depth, and beauty of this issue astound me, and I firmly believe our readers will be moved when they read it as well.

Just yesterday, while discussing Kouzes & Posner's book, The Student Leadership Challenge, with my undergraduate students, we locked into the notion that a person's values can be easily discerned by paying attention to how they spend their time.  Readers, if you value literature that resonates on multiple levels, inspiring deep reflection into yourself, far beyond yourself, and all the spaces in between, then this issue is most definitely worth the precious resource of your time.  

Thank you for joining us!  

Jeff Sommerfeld, Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief


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Anne Dimock > Flash Fiction > California, USA

Anne Dimock is an author, librettist and playwright. Her plays and an opera have been produced in California, New York, Minnesota, and Hawaii. Her dramatic writing focuses on comedies, adaptations, and always includes strong roles for women. Her plays include Roxanne(dot)comDebbie Does Death and Woman Bakes American Flag Cake (The Matriot Act). She is currently working on: a cycle of short plays inspired by her favorite novel – Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; and a full-length play based on William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy. Anne Dimock is also a narrative writer working in fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, Humble Pie – Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust, was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. She has received awards, fellowships and residencies for her narrative writing. She is currently working on a coming of age novel set in 1962-64; and a nonfiction book about the natural history of muscle. She is an occasional blogger on Medium. Besides writing, Anne Dimock has a fundraising career in the nonprofit sector. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Annie Blake > Flash Fiction > AustraliA

Annie Blake is an Australian writer, thinker, and researcher. Her main interests include psychoanalysis and metaphysics. Her poem "These Grey Streets" was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize by Vine Leaves Literary Journal. She holds a Bachelor of Teaching, a Graduate Diploma in Education and is a member of the C G Jung Society of Melbourne and Existentialist Society (Melbourne). 

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Brandon Kilbourne > Poetry > Germany

Originally from Louisiana, Brandon Kilbourne is a biologist based in Berlin, Germany and studies evolution, anatomy, and biomechanics. In addition to his work in the sciences, Brandon has been studying, reading, and composing poetry for several years. Brandon also has forthcoming work in Third Street Writers’ Beach Reads 2: Lost and Found.

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Bria Fey Servoss > Poetry > Wisconsin, USA

Bria Fey Servoss has been writing for herself since she was six, but she only began recognizing herself as a "poet" for the past year or so. Her writing usually hovers around ideas surrounding self-concept and the often intoxicatingly toxic interplay between girls & boys of any age. Lately, she’s also been drawn to cosmic nature and the weirdness of humanity. Currently, she is in the slow process of working on a chapbook. Bria was recently featured in HerStory. She writes, mothers, misbehaves, and agonizes over details in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Britany Jean Golden > Poetry > California, USA

Britany Jean Golden lives in Los Angeles where she is a writer and a waitress. She earned her degree in English from California State University, Fullerton. Her work has appeared in Enjambed, a journal out of California State University, Dominguez Hills.

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Brittany Mishra > Poetry > Connecticut, USA

Brittany Mishra helps make airplane engines for a living and writes poetry and fiction as her passion. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives 3,500 miles from home in New Britain, Connecticut where she is a board member of the non-profit Riverwood Poetry; she helps find local poets to host monthly readings or workshops for the Connecticut community. Brittany's poetry can be found in Shabda Press' Nuclear Impact Anthology and the online journal Voice Catcher

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Chris Myers > Poetry > Wisconsin, USA

Chris Myers is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature. An avid seeker of classic films, Sky Island Journal is his first official publication.

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Conrad Shumaker > Poetry > Arkansas, USA

Conrad Shumaker grew up on a cotton farm/cattle ranch outside Tucson. When he was 18, the family had to sell the farm, which became a huge gravel pit within a few years. He occasionally returns to sit on the edge of the half-mile hole and reflect on the loss of place. He now teaches courses in American literature and cultures at the University of Central Arkansas and serves as the interim chair of English. His scholarly and creative works have appeared in such journals as American Literature, The Arizona Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature, Studies in American Indian Literatures, Puerto del Sol, and The Redneck Review of Literature.

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Craig Barker > Poetry > United Kingdom

 Craig Barker is a University student and English Language teacher residing in Norwich, England. When not fixating on the correct pronunciation of certain vocabulary items, he spends time writing, reading, and trying to stay afloat at the local pool.  He's currently working on a poetry collection concerning long-distance relationships and mountain goats (it's a long story).

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Darci Schummer > Poetry > Minnesota, USA

Darci Schummer is the author of Six Months in the Midwest (Unsolicited Press 2014). Her work has appeared in Compose JournalMidwestern GothicMidway Journal, and Necessary Fiction, among other places. She splits her time between Duluth and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and teaches writing at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

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Diane Raven > Creative Nonfiction > 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.

