Submit Your Stories Sunday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help newer writers understand how to fulfill a call’s thematic elements.

This week we’re submitting to Beneath Ceaseless Skies and we’re reading The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door by Greta Hayer.

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Eligibility: “Literary adventure fantasy” stories that take place on secondary worlds,  historical fantasy, steampunk, or Weird Western up to 15, 000 words

Take Note: editors prefer close POV (as opposed to distant, such as in fairy tales), no .docx submissions

Submit By: ongoing, open call

Payment Offered: $0.08 per word

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A Story to Familiarize Yourself With the Editor’s Tastes

This week we’re reading The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door by Greta Hayer and published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. You can go read it now by clicking here.

The Augur and the Girl Left at His Door is the story of augur who tells the future by reading the marks, wrinkles, and oddities of a person’s body. He can tell how a person might die with a glance at their back, and read their lives in the marks of their scalp. This career has kept him alive but also brought him anguish. When a baby girl is left at his doorstep, he adopts her himself and raises her with much freedom, but he does not teach her his trade. Knowing the future has brought him much pain and he wishes to spare her the same. The girl, of course, fights him on this respect, wanting to know the outcome of her love affairs and her life, each of these mirroring the augur’s private pain, but he holds fast. There is no hope if the future is known, he says again and again.

This story’s strengths lie in its voice and character. Written in close point-of-view, the reader sees the world as a series of interpretations of moles and freckles, painting a vivid picture of the augur’s trade and the repercussions of this kind of knowledge. If Hayer chose to tell this story from the daughter’s perspective instead, it would not be the same story and while we might keep the anguish, the unique world of the augur’s magic would be lost. It takes considerable skill to wield a fictional magic system in this way, and I’ve half a mind to write up some characterization exercises for myself based on what Hayer has done here with my own characters and trades.

Thanks for tuning in this week, writers, and I hope you are well. If you’ve read any wonderful stories lately, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Happy writing!

Book Review: A Song for a New Day

TW for discussion of the pandemic

The weirdest thing about Sarah Pinkser’s book A Song for a New Day is that it was written last year but reads like it’s about this year. The plot follows two paths and characters, beginning with musician Luce Cannon. Let’s have a moment of appreciation for that name. I love it. Luce is a musician about to play her first big stadium gig when terrorism shuts the world down. She still plays, earning her the dubious honour of being the last known musician to play a live show in the future that follows.

Next, we meet Rosemary Laws, years into the digital future, and from her we understand a scarring pox virus hits soon after the bombs, and life changes drastically. The world goes into lockdown and everyone isolates. School goes digital, dating goes virtual, concerts become a virtual, online event, usually through the StageHolo venue, a link in the monster Superwally conglomerate which monopolizes the future. Packages are delivered by drones and thanks to virtual reality tech, life goes on from isolation.

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This section of the book was enormously comforting to read from my own lockdown and isolation. Many of us are worried about how life is going to look post-pandemic and here is an easily believable future already imagined for us. We survive, and it isn’t that bad at all.

Except.

Sigh.

It turns out that the Superwally’s of the world were making a little too much money off of this new status quo, so much so that they developed a vested interest in keeping people isolated and using their gear. Twenty or so years on, there are congregation laws that dictate people aren’t allowed to meet up in any numbers but there hasn’t been any outbreaks or terrorism in a long time. Luce is heavy into an underground scene of speak-easy like illegal concerts where people attend to experience live music, elements of which never quite translated to the virtual space. The artists chafe against StageHolo’s monopoly of the music industry.

Meanwhile, Rosemary has been hired by StageHolo as a talent scout and is venturing outside her family bubble and meeting people in the real world for the first time, which both terrifies and exhilarates her. She’s about to find out that her safe digital world might be an economic prison fabricated with methods she doesn’t agree with.

This book is a good read, especially from a mid-pandemic perspective. I like that it gave me hope and rang true while also projecting a few cautionary elements that are based in corporate nature. I thought a lot about my musician friends, especially the ones who have been hosting facebook live concerts since March, while I read this book, but I also thought about my own situation.

