Category Archives: All Journal Content

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Interview with Johanna Copeland

[This interview is reprinted with permission from]

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

I first described the book as, “It’s about women who do bad things to violent men,” which always got an “Oooh!” My team at Harpers softened it to “A book that asks what it means for a woman to be in control of her own life.”

Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And which character gave you the most trouble, and why?

Paula, Paula, Paula! She was, by far, the most difficult character to write because her voice is so particular. With limited formal education and an undiagnosed learning disorder, her voice is less educated, but I needed readers to trust and respect her intelligence. It was a difficult balance, but with each subsequent draft she became my favorite character because Paula functions as the moral center of the book.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

The road to publishing this book has been ridiculously fun. Like the Anne Hathaway movie about a woman who gets a book published. In brief, this book was pre-empted by my favorite editor of the group who made offers. Since that time, my team has been amazing. However, this experience comes after starring in no less than three horror movies filmed over the previous decade, where a woman questions her life choices after going out on endless rounds of fruitless submission.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

Persevere, but be kind to yourself. I’m good at the first part of that advice and terrible at the second part. I always forget that writing is actually hard work. As though plot, setting and dialogue should just flow, right?!? When they don’t, I assume the problem is me. This is when I have to take a step back and remind myself that writing is actually a difficult job and I shouldn’t be so mean to the writer.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

So many of the twists in this book revealed themselves as I was writing it. That’s something that always happens, but still catches me by surprise. I wish I wrote from an outline so I could avoid the stress of not knowing how outstanding threads will weave into the plot, but I’m just not that person. In this book, there’s a twist/reveal in the last chapter that didn’t come until the fourth revision. It was hanging out there unresolved, then suddenly it clicked. For me, those moments are the most surprising and satisfying parts of novel writing.

Who is your ideal reader?

Our Kind of Game is marketed as a domestic thriller or women’s fiction, which makes it a little weird that my ideal reader is men in heterosexual relationships. While it’s a cathartic read for women, the men who’ve read it tell me it challenged their perceptions around the way they think about their partner’s domestic labor. I can’t imagine a better outcome for a reader than a book that challenges preconceived notions and entertains.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book?

Ahahaha, I have a great recipe for canned cherries! I can’t say anything else without it being a spoiler, but after people read this book, they’ll understand why that question made me laugh out loud.




Interview with poet Frederick Joseph, author of WE ALIVE, BELOVED

[reprinted with permission from Work-in-Progress, a literary blog:]

We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?

I consider myself a storyteller above all else, weaving tales of resilience and hope from the heart of Yonkers to the shelves of the world. My words live across genres, from poetry’s intimate embrace in “We Alive, Beloved” to the calls for justice and understanding in “Patriarchy Blues” and “The Black Friend.” Each sentence I write is meant to help us all become a bit freer, whether that’s in the body, mind, or soul.

Which poem/s did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which poem/s gave you the most trouble, and why?

I most enjoyed writing many of the poems in “We Alive, Beloved” because each one allowed me to explore different facets of the Black experience and celebrate resilience, joy, and love. However, the poem that gave me the most trouble was “The Odyssey.” This poem is very personal, reflecting on a Black life from birth onward. It attempts to be speculative while also playing on some of the prose found in Homer’s “Odyssey” and other epic poems. Balancing these elements and doing justice to such a profound subject made it a challenging piece to write.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

The journey of bringing “We Alive, Beloved” to life has been filled with highs and lows. One of the lows is that, as I write this, the collection is delayed a week due to printing logistics. Additionally, getting more people to engage with poetry, especially those who are more familiar with my essays and fiction, has been a mountain to climb. Still, the joy of seeing my poetic expressions take shape and the anticipation of sharing these deeply personal pieces with the world.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

As a writer, the advice I can offer is to embrace the power of your authentic voice. Write from the depths of your soul, unfiltered and unapologetic. Authenticity resonates; it has the power to move mountains and touch hearts. Don’t shy away from the raw, the real, and the vulnerable. Let your words reflect the truth of your experiences, the richness of your heritage, and the unique perspective only you can bring.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

What surprised me, deeply and profoundly, was how much certain moments from my past still sit with me. Writing this book unearthed memories long buried, reminding me that our past is never truly behind us; it sits in the marrow of who we are and what we create.

What’s something about your book that you want readers to know?

I want readers to know that I cried after finishing most of the poems in the collection. Each verse is a reflection of our shared struggles, our triumphs, and the silent battles fought in the depths of our souls. Those tears weren’t just mine; they belong to the history, the present, and the future of a people who continue to rise.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book?