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Ed Stevens > Poetry > Nebraska, USA

Ed Stevens is a retiree cum geezer who values his family, his dignity, and his country - in that order. His preferred drink is strong black coffee, his music is bluegrass, and his politics are unimportant. He spent his working life in the medical field, the first ten or so of his retired years as owner/operator of a used book store and currently divides his waking hours between reading, writing, woodworking and napping. He has been published a couple of times but can't remember when or by whom. He attends poetry readings whenever he can, picks a little dobro in his spare time, and plays with words. His wife is a saint, his cat is smarter than most humans, and he cooks a mean jambalaya. Other than that, he doesn't amount to much.

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Erin Brady > Poetry > Spain

Erin Brady is a freelance translator and editor who runs a poetry group when she isn't travelling. She has a British passport but an American accent, and currently lives in Barcelona, Spain.

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Erin  Hovey > Poetry > Illinois, USA

Erin is your basic professor/ poet/ journalist/ bartender trying to have it all. She can be found in the vibrant, emerging art scene in historic Springfield, Illinois pedaling her oratory art. She contributes regularly to Springfield's Own Magazine and when she is not writing or teaching writing she's serving up pints of craft beer at the local pub. Professionally, Erin studies the romantic female archetype in young adult fiction series. She is also a disc golfer, dog adopter, and a grilled cheese enthusiast.

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Gerard Sarnat > Poetry > California, USA

Gerard Sarnat’s been nominated for Pushcarts. Gerry’s authored four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting the Ice King (2016) which included work published in Gargoyle, Lowestoft, American Journal of Poetry, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Tishman Review plus was featured in New Verse News, Edify, Songs of Eretz, Avocet, LEVELER, tNY, StepAway, Bywords and Floor Plan. Radius, Foliate Oak, Dark Run, Scarlet Leaf, Good Men Project, Anti-Heroin Chic, Winamop, Poetry Circle, Tipton Review, Creative Truth, Harbor Village, KYSO,  Rumblefish and Ordinary Madness’ debut feature sets of new poems. Mount Analogue selected Sarnat’s sequence, KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY, for distribution as a pamphlet in Seattle on Inauguration Day 2017 as well as the next morning as part of the Washington DC and nationwide Women’s Marches. In May “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for Gerry s 50th college reunion symposium on Bob Dylan; the Harvard Advocate accepted a second plus Oberlin, Brown, Columbia etc. in and outside the US accepted concurrent pieces.  In August, Failed Haiku presented his work first among over a hundred contributors. Later in 2017, Beautiful Loser’s main spread will be Sarnat’s poetry accompanied by an interview. Harvard/Stanford educated, Gerry’s worked in jails, built/staffed clinics for the marginalized, been a CEO of healthcare organizations and Stanford Medical School professor. Married since 1969, he has three children and four grandchildren.

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Isarae Koval > Poetry > Arizona, USA

Isarae Koval is a writer and visual artist living in Tempe, Arizona. Her work often explores the themes of anomie, alienation, and the personal and collective shadow. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry The Valleys of the Dead, and Sky Island Journal is her first literary publication.

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Jessi Peterson > Poetry > Wisconsin, USA

Jessi Peterson works as a children's librarian in northwestern WI. Her work has previously appeared in Wisconsin People and Ideas, Volume One, and most recently Barstow and Grand.  She lives in a 16-sided cordwood hobbit house and loves sloths, pigs, draft horses, and her several cats--who insist on being in the bio, in the way, and, in general, insouciant.

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John Cullen > Poetry > Michigan, USA

John Cullen's work has appeared in journals such as Grist, The MacGuffin, and Controlled Burn. His chapbook TOWN CRAZY won the Slipstream Award for 2013, with the title poem being their nomination for the Pushcart. He currently lives in west Michigan.

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Jose Oseguera > Poetry > California, USA

Jose Oseguera is a Los Angeles-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a diverse, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. His work has been featured in Meat for Tea: The Valley Review and Authorship by The National Writers Association.

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Laura Passin > Poetry > Colorado, USA

Laura Passin is a writer, scholar, and feminist at large. She earned her Ph.D. in English Literature at Northwestern and her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. Her writing has appeared in a wide range of publications, including Prairie SchoonerAdrienne: A Poetry Journal of Queer WomenThe ToastRolling Stone, and Best New Poets 2013. Laura lives in Denver with too many cats.

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Lauren Villa > Poetry > California, USA

Lauren Villa is a writer who grew up in Pinetop, Arizona. She received her BA in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. She enjoys writing about sex and death. She is the co-founder of the One Million Wild Hearts interview project and she is currently working on her first documentary. Lauren is based in San Diego, California.


Linda H.Y. Hegland > Poetry > Canada

Linda H.Y. Hegland is an award-winning poet, lyric essayist, 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.

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Madeline Peterson > Flash Fiction > Wisconsin, USA

Madeline Peterson is a first-year English student at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. Sky Island Journal is her first literary publication.

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Michelle McMillan-Holifield > Poetry > Mississippi, USA

Michelle McMillan-Holifield is an assistant editor at Edify Fiction and recently completed a writer’s residency at Wild Acres in North Carolina. Her work has been included or is forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Hoot, Jabberwock Review, Stirring, The Collagist, Toasted Cheese, Whale Road Review, and Windhover among others.