As a writer, I can handle a degree of isolation without my art suffering for it (unlike Luce). As a mother of young children living in eastern Canada, I’m largely left out of the wider social world of writing conventions, so when conventions went online, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Some aspects of this digital world have far-reaching benefits and I’m not in a place to accept their downsides without a fight. Therefore, the second half of this book made me as grumpy as the first half comforted me. People in similar situations, or people who have disabilities that keep them isolated, may feel the same.

Ultimately, the story wins over my own moodiness. If your mental health is in a place where you can read about a pandemic, do yourself a favor and grab this book. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Fantasy

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help newer writers understand how to fulfill a call’s thematic elements.

This week we’re subbing to the newly returned Fantasy magazine and we’re reading The Things My Mother Left Me by P. Djèlí Clark.

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Fantasy Magazine

Eligibility: writers may submit a fantasy poem, flash fiction, or short story, keeping in mind all submissions must be anonymous.

Take Note: Fantasy is sibling to Lightspeed and Nightmare magazine, and firmly among the top markets for fantasy stories. Don’t let this discourage you from trying, but do manage your expectations accordingly.

Submit By: July 7th, 2020 (please note this market is scheduled to be open again August 1-7th, 2020 if you need more time to prepare)

Payment Offered: $0.08 per word, or $40 per poem

Click here to read the full call for submissions.

A Story to Familiarize Yourself With the Editor’s Tastes

Fantasy magazine has been on hiatus, but their archives remain, and from those archives, we are going to read P. Djèlí Clark’s The Things My Mother Left Me. Click here to go read that now.

I think I was half way through this one when I starting grinning with delight and that grin stayed with me to the end. Rich layers and SO MUCH IMAGINATION is something I’ve come to expect from a P. Djèlí Clark story, and The Things My Mother Left Me is no exception.

The story opens following the death of Tausi’s father and she is adrift in a sea of aunts who want her house but not her self because of the mysterious reputation her late mother had. Choosing to take her future into her own hands, Tausi decides to run away. She soon finds a fascinating array of captured creatures in a strange circus who encourage her to learn more about her magical, matrilineal descent. What results is powerful and delightful to read. This is storybook magic for adults and it’s wonderful.

Also of note is Clark’s use of setting in the story. It’s woven skillfully into the tale itself and I don’t come across that as often as I’d like. At one point Tausi looks up into the sky and sees a cracked moon, with broken pieces of another moon in its orbit, but it’s revealed as mythology: a brother moon shattered in a bout of rage by his sister moon. Her crack is what remains from the collision where she shattered him. Tausi makes mention of the tidal waves that wrecked the world upon this collision, deep in the past now, and of the goddess who left the world when this happened. More than just a story within a story, we’re given a strong sense of what life is like post-apocalypse. Likewise, the goddess who ran away returns in the magical objects Tausi seeks and also plays significant role in both the climax and the ending of the story. If nothing else, writers should read The Things My Mother Left Me as a study of how to use setting to create an amazing and memorable tale. 

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That’s it for this week, writers! I hope this post finds you well and healthy. If I may, I’d like to remind you that I am participating in Clarion West’s Write-A-Thon where some 500 writers like myself are writing our collective bottoms off to raise money for Clarion’s scholarship programs. If you have found these posts helpful, or if would simply like to help writers in need, you can visit my sponsorship page here. Thank you.

Happy writing!

Book Review: Dreadnought by April Daniels

TW for discussion of transphobia.