I love that question! This book is so tied to my grandmother that I would have to say the book reads best with a slice of sweet potato pie. Which was her specialty.




2023 Contest Winners

South 85 Journal is honored to announce the winners of the 2023 Julia Peterkin Flash Fiction and Poetry Literary Award winners:

2023 Flash Fiction Award Winner

Winning story: “As To Your Comment That It Could Have Been Worse” by Caridad Moro-Gronlier.

Moro-Gronlier is the author of Tortillera (TRP 2021), winner of The TRP Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series and the chapbook Visionware (FLP 2009). She is a Contributing Editor for Grabbed: Poets and Writers Respond to Sexual Assault (Beacon Press, 2020) and Associate Editor for SWWIM Every Day an online daily poetry journal.

Judge’s comments: This piece is both technically sophisticated and emotionally resonant. The author creates an inner rhythm with spare, lyric language and the repetition of the word “worse.” Then, as the story progresses, the unfolding events become progressively worse. What begins as a bad date becomes a violent assault. The narrator’s revelation at the end saddens me, but also enlightens me. The narrator feels anger after 30 years, yet she directs that anger at herself. This surprised me at first, but it reinforces the guilt and self-blame that victims of sexual assault never truly get over. The narrator turns the blame and anger inward, as if sparing the reader of her feelings, which makes me feel even more for the narrator. She’s spent her whole adult life sparing others of the feelings she’s kept bottled up, and that is the saddest repercussion of all.

~ Susan Tekulve, Flash Fiction Judge

Flash Fiction Finalists

First Runner Up: “Incident at Shady Acres” by Luanne Castle
Second: “Devil Child” by Sahil Mehta
Third: “Alley Brats” by Kristian O’Hare

2023 Poetry Award Winner

Winning Poem: “A Black Poet Looks Back at his Boyhood” by Oak Morse.

Morse lives in Houston, Texas, where he teaches creative writing and theater and leads a youth poetry troop, the Phoenix Fire-Spitters. He was the winner of the 2017 Magpie Award for Poetry in Pulp Literature, a Finalist for the 2023 Honeybee Poetry Award and a Semi-Finalist for the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. A Warren Wilson MFA graduate, Oak has received Pushcart Prize nominations, fellowships from Brooklyn Poets, Twelve Literary Arts, Cave Canem’s Starshine and Clay as well as a Stars in the Classroom honor from the Houston Texans. His work appears in Black Warrior Review, Obsidian, Tupelo, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Nimrod,, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, among others.

Judge’s Comments: This poem proves the immense power of plain language honed and polished, built for conveying complexity and nuance. This well-sustained narrative of the teacher’s past and students’ present pleases both ear and brain, not to mention the heart. This is a love poem to, somehow, every person in it.”

~ Suzanne Cleary, Poetry Judge

Poetry Finalists

First Runner Up: “The Baby Cure” by Emma Bolden
Second: “Restoration” by J. A. Lagana
Third: “Cleveland School Fire” by Ann Chaldwell Humphries
Honorable Mention: “Peonies in Winter” by Lisa Higgs

The winning selections for this year’s contest will be published in the winter issue of South 85 Journal published in mid-December.

Summer Literary Contest Now Open

The 2023 Julia Peterkin Literary Award is currently open for submissions.

The winning selection in each category (poetry and flash fiction) will receive $500 and publication in the Fall / Winter issue of South 85 Journal.

Contest finalists will also be published.

This year’s poetry judge is the award-winning poet Suzanne Cleary.

Suzanne Cleary’s Crude Angel, her fourth full-length poetry collection, was published in November 2018 by BkMk Press (U of Missouri-Kansas City). Beauty Mark (BkMk 2013) won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, and also received the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize and the Patterson Award for Literary Excellence. Keeping Time (2002) and Trick Pear (2007) were published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Poets Marilyn Nelson and Robert Cording selected her collection Blue Cloth as winner of the 2004 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival chapbook competition.

Our flash fiction judge for this year is the award-winning prose writer Susan Tekluve.

Susan Tekulve is author of Second Shift: Essays and In the Garden of Stone, winner of the 2012 South Carolina First Novel Prize and a 2014 Gold IPPY Award. She’s also published a short story collection, Savage Pilgrims, and two fiction chapbooks, Washday and My Mother’s War Stories. Her work appears in  Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, The Georgia Review, Connecticut Review, The Louisville Review, Puerto del Sol, New Letters, and Shenandoah.


