On How I Got Six Essays Published in MQR: Guest Post by Zhanna Vaynberg

Earlier this week, we received an exciting piece of Alumni News: after a long wait, MAWP graduate Zhanna Vaynberg‘s series of six short essays had finally gotten published in the Michigan Quarterly Review. We asked Zhanna how this unusual publishing contract had come about, and when she sat down to write out an answer, the story turned out to be quite long. We’re posting Zhanna’s story here as a guest post in hopes that it interests those of you looking to publish your writing in literary journals– and we would like to send Zhanna our thanks and congratulations!

On how I got six essays published in MQR’s winter 2013 issue:

Back in December of 2011, I e-mailed Michigan Quarterly Review asking if they’d had a chance to read over a short-short called “Roots” I’d sent them in the mail back in August (I was new to the whole submitting process, or I would’ve known that four months was basically one second in magazine-publishing time). Surprisingly, I got an e-mail the very next day from Jonathan Freedman, the head editor, saying that he’d just read it — I think it had gotten misplaced or they just had forgotten about it or something — and while he’d really enjoyed the essay, they just didn’t publish things that short (it was about a page long). He said, however, that he’d be happy to read something else I’d written. So I sent him two things — one of which was a short fiction piece that Bellevue Literary Review ended up publishing in fall, the other, a piece I’m still working on. His response was basically “I love your writing, but these aren’t stories that I want to publish.” Which I wasn’t offended about at all, because at that point both of them were quite old, and my writing had moved far past it. Then Jonathan presented me with a challenge. He said that the original story, ‘Roots,” which was basically about the ambivalence I’d felt towards my Ukrainian upbringing, had really stuck with him, and what if I wrote 5-6 more short pieces like it — in his words, something “world-weary in the best Russo-Jewish-American-Chicago way” — and he would publish them together?

We then went on to have a very long e-mail exchange that ranged in topics from our mutual hatred of Jerusalem (coincidentally, also a subject of one of the essays) to whatever happened to CBGB’s (it’s now an outlet store) to the best Thai food in Chicago (Thai Avenue on Broadway and Argyle). Then I didn’t really hear from him again until March or April of 2012. Meanwhile, I had just finished up the DePaul MAWP program, and after taking Michele Morano’s Travel Writing course was honestly a bit fed up with writing nonfiction and really didn’t want to do it again; and that is in no way to say I did not like Michele Morano or that class — I loved that class, and I think Michele Morano is one of the best professors out there (in fact, that I write nonfiction at all can be entirely traced back to a summer multi-genre course she taught, and four of the six essays in this bunch were originally written in classes she taught). It’s just that I don’t enjoy writing nonfiction all that much. I’ve always been a fiction person; even though much of it is intertwined with real experiences I’ve had or people I know, I like being able to play around with facts, and to hide behind that curtain of “it’s fiction!” anytime someone asks how much of a story I’d written was true. I wanted to get back to that.

However, it had been a few months already since we’d discussed the possibility of a collection of essays, and Jonathan asked me, in a very friendly way, if I had made any progress on our little project. I’d had some early drafts of two of the essays that would eventually end up in the issue, but I hadn’t really been working on it much. I’d also been published a few times by then, so I wasn’t in a big rush at this point. However, after a few weeks of relishing my post-grad-school freedom, I did slowly begin working on them again because I am an anxious person and don’t like to leave things unfinished. By July I had about half of them done and sent away to Jonathan. He wanted more — I wrote more. Then, just when I thought I had a good batch, five total, and would never have to write nonfiction again, he said “Yes, I’ll take them! But you have to write one more; something more current.” (All of the essays took place circa 2005 – 2010.) Luckily, it was nearly September, and my sister’s wedding was coming up — what better occasion to write about the authentic Russian-Jewish experience? So, even though it was very strange to write something I knew was for sure going to get published, and even though I’d drunk enough vodka to make an elephant pass out, I still managed to remember enough of the event to write a final essay about the experience. It wasn’t intended to tie together all the other essays in a neat bow or anything cheesy like that, but in a subtle way, there was a somewhat final tone to it. A little bit after that, I found a title to encompass all of them — as much as I could, away, considering each one is a separate entity to me. Then it was just a matter of waiting. First, it was supposed to go into the fall issue, but it didn’t fit — then, the winter issue, which was supposed to come out some months ago. Now, two days before May, the issue has finally been released! End of very long-winded story.