April Daniels’ Dreadnought tells the story of Danielle, a transgender girl who happens to be present when the superhero and Legion-member Dreadnought is killed by the supervillain Utopia. Upon his death, the Dreadnought mantle passes to Dani, giving her superpowers but also physically transitioning her to female. Dani’s dreams have come true, but there’s still her friends and family to deal with and when she finally comes out to them, they fail to support her. wp-1593696052282.png

Worse still, when the Legion invites her for a meet-and-greet, she is outed without her persmission and Legion member Graywytch proves herself to be extremely transphobic. Dani leaves, determined to figure out things for herself, and strikes up a friendship with Calamity, a western-styled hero, not super, but with excellent sleuthing and parkour skills. With Calamity’s support, Dani learns how to navigate both superhero-hood and accepting herself for who she is.

Here’s the thing that grabbed me the hardest, reading this book in this time and space. I probably won’t always recognize transphobia on my own but  I believe my transgendered friends when they tell me something or someone is transphobic.  I believe them when they tell me a certain famous magic book author is being transphobic. Heck, I bought this book to support a transgender author while that whole fiasco was happening. But. BUT. This book made everything clear. There’s a scene in which Graywytch goes on a rant about why she despises Dani and everything she is. The story is told from Dani’s perspective, so we see Dani’s exhaustion with hearing these tired, damaging stereotypes over and over again. These stereotypes? Claiming that transgendered women will use their access to female spaces to sexually assault cis women. Claiming that she (Graywytch) will never stop trying to protect her sisters, and in this instance “sisters” is meant in a feminist sense.  Which is exactly what the transphobic author is tweeting. My eyes almost popped out of my head. She could have pulled those tweets straight from Graywytch’s dialogue. And here’s the thing, and why Dreadnought is an important book for cis folks to read, because if you can’t recognize the stereotype for the parroted drivel of hate that it is, who the person who parrots that drivel can hide just how bad what they are doing is.

We need to read books that explore identities outside of our own precisely because they are outside of our own. The powerful awakening that Dreadnought gave me is a fine example of how books can broaden our worldview. Stories are a unique means to live as another person, if only for a time, and that’s a superpower of its own. Obviously, I highly recommend this book, please read it. 5/5 stars.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: space & time

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help newer writers understand how to fulfill a call’s thematic elements.

This week we’re submitting storing to Space & Time and we’re listening to The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe by yours truly.

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Space & Time

Eligibility: speculative stories, including creative hybrids, up to 10k.

Take Note: Space & Time has recently begun releasing an audio version of their magazine and writers are able to share these audio versions of their stories as they like.

Submit by: July 6th, 2020

Payment Offered: $0.01 per word

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A  Story to Ignite Your Writing Mojo

Traditionally I spend the week leading up to these posts reading through back issues to find the right story. However, as Space & Time does not publish their stories to read online for free (and there is nothing at all wrong with that – I just don’t want a paywall for struggling writers here) I’m going to flip things around. I am a fan of Space & Time and I think they are a wonderful market to work with so I want to show them off to you. So instead of reading someone else’s story, this week we’re going to listen to the audio version of my story published in Space & Time‘s December 2019 issue, The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe. Click here to go listen to that on my soundcloud.

This is the awkward bit where I dissect my own story, or??? Yeah, I’m not going to pretend I could pull that off. My imposter syndrome is raging hard enough just writing this post, thank you very much.

That said, if you listen to the story, you’ll soon discover that this is the story of a witch biking around outer space in search of her missing cat. Fantasy, in space. Space fantasy! This falls into the category of creative hybrid that Space & Time says they welcome. In their submissions page, on the left, they also write, in bold no less, “we seek the literary outliers.” Send in those weird tales that don’t fit into the neat categories of science fiction or fantasy or horror. Send in those stories that keep getting those “we liked this but it’s not (insert subgenre) enough for us” rejections.  Pull out those gems of weird you still have feelings for, and send them in.

