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Becky Renner

Hack Writer

Bees and Books: What You Can Do to Protect the Planet

During my recent MFA residency, one of my classmates (a fellow lit mag editor) found out that the Atlantic Center for the Arts, where we were doing our residency, was home to its very own bee colony. Only a few hours later, our professors convinced the resident beekeeper, Doug McGinnis, to give us a tour of his hives and teach us what he knew about beekeeping. What could be more poetic? Continue reading “Bees and Books: What You Can Do to Protect the Planet”

Why I Write

In my first year of teaching, I gave my seniors the assignment to write about an event in their life that made them who they are. I read them all, surprised at what they’d been through, surprised too at the secrets they would trust me with, at what they’d put on paper. Domestic abuse, poverty, illness, one even witnessed a murder – these are the things that boiled under the surface of these people who I laughed with daily, who decorated my room, who sang me happy birthday, who wore me down to eventually have class outside. I had known them eight months already, or I thought I knew them. It wasn’t until April that we had this turning point, and I saw through to the other side. I realized that we are all a little broken. Every single one of us is on the mend. Continue reading “Why I Write”

My Top Five Favorite Novels of 2016

I have read a lot of books this year (124 as of today), some of them amazing, some of them egregiously bad. These are my top five favorite novels I read this year.

vegetarian-coverOn its surface, The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a deeply disturbing story of a woman’s descent into madness. But don’t let the surface fool you. At its core, this novel is about the rules for femininity that confine Korean society. I highly recommend The Vegetarian by Han Kang. It’s astonishing (but tight!) prose and highly significant subject matter would make it the perfect book for readers of literary fiction and maybe even for book clubs that want to push the envelope and spark discussion. Read the rest of my review. Continue reading “My Top Five Favorite Novels of 2016”

Review of The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

Review of The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Full of turmoil, love, loss, and pain, Lindsey Lee Johnson’s The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is a complex meditation on privilege and the crucible that is adolescence. Set in Mill Valley, California, at the real life Tamalpais High School, the story centers on a fledgling teacher, Molly Nicoll, as she discovers and comes to terms with the complex lives of her students and her role (or absence) in their evolution as people. With perspectives that alternate between Molly and the main group of her students, Johnson weaves a series of interconnected life stories that create a portrait not only of the idyllic Mill Valley, with its towering redwoods and foggy views of San Francisco Bay, she creates a portrait from the inside, from the multifaceted and often breaking hearts of the teenagers who are beginning their lives there. Continue reading “Review of The Most Dangerous Place on Earth”

State of the Obra – A Letter from the Founding Editor-in-Chief

obra / artifact

Greetings from the O/A editors!

Six months ago, the adventure called Obra/Artifact began in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Since then, it has grown from a mere idea to a graduate literary magazine. All of this is thanks to our submitters and supporters, especially Juan Carlos Reyes and the MFA of the Americas.

Over the past several months, the editors—Jared Smith, Lucianna Ramos, and I—have been reading, judging, and arguing about your submissions. As of last week, we have made all of our poetry and prose selections for the first digital issue. (But we’re still in the market for visual art. Submit your art today!)

In January, the first issue of Obra will go live on this website. This coincides with our MFA program’s residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, FL. During the residency, final decisions for the…

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Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge – December Update

As of right now, I’ve read 117 books this year. My goal was 115. Go me!

I wrote one novel (and 5 agents are reading it right now!), and I’m halfway through writing another.

I did a post about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge a few months back, and I’m still as much of a Book Riot fangirl as ever. Facebook suggested Liberty Hardy as a friend today, and I had a little mini flip out. We have two friends in common! Squee! I didn’t request, but I’m just sayin’…

Anyway… I’m not sure I’ve made much progress on this. I have a month to go, so let’s see what I need to fill in the blanks.

Continue reading “Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge – December Update”

Review of Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Review of Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, Hag-Seed, the latest in Hogarth Shakespeare’s series of modern retellings, interprets The Tempest in a technique that layers contemplation, action, and exegesis.

This is the second of the Hogarth Shakespeare series that I have read, and so far, it is the strongest. However, The Tempest is probably one of Shakespeare’s plays that I know the least. That being said, I wasn’t comparing and contrasting the original versus the interpretation; and this version, more than anything, acts as an exegesis, a teaching text, of the original.

Set in a Canadian prison, the main character Felix Philips teaches literacy through theater, but his endeavor isn’t completely altruistic. In the beginning of the novel, Felix is the main director at the semi-famous Makeshewig Festival, but he’s going off the deep end. He takes too many directorial risks, and many of the people he works with want him out. This makes it all the easier for Tony, his highest underling in the theater company, to usurp his place as director and have him fired. Continue reading “Review of Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood”

Review of Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

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Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt has been difficult for me to review. I finished it a few days ago, and since then, I’ve been ruminating on it.

In its essence, Cruel Beautiful World is a novel about family and love. But the horrible underside of humanity is afoot as well. Yes, it takes place during the same time as the Manson murders, but that isn’t the true specter that hangs over the characters’ psyches. The true roots of the novel’s conflict lie in the question: How well can we really know the ones we love?

The climax and denouement of Cruel Beautiful World answer this question two ways. Without giving you any spoilers, I’ll say that one represents the beautiful and one represents the cruel. Continue reading “Review of Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt”

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