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Natalia Oncina > Creative Nonfiction > Washington, USA

Natalia Oncina has worked as a pedicab driver, waitress, Bowenwork Therapist, and farmhand. Sky Island Journal is her first publication.

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Nicholas John-Francis Claro > Flash Fiction > Arkansas, USA

Nicholas John-Francis Claro is a writer living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in, The Idle Class, Existere: A Journal of Arts & Literature, Pithead Chapel, Gravel, Every Day Fiction, and others. He is currently at work on a novel. 

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Oz Hardwick > Poetry > United Kingdom

 Oz Hardwick is a writer, photographer, music journalist, and occasional musician, based in York (UK). His work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media: books, journals, record covers, programmes, fabric, with music, with film, and with nothing but a slightly West Country-tinged voice. He has published six poetry collections, most recently The House of Ghosts and Mirrors (Valley Press, 2017), and has edited several more. Following a dissolute youth of idealism and rock & roll, subsidised by assorted factories and retail outlets, Oz decided that Higher Education was a more effective way of changing the world, and he is now Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes.

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Pete Madzelan > Poetry > New Mexico, USA

Pete Madzelan is a writer and photographer who believes in the words of Marcel Proust: “Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists.”  His works include a novel, Blues From the Mirror, and photography exhibits in Albuquerque: 2017 Shades of Gray Photography Show and 2018 Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show.  His writings and photography have appeared in Bellingham Review, Blinders Journal, The Boiler, Cargo Literary Journal, Four Ties Lit Review, Foliate Oak, Gravel, New Mexico Magazine, Off the Coast, Photography Center of Cape Cod, Poydras Review, Reservoir Literary Journal, San Pedro River Review, Switchback, Twisted Vine Literary Arts Journal, and many others.  He lives a simple way of life with his wife, residing within the nonstop inspirational pulse of the Southwest, calling New Mexico home.

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Phil Gallos > Creative Nonfiction > New York, USA

Phil Gallos has been a newspaper reporter and columnist, a researcher/writer in the historic preservation field, and has spent 28 years working in academic libraries. Longer works include Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake: Architecture and History of a Pioneer Health Resort, Historic Saranac Lake, 1985, 186 p. Anthologized shorter work can be found in Rooted in Rock: New Adirondack Writing, 1975-2000, Adirondack Museum/Syracuse University Press, 2001; and in Adirondack Reflections: On Life and Living in the Mountains and the Valleys, The History Press, 2013. His writing has most recently appeared in Thrice Fiction and The Vignette Review and is forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Blueline. A native of Manhattan, he lives and writes in Saranac Lake, New York.

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Prashant Sankaran > Flash Fiction > India

Prashant Sankaran stepped off his corporate career to follow his passion for Entrepreneurship and Arts. Apart from engaging with writing and photography, he volunteers time mentoring new entrepreneurs and serves on the boards of a few organisations, especially in the social sector. An exhibition featuring his work of photos-embedded-with-haikus on the theme of urban life was presented by the Indian Institute of Human Settlements last year. He is also part of the founding team of the annual Bangalore Poetry Festival, one of the larger literary events in India.

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Reg Darling > Creative Nonfiction > Vermont, USA

Reg Darling lives in Arlington, Vermont with his wife and two cats. He worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for thirty years before retiring in 2004. He paints a small watercolor every day and hasn’t missed a day in more than five years. His essays have appeared in Azure, The Chaos Journal, Cicatrix, Dark Matter Journal, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, River Teeth Journal, Timberline Review, Whitefish Review, and others.

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Samantha Malay > Poetry > Washington, USA

Samantha Malay was born in Berlin, Germany and grew up in rural eastern Washington State. She is a theatrical wardrobe technician by trade, a writer and a mixed-media artist. Her poem/collage ‘Rimrock Ranch’ was exhibited at Core Gallery in Seattle, Washington in January 2017, and her poems have been featured in The RavensPerch, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Burningword Literary Journal.

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Shane Griffin > Creative Nonfiction > Iowa, USA

Shane Griffin is a graduate student at Iowa State University's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and the Environment. He is an Iraq War veteran and is a firefighter/paramedic in Des Moines, Iowa. His award-winning poetry and prose have appeared in the Baltimore Review, Heroes' Voices, Hippocampus Magazine, and the Wapsipinicon Almanac.

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Tara Kun > Creative Nonfiction > New York, USA

Tara Kun is an MFA graduate who lives voraciously and sometimes irresponsibility in New York City. Like a true and gross millennial, she writes fragments of her stories in her iPhone on the subway to work. She teaches undergraduate writing to the cyborg youths of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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Terry Martin > Poetry > Washington, USA

Terry Martin, a recently retired English Professor from Central Washington University, has published hundreds of poems, articles, and essays, and has edited journals, books, and anthologies. Her most recent book of poems, The Light You Find, was published by Blue Begonia Press. She lives in Yakima, Washington—The Fruit Bowl of the Nation.