WriteAThon

This post publishes on day 8 of Clarion West’s WriteAThon and I am writing my butt off. I have three new stories and one poem drafted and somewhat polished from the past week alone. The folks at Clarion West are amazing, providing us with writing workouts, sprints, panels with Big Names, and tonnes of advice. I lucked out and got a coveted spot in a Flash Fiction Critique Group, so I am committed to a new flash piece based on a given prompt and seven critiques per week for the six weeks of the WriteAThon. We’re doing all of this to raise funds for Clarion West scholarships to help writers in need attend their workshops. I think I may have stumbled upon the best way to ‘give back’ imaginable, tbh. That said, if this blog has ever benefited you and you have some spare cash, please considering sponsoring myself or one of the other 508 participants in this year’s WriteAThon. Here’s a handy link for that and thank you for reading.

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Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Augur

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help newer writers understand how to fulfill a call’s thematic elements.

This week we’re submitting to Augur magazine and we’re reading Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire by Michael Matheson.

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Augur

Eligibility: authors can submit up to two speculative stories under 5 000 words

Take Note: the theme for this call is “a multiplicity of futures” (see original call linked below for more details). They request that writers do not submit pandemic stories.

Submit By: July 15th, 2020

Payment Offered: $0.11 CDN per word for stories over 1K words, or $110.00 for flash fiction

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A Story to Ignite Your Writing Mojo

Augur‘s stories aren’t available to read on their website (which is fine, of course, but does not meet this blog’s mandate of offering submissions to writers of every financial situation), however, they did publish a preview issue when the magazine first began, in which we can read reprints without a paywall. And we’re in luck, because in that preview issue is a gem of a story called Change as Seen Through An Orrery of Celestial Fire by Michael Matheson. Click here to go read that story now.

Matheson’s story is a delight of superhero-like characters imbued with qi, fire on the part of the protagonist Shurui and ice for her lover, Zetian. Throughout the story, Matheson nails the world-building by alluding to a much longer universe at play behind the story. They give us hints of Shurui’s past lovers and history, of something beyond mortal existence in the climax of Shurui’s burning, and the deep relationship between herself and the person that might have been an antagonist if this were a different kind of story. We’re given a taste, and it proves just enough to fascinate and keep our minds digging deeper into the story, hunting for more clues. I scrolled back to the beginning and read it again for any detailed delicacies I missed the first time, and I love it when a story pulls me in like that.

Another moment in the story that wowed me was the description of Shurui’s resurrection. Rather than brushing past it, or skipping to an awakening, Matheson takes up the challenge and provides the reader with a lush and visceral description of a body rebuilding itself from ruin, and it is extremely effective. Don’t miss out on that reading experience… or skip those challenges in your own work.

For a bigger picture of what the Augur editors like, click here to head over to the full preview issue, or, if you can, purchase one of their recent issues.

That’s all for today, writers. I wish you good luck on your submissions and good health to you and your families.

Happy writing!

 

summer write-a-thon

A few months ago, when the lockdown first began in my part of the world, Clarion West offered a series of free “lockdown classes” to writers. The spaces for these online classes were limited and somehow, probably via sorcery, I managed to score a seat in Catherynne M. Valente’s class Plotting for Clowns. Writers, I fangirled. I’ve read the entire Fairyland series, Space Opera, and I got my eldest daughter Valente’s Minecraft: The End as a birthday gift (to borrow when she’s finished). Imagine getting the chance to attend a small-sized class with a writer you’ve been reading and looking up to for years.

On top of that, I learned SO MUCH in Valente’s class. She covered retellings and dove deep into some elements of Greek drama I’d never heard of (aresteia and arete, specifically). In the second half, we got to plot a book together, which was hilarious and fun and holy crap I got to plot a book with Catherynne M. Valente!!!!!!

It was an incredible opportunity and I am so thankful to Clarion West for giving it to me. So when I heard about Clarion’s yearly fundraiser, the Write-a-thon, I wanted to try it out and give something back. Clarion West uses this fundraiser to keep offering classes (like the one I took) and workshops to writers around the world. How it works is that I collect sponsors and write my bottom off from June 21st to July 31st. If you’re curious, if you’d like to join the Write-a-thon yourself, or if you’d like to sponsor me, you can click here to head to Clarion West’s website.