Spring / Summer Issue, 2023


Awful Big, Awful Good by Matt Izzi
Dead Cats by Patrick Strickland
Living with Wolves by Christie Marra
Revisionist History 101 by Mike Herndon
The Loneliness Cure by Mark Brazaitis

Creative Nonficiton

I Remember by Linda Briskin
Marking Time and Place by Alice Lowe
Person. Place. Prey. Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. by Honey Rand
To the South are Banana Plantations by Harris Walker


a different sort of blues by Dana Tenille Weekes
biographies by David Galloway
Charisma came to me like a rubber doll by Susan Michele Coronel
How to Pick a Padlock by Patrick Wilcox
Most people have only one skeleton by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran
Magnolia by Greg Nelson
Mapping by Ellen Roberts Young
Roswell Mills: July 5, 1864 by Ann Malaspina
The Seagull that Melted by Kevin Pilkington
Uncle Bob Told Me by Christina Baumis
Yes, Fallen by Gordon W. Mennenga
The Dollmaker: Why You Should Have Read This Book Long Before Now by Jody Hobbs Hesler
Book Reviews
Fiction: The Woods of Fannin County by Janisse Ray, Review by John Krieg
Nonficton: Benjamin Banneker and Us by Rachel Webster, Review by Olivia Fishwick
Poetry: Through Our Water Like Fingers, a Review of Millicent Borges Accardi’s Quarantine Highway by Robert Manaster
Summer Issue Featured Image: SkyOceanBirds by Linda Briskin

Linda Briskin is a writer and photographer. She is intrigued by the permeability between the remembered and the imagined, and the ambiguities in what we choose to see. The fluidity between the natural and the constructed fascinates her. Her focus, then, is on inventing images rather than capturing them. Her photographs have been exhibited and published widely.

South 85 Journal

South 85 is Open for Submissions

South 85 Journal is excited to announce that we are open for general submissions until April 15, 2023. We consider all quality work and are especially interested in writing that demonstrates a strong voice and sense of place.
As the online literary journal for the Converse University Low-Residency MFA program, we are entering our 11th year of publication. Our editorial staff is comprised of experienced readers, writers, and editors who carefully consider every work of writing they receive.
We publish two issues online each year: the summer issue, which is published June 15th, and the winter “contest” issue–which features each year’s Julia Peterkin Literary Award winner–published December 15th.
We also nominate excellent works for the Pushcart Prize and the annual Best of the Net Anthology.
Past contributors include: Dustin Brookshire, Luanne Castle, Anthony D’Aries, Benjamin Garcia, Caroline Goodwin, Ann Chadwell Humphries, Justin Jannise, Eric Rasmussen, Katherine DiBella Seluja, Chris Stuck, and many more.
We published two stellar issues in 2022: The summer issue celebrating our 10th anniversary and the winter issue highlighting this year’s Julia Peterkin Literary Award winners and finalists in flash fiction and poetry. You can read them here:

Summer 2022: 10th Anniversary Celebration

Winter 2022: The Contest Issue

For more information and to submit your work for consideration, visit our Submittable page

Submit Here

The Winter Contest Issue

Flash Fiction Winner

Yellow Bird by Shannon Bowring

Flash Fiction Finalists

Paraiso by Donna Obeid

El Roca  by Hayley Nivelle

Santa Monica by Wynne Hungerford

Poetry Winner

Feathers and Wedges: A Golden Shovel by Karen Kilcup

Poetry Finalists

If I Get Alzheimer’s: Instructions for My Wife by Justin Hunt

Elixir for Knowing When To Surrender by Katherine DiBella Seluja

a mother mulls her son’s self-injuries by Dean Gessie

2022 Pushcart Nominations

The editors of South 85 Journal are pleased to announce this year’s Pushcart Nominations:

“Yellow Bird” by Shannon Bowring (flash fiction)

“Paraiso” by Donna Obeid (flash fiction)

“El Roca” by Hayley Nivelle (flash fiction)

“Feathers and Wedges” by Karen Kilcup (poetry)

“Elixir for Knowing When to Surrender” by Katherine Seluja (poetry)

“If I get Alzheimer’s – Instructions for my Wife” by Justin Hunt (poetry)

Watch for the December 15th Issue to read these winning works and more!

Winners of the 2022 Julia Peterkin Award for Flash Fiction and Poetry

South 85 Journal is honored to announce the winners of the 2022 Julia Peterkin Literary Award for Flash Fiction and Poetry:

Flash Fiction Winner

Yellow Bird by Shannon Bowring. Bowring’s work has appeared in numerous journals, has been nominated for a Pushcart and a Best of the Net, and was selected for Best Small Fictions 2021. Her debut novel, The Road to Dalton, is forthcoming from Europa Editions. Shannon lives in Bath, Maine. 