I’m actually very appreciative of the whole experience — it definitely helps to have deadlines and someone pushing you along so you don’t get too lazy, especially when you’re just out of school. Now that I’m used to being on my own, I have no problem writing on a pretty regular basis, but who knows if I’d still be at that point without having had that goal to work towards. And of course, the very patient Jonathan Freedman, who really gives magazine editors a good name.

You can order the Winter 2013 issue of Michigan Quarterly Review at michiganquarterlyreview.com/2013/04/winter-2013.


Jay Baron Nicorvo on Campus, Faculty News, and More

The Visiting Writers Series would like to invite you to their next on-campus reading. Jay Baron Nicorvo will be reading from and discussing his debut poetry collection, Deadbeat, on Thursday, April 4th, at 6:00 p.m. in the Richardson Library room 115.

Nicorvo’s debut collection, Deadbeat, revolves around a central character of the same name—descendant of John Berryman’s Mr. Bones, Marvin Bell’s Dead Man and Ted Hughes’ Crow, to name an irrepressible few. Nicorvo’s compassionate yet relentless portrait—of Deadbeat, an absent father and husband, and Nicorvo2 (2)the family that goes on without him—weaves together a domestic narrative in which we witness Deadbeat muddle through courtship, marriage, estrangement, divorce, and, of course, fatherhood.

The book opens at a child support hearing— “Take a good look at your future,” the mother tells the young boy—and the poems that follow careen back and forth in time chronicling a downtrodden life, from the courtroom to the budding romance between Deadbeat and his bride to Deadbeat’s grown son and his own child. “What’s all this about love / when need strikes first fires,” we are asked, while layer upon complex layer is added to what we think we know about Deadbeat. Calling upon other well-known figures as in-absentia fathers—far-flung Odysseus, President Obama’s father, and even God in the poem “Deadbeat on High”—Nicorvo allows us to glimpse, with a surprising tenderness, the humanness of this man who “stripped the screw holding heaven together” and “mistook the window / for the world.” An effigy for America and our

Jay Baron Nicorvo’s poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and criticism have appeared in The Literary Review, Guernica, The Iowa Review, and The Believer. Four Way Books published his debut poetry collection, Deadbeat. He’s served on editorial staffs at Ploughshares and at PEN America, the literary magazine of the PEN American Center, and worked for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. He teaches at Western Michigan University where he’s faculty adviser to Third Coast, and he lives on an old farm outside Battle Creek with his wife, Thisbe Nissen, their son, Sonne, and a dozen vulnerable chickens.

All Visiting Writers Series events are free and open to the public.


In Faculty News: Please join the DePaul English Department in congratulating Amina Gautier on her receipt of a William Randolph Hearst Foundation Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester, Mass.  The AAS is one of the nation’s foremost research libraries for American history, literature, and culture through 1876.  The Hearst Foundation Fellowship provides support for writers, performers, and artists to do research for their creative projects in the AAS’s collections.  Prof. Gautier is currently at the AAS conducting research for a historical novel titled Band of Gideon about three black female members of Gideon’s Band, a group of Northern idealist seminary students, school teachers, and abolitionists who traveled south to help slaves on the South Carolina Sea Islands.


Willow Books, the literary imprint of Aquarius Press, in Partnership with the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University is hosting the Second Annual Willow Books LitFest on Saturday, April 6th, 2013, from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Chicago State University.

The Willow Books LitFest is not only a chance to network and commune with your fellow writers, it’s a chance to celebrate all that is great about literature. Work with top writers in the field, make connections and hone your craft.

Opportunities at the Willow Books LitFest will include workshops, networking, a book fair, manuscript sessions, panel discussions, public readings, an open mic, and the Willow Books Literature Awards finalists’ reading and ceremony.

Kelly Norman Ellis, Director of the MFA Program at Chicago State University will be available to meet with prospective students, and DePaul MAWP alumnus Zhanna Vaynberg will be holding manuscript sessions.

Most events are free and open to the public but require registration, as seats are filling quickly. To register, download the registration packet at willowlit.net/willow-books-litfest. You can also download a complete schedule of the day’s events at the same site.