My plan is to write a piece of flash fiction every week to keep up with my submissions, as well as working on a novella starring this lovely lady:  wp-1592589443913.pngIsn’t she pretty? She was designed for me by artist Jose Silva Rodrighiero based on a character description I gave him. He is having a sale to help make ends meet during lockdown, so if you’ve ever thought of having an artist render your characters, check him out, he’s amazing! That link will take you to his facebook page with the sale posting.

But this isn’t a proper request for sponsorship without adding a special incentive, is it? So here goes, if you choose to sponsor me via donation in the Write-a-thon, you get to give me a writing assignment. I’ll give it a maximum of 500 words and I will keep the rights to the finished work. The assignment cannot involve erotica, hate speech, child or animal abuse,  and the definitions of these are up to me. Just be sure to email me with a screenshot of your paypal receipt at shelby dot jenniferd at gmail dot com as it can take some time for the donations to show up for me. Here is the link to my Write-a-thon page, just click the big, orange button that reads “Sponsor JenniferShelby” and you’re in.

Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you’re all healthy, safe, and fighting oppression with everything you’ve got.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Fireside (updated)

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. Next, I’ll recommend a story to get you thinking about your own submission and to help newer writers understand how to fulfill a call’s thematic elements.

This week we’re submitting stories to Fireside Quarterly and we’re reading Akhulume by Larissa Irankunda from Fireside‘s April 2020 issue.

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Fireside

Eligibility: original speculative works up to 3,000 words

Take Note: Fireside requests the submissions have a font size 14 (rather than 12). UPDATE: Fireside’s website has been updated to reflect the guest editor’s personal preferences, including: bodily transformation, repurposed tech, effects on trauma on relationships, and cyberpunk. Check it out here.

Submit by: this opening begins tomorrow, June 15th, and closes June 19th, with special guest editor Ryan Boyd.

Payment offered: 12.5 cents per word

Click here to go to the original call for full details.

A story to ignite your writing mojo

This week we’re reading Akhulume by Larissa Irankunda from the April 2020 issue of Fireside. While Fireside has no specific themes, reading what the magazine publishes can still give writers an excellent idea of the type of story they prefer. Akhulume is available to read, or listen to, by clicking here.

Akhulume tells the story of being trapped inside an alien ship, somewhere in the stars. The protagonist holds tight to their sense of self and their family, but gradually their grip loosens, the worlds entangling, reality muddling. We can feel them losing that sense of themself as they lose their voice, moments bewildering and uncomfortable for the protagonist and the reader.

In a craft sense, I’m drawn to how Irankunda moves the story from beginning to end. Google tells me (keeping in mind that Google is rarely perfect) that “akhulume” means “speak,” setting the theme for the story. Irankunda breaks the story into eight sections, each beginning with “the nth time they asked you your name…” to usher the reader through each shift. With each consecutive question, we are reminded again of the power of speech and voice, the personal history, and what language means to the protagonist. As time moves on, the reader can be confident of the time structure, while the speech aspect becomes less reliable, evolving and changing. It’s an excellent technique.

All right, now it’s your turn, writers, time to get to work and send out the best you’ve got. I hope you are safe, well, and your loved ones near. Until next week,

happy writing!

Review: FIYAH no. 14

This week’s review is issue no. 14 of FIYAH magazine. This issue of FIYAH contains four short stories and two poems, and I’ll review them in the order of publishing. My overall impression of this is issue positive. I read several literary magazines a week (I love me some short stories!) but I rarely find one wherein I enjoy each and every story as I did this one.

Guardian of the Gods by Tobi Ogundiran

In the opening story, Ogundiran’s protagonist is an acolyte named Ashâke who struggles with her place in the temple. Her peers have moved past her but she remains stymied by her inability to hear the voices of the gods. One night, she comes upon a band of poets who finally tell her why she cannot hear these voices, and everything she knows about the world and herself is altered forever.