Judge’s Comments: “A spellbinding story of tragedy’s aftermath, beautifully written and tightly constructed, with character development that transcends its pithiness. Having lost a son, a couple find their grief transforming into an emotion that leads to dramatic, unexpected—even shocking—actions. The story proves that brevity need not constrain narrative force.”

Poetry Winner

Feathers and Wedges: A Golden Shovel by Karen Kilcup.  A New Englander with old farming roots, Karen Kilcup is the Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor of American Literature, Environmental & Sustainability Studies, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at UNC Greensboro. Her forthcoming poetry book The Art of Restoration was awarded the 2021 Winter Goose Poetry Prize. She’s an avid cook, runner, and rock climber who has difficulty resisting the urge for More Garden.


Winners receive a $500 award and will have their work published in the December issue of South 85 Journal.


Flash Fiction Finalists

First Runner-Up, Flash Fiction

Paraiso by Donna Obeid. Obeid holds a BA in English with an Honor’s Concentration in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and an MA and MFA from American University. Her work has appeared in Carve Magazine, Detroit Metropolitan Woman, Flash Fiction Magazine, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Malibu Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

Second Place, Flash Fiction

El Roca  by Hayley Nivelle. Nivelle is an emerging writer and a practicing attorney. She has a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and a M.S. from the Honor’s Program at Kansas State University. Hayley lives in Harrison, New York with her husband and two boys.

Third Place, Flash Fiction

Santa Monica by Wynne Hungerford. Hungerford’s work has appeared in EPOCH, Subtropics, Blackbird, The Literary Review, The Brooklyn Review, The Normal School, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other places. She received her MFA from the University of Florida.

Poetry Finalists

First Runner-Up, Poetry

If I Get Alzheimer’s: Instructions for My Wife by Justin Hunt. Hunt grew up in rural Kansas and lives in Charlotte, NC. His work has won several awards and appears in a wide range of publications in the U.S., Ireland and the U.K., including Five Points, Barrow Street, River Styx, New Ohio Review, Nimrod,, and The Bridport Prize Anthology.

Second Place, Poetry

Elixir for Knowing When To Surrender by Katherine DiBella Seluja. Seluja  is the author of Gather the Night, and co-author of We Are Meant to Carry Water. Recent work can be found in FENCE, and upcoming in Cutthroat and Thimble. Her third book of poetry, Point of Entry, will be published by UNM Press in 2023.

Third Place, Poetry

a mother mulls her son’s self-injuries by Dean Gessie. Gessie is an author and poet who has won dozens of international awards and prizes. Among recent honours, Dean won the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award in England, a Creators of Justice Literary Award in New York, the COP26 Poetry Competition in Scotland and the UN-aligned Poetry Contest in Finland.


This Year’s Judges


The judge for the 2022 Julia Peterkin Flash Fiction contest is Cary Holladay. Holladay has published six short story collections, including Horse People, The Quick-Change Artist, and most recently, Brides in the Sky, as well as two novels and over 100 short stories and essays in journals and anthologies, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Arkansas Review, Five Points, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and Tin House. Her awards include an O. Henry Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is Professor Emeritus at the University of Memphis. She lives in Virginia.


The judge for the 2022 Julia Peterkin  is Ashley M. Jones. Jones is Poet Laureate of the state of Alabama (2022-2026). She received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She is the author of three poetry collections: REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021); dark // things (Pleiades Press, 2019), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry; and Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press, 2017), winner of the silver medal in poetry in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Her poems and essay appear or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies, including CNN, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, and The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, among others.


Julia Peterkin Literary Contest:

Established in 1998 by the Creative Writing program at Converse College, the Julia Peterkin Award is a national contest honoring both emerging and established  writers. The award is named for Converse graduate Julia Mood Peterkin, whose 1929 novel,  Scarlet Sister Mary, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in literature.

Submissions for the annual Julia Peterkin Literary Awards are open yearly from June 1 to August 15 . Full submissions guidelines can be found on our Submittable page: Literary Awards Guidelines Finalists in each category will also have their work published in the winter issue of South 85 Journal.

Past Winners


Humankind needs larger birds by Justin Jannise (Poetry)  

The Holy Waters of the Ganges by Krista Buecler (Flash Fiction)


 Mourning Dove by Benjamin Garcia (Flash Fiction)


 What You Said by Natalie Troy (Flash Fiction)