Threshold Literary Award Winners and Childe Harold Conference at DePaul

This morning, DePaul’s literary journal Threshold announced the winners of the 2012 Threshold Literary Award for Excellence, and we are pleased to say that two of the winners are our own English graduate students. Congratulations to Angel Woods who will be receiving the Nonfiction Award for her piece, “A Lesson About Detours” and Zhanna Vaynberg who will be receiving the Dramatic Literature Award for her play for “What It’s Never About”. Both are students in the MAWP.  The fiction and poetry awards this year go to two undergraduate students: Alec Moran for “Table Manners”and Emsie Bartsch for “Gretel”. Congratulations to all!
Threshold’s launch party for this year’s issue is set for Friday, May 25th from 3-6pm at the DePaul Art Museum. All are invited to attend to support the judges, contest winners, and everyone who submitted their work– and of course to receive free copies of the published journal!

Threshold is also hosting a reading from the contest judges on Thursday, May 10th at 6pm at the Richardson Library on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Three of the four judges will be reading their own work: Eileen Favorite, Kimberly Dixon, and Victor Giron.

More information about these events is forthcoming. Check back soon!


On Monday, April 30th, DePaul University will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the poem that made Lord Byron famous, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Cantos I and II. Begun at Lawrence’s hotel in Lisbon, Portugal and published in the spring of 1812 in London, the poem charts the 24-year-old poet’s response to war-torn Europe, Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and Portugal, Britain’s response, the Convention of Cintra, and the struggle of Greece to live up to its heroic past. The poem helped launch what we now refer to as the “Byronic hero” and influenced paintings by Turner and music by Berlioz, as well as numerous British, Russian, and French writers such as Pushkin, Lermontov, and Lamartine.

In celebration, DePaul is hosting a day-long conference sponsored by the DePaul Humanities Center, the University Honors Program, and the Department of English. The conference will take place from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Cortelyou Commons (2324 N. Fremont Street) on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus.

There will be two keynote addresses: Peter W. Graham (Virginia Tech), author of Don Juan and Regency England, winner of the Elma Dangerfield prize in Byron Studies, will speak on the Byronic hero in Childe Harold and the character of Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Christine Kenyon Jones (King’s College, London) will address Byron’s treatment of animals in Cantos I and II, drawing on her book Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing.

The conference also features a presentation by one of our own graduate students: MAWP student Jennifer Finstrom will address the topic of James Thomson’s The Castle of Indolence and its influence on Byron’s poem at 12:20 p.m. Congratulations Jennifer, and best of luck presenting!

All are welcome to attend this conference. For complete details, click on the flyer for a full-sized version, and download the conference agenda here.

Welcome to the World of Publishing: Guest Post by Zhanna Vaynberg

Today we bring you a very special guest post from Zhanna Vaynberg, a second-year M.A.W.P. student. You may recognize Zhanna’s name from several Student News spots on Ex Libris because she’s gotten a few pieces published this past year. Now she’s here to tell us what she’s learned from these first forays into the wide world of publishing. Oh, and she just got another poem published in After Hours journal. Congratulations, Zhanna, and thanks.


During much of January, I spent quite a bit of time moaning to my professors about a short story of mine that was supposed to be published back in October and had not come out yet.

“Welcome to the world of publishing,” they all said, with a smirk. Welcome, indeed. I shouldn’t have really been surprised, considering I work in the publishing industry, but I’d never been on the other side of the chaos.

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that the lifetime of a story can be very long.

Professor Christine Sneed told me it took Glimmer Train two years to publish one of her stories, and I’m sure all the other authors on staff at DePaul have similar anecdotes. In the case of my story, “Do Not Leave Chicago,” its pre-published life spanned almost a year, not including the writing part, which was about five months start-to-finish.

In July 2011, the story got accepted for publication by Euphony Journal‘s fall issue. However, the publication date kept getting pushed back every month and it did not actually get released until February (if you are interested, the digital version of it is up on euphonyjournal.com). Besides the anxiety of waiting (it was my first publication, so I was a little excited), because it came out in February 2012 and not late 2011, it was not eligible for a collection that the editor wanted to nominate it for (Best New Stories from the Midwest).

What’s the moral of the story? Well, all I can say is this: Start sending out stories right now. I currently have about five different stories in the hands of thirty various publications. Sometimes it takes four to six months to hear back just from one magazine (and most of the time it’s a rejection letter). Many of my fellow students have told me they’ve yet to try getting published, even those at the very end of a MAWP degree. But if not now, then when? We’re not getting any younger.

So, start sending out stories to literary magazines today. Because it may be years before they come out.


Do you have an idea for the next Ex Libris guest post? Or have you gotten something published recently and want to share the news with your fellow English grads? Email Maria at mhlohows@depaul.edu.

Student & Alumni News and Werner Herzog at DePaul

What have our students and alumni been up to over break? Publishing lots of great stuff!