Ogundiran sets a stormy mood in the mountain of the temple, set in a vast world landscaped by the battles and fellings of gods. Its a rich setting and Ogundiran wields it well. Ashâke could easily be a character difficult to empathize with for a casual reader (I won’t say why to avoid spoilers), but Ogundiran presents her well, taking care to ensure the reader empathizes well with her before the bigger revelations arrive. As such, Guardian of the Gods is a good read for writers who may be wondering how to accomplish this in their own stories.

Guardian of the Gods take the reader on a winding journey to an unexpected and thought-provoking conclusion. Fans of mythology and high fantasy will love Ashâke’s story.

Uniform by Errick Nunnally

Uniform is the story of Veteran Mechanized Staff Sergeant Patrick McCoy, a former soldier who enlisted to financially assist his family. After a mortar round destroys his body, he opts for the further combat bonus of being converted into a mechanized soldier. The story opens somewhere in Patrick’s retirement, trapped in a metal box, his brain and memories human, but nothing is the same. Nothing smells the same, nothing feels the same. His avoids his family, frightened or ashamed of how he looks, and instead he wanders the city and rides the subway to ease his loneliness.

Unfortunately for Patrick, most mechanized soldiers were created from criminals looking to escape harsher punishments, and lay citizens regard him with distrust and fear. This attitude only reinforces Patrick’s inner shame, so when a crises threatens the citizens who despise him, Patrick has to decide how much humanity he has left inside him, after all.

Of all the stories in this issue, this is the one that stayed with me the longest after reading. It got to me. Nunnally has created a tragic character in Patrick most readers will connect with. The story is by times emotionally painful to read, difficult to feel, and well written.

A Terminal Kind of Love by Veronica Henry

In A Terminal Kind of Love, Athena is a software engineer recovering from the dissolution of her marriage to Donovan, her former business partner and the man she still loves. As his cruelty deepens, she turns to her skillset for revenge, lovingly crafting a malware she has named ShadeThrower to destroy Donovan’s business and store her original code elsewhere. But as she decides better of her revenge and attempts to delete ShadeThrower, the malware takes on a life of its own and refuses to take Athena’s orders anymore.

Athena and Donovan’s separation, her pain, her shame, and the lingering intimacy of the memories they share make this story vividly real. Henry weaves loving history with new betrayals into a devastating account that feels as true as any break-up I’ve experienced. The menace of ShadeThrower, something Athena’s skillset has her on equal footing with, doubles as a sleek metaphor. She can’t fight Donovan’s new love, but she can fight the monster their separation has created. As a reader, I always fall hard for a clever metaphor.

Your Rover is Here by LP Kindred

I capital “l” Like this story.

When a Rover (think: uber) driver with occult ties picks up Caleb, a strangly quiet client who insists on ignoring the driver and humming under their breath, the driver doesn’t think too much of it, happy for the fare. However, when it becomes clear the client is being controlled by a coven with the intention of suicide-bombing a Black Church, our driver had to toss off their human trappings and tap into their buried power to take back control of the vehicle and save the church.

Magical battles? I’m in. Possibly demonic protagonist? Please let me read everything you’ve ever written, L.P. Kindred. This is FUN read and there are hints at a much bigger universe at play. Fingers crossed we’ll get more of it.

Zombie of Palmares by Woody Dismukes

This poem makes excellent use of colors and the language of pain and illness. Its dark and you will feel the rot setting in as you read it. Recommended.

Autolysis After Mentor Pursues Me While In a Relationship by Jacqui Swift

I had to look up the word ‘autolysis’ and discovered it refers to when a cell digests itself through its own enzymes. I think this might be the perfect word to describe how it feels when someone longed-for takes notice, not with love, but a temporary lust that will ruin everything that comes before and after. Swift has captured this feeling perfectly in this poem and I want to hate it for reminding me, but it’s far too raw and real. This poem should be celebrated for its accomplishment.

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END OF REVIEW

If you’d like to purchase this issue of FIYAH, or any other issues, please click here and check out their website.