Congratulations to current student Zhanna Vaynberg (M.A.W.P.) who recently had a poem published in Burning Word Literary Magazine. Zhanna wrote her poem, “Bad Timing,” for Christine Sneed’s Eng 484 class last quarter. You can download “Bad Timing,” and the rest of Burning Word Issue 61 for free at burningword.com.

Congratulations also to alum Marianne McDonough-Chrisos (M.A.W.P. ’11) just had a Flash Fiction piece accepted to online literary magazine Literary Juice. Her short piece, “Thai Tea” can be read here.

And one last piece of exciting alumni news from Greg Schumaker (M.A.W.P. ’11). Greg is currently a regular contributor to the new blog In Our Words, which was founded by current DePaul student Nico Lang and DePaul alum Patrick Gill. Of course, we want to congratulate Greg, but Greg would also like to encourage other DePaul students and alumni– especially of the English programs– to consider submitting their work to In Our Words. For more information on submitting your writing to In Our Words, visit their contact page.


We’ve just gotten word of a very special event hosted by the DePaul School of Cinema and Interactive Media and open to DePaul students and alumni ONLY. Although it’s not directly related to the English programs, we know that many of you are great film lovers, and so we wanted to share this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The CIM Visiting Artists Series is proud to present an evening with


If you know Herzog and his work, you will probably want to be there in a heartbeat.

If not, this a rare opportunity to meet one of the living legends of cinema.

Herzog’s work is visionary, uncompromising, and iconoclastic.  He has consistently pushed the limits of cinema, both fiction and documentary, in ways that no other filmmaker has.

After four decades on the international film scene, he remains one of the most prolific and consistently challenging filmmakers working today.

A rare appearance.  Not to be missed.






Student News, Food Drive, and More

Happy Friday!

Congratulations to current M.A.W.P. student Zhanna Vaynberg, for getting a story published in the upcoming Fall issue of Euphony Journal, and for receiving an honorable mention in Glimmer Train‘s August 2011 Short Story Award for New Writers for another story of hers, “Things You Should Never Tell Your Mother.”

The DePaul Can: University-Wide Food Drive will take place Nov. 7th through Nov. 11th. DePaul Can is a student-led initiative uniting the DePaul community in the fight against hunger, bringing together students, faculty and staff in a Vincentian way. Last spring, DePaul Can collected more than 700 pounds of food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD).

Please help the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences show their support by donating non-perishable food items between Nov. 7th and 11th.  DePaul Can has arranged for three different collection areas for your convenience.  You will find drop-off boxes located on the 5th floor of SAC in the outer hallway north of the stairwell, in McGaw on the 2nd floor in the student lounge area, and on the first floor of the 990 Fullerton Building in the hallway next door to the LAS Technology Center (suite 1600).  DePaul Can student team members will pick-up the donations and deliver them to the GCFD.

There is a call for papers for the DePaul University First Annual Interdisciplinary Student Conference. The topic of this year’s conference is, “Movements, Migrations, Crossing Borders.”

The Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies at De Paul University invites proposals to present papers at the First Annual Interdisciplinary Studies Conference to be held on May 30, 2012 in Cortelyou Hall. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Sons, will present the Keynote address. The conference will give students interested in interdisciplinary work to share their work with one another. The conference will also be a lively forum for scholars, educators, and professionals who are interested in issues relating to any aspect of shifting and crossing borders, domestic and global migration flows, immigration and/or multiculturalism. The Conference will be a forum for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of various approaches and perspectives on presenters’ chosen topics in an informal interdisciplinary setting.

The Committee encourages undergraduate and graduate student to submit abstracts (300-500 words) for papers looking at an aspect of boundaries, migration, immigration, or multiculturalism through an interdisciplinary lens. Potential paper topics or panels might include:

  • Cultural crossings and appropriations across populations, including music, art, theater, literature
  • Recent treatments of immigrant experience on film
  • Technology and identity in Transnational Culture
  • The effect of the War on Terror on U.S. Immigrant Communities

Please email abstracts to Farrad DeBerry at fdeberry@depaul.edu on or before February 15, 2012.

The University Graduate School of the University of Birmingham in England is pleased to announce that it has ten Elite Doctoral Researcher Scholarships available for the 2012-2013 academic year.

The University Graduate School is looking for students with outstanding academic records and both literature and creative writing candidates can apply. For more information, visit their information page. Questions may be sent to Rachel Patti at r.c.patti@bham.ac.uk .