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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 Best of the Net Nominations


South 85 Journal is pleased to announce the nomination for the following works, which appear in the Summer 2022 issue, for this year’s Best of the Net Anthology.

The Best of the Net is an awards-based anthology designed to grant a platform to a diverse and growing collection of writers and publishers who are building an online literary landscape that seeks to break free of traditional publishing. This space has been created to bring greater respect to the continually expanding world of exceptional digital publishing. 


Imagine a Raw Egg  by Katerina Stoykova
Junk Trees  by Kristen Rembold
Voracious and Vegetarian  by Ivy Raff
A Faint Ticking  by Roger Pfingston
Prolapse: Etymology  by Lisa Allen
Open/Close/Open by Marjorie Maddox


Drenched  by Emily Fontenot

Girls Night  by Anthony D’Aries


Otherwise  by Michael Levan
10 Ways to Mother  by Madelaine Gnewski

Interested in a Writing Residency? Consider the Kimmel Harding Nelson.

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center

South 85 Journal is happy to present the first in a series of interviews featuring directors and administrators of various writing residencies to give our readers a peek into how these programs are organized and facilitated. Or first interview is with Holly McAdams Olson who is the current director of the Kimmel Harding Nelson Artist Residency in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and welcomes both visual artists and writers. Their twice yearly application deadlines are March 1 and September 1. You can apply here.

Tell us a little about the origins of the Kimmel Harding Nelson Artist Residency.

The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts is a program of the Richard P Kimmel and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation. Laurine Kimmel was a well-known watercolor artist from Nebraska City. The residency program continues her and her husband Richard’s legacy of supporting the arts in Southeast Nebraska.

KHN is located in a unique Prairie-style residential complex built in 1969 by another established Nebraska City couple, Peg and Karl Nelson. Mrs. Nelson’s maiden name was Harding, and the complex was built on the site of a past Harding home. In honoring this history, the program was named the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and opened as an artist residency program in 2001.

What makes the KHN residency distinct from others?

KHN is known for its serenely quiet and homey feel. Just as the Nelsons designed the multi-unit luxury home to facilitate both independent living and ease of socializing, the facility’s architecture provides a superb layout and an intimately spacious setting for a small-cohort artist residency program. The facilities support up to five residents, generally in the mix of two visual artists, two writers, and one composer.

Main Gallery

Residency program models are as varied as their facilities and locations. While some programs are known for their chef-prepared meals and daily networking opportunities, KHN provides uninterrupted time and minimal obligations so that each individual can deep-dive into their own rhythms of work and exploration.

Nebraska City is a vibrant rural town with just over 7,000 people. As the home of Arbor Day, the town’s tree-lined brick streets, small museums, local shops, and sprawling parks provide many opportunities for residents to explore local attractions without the burden of too many events and “places to be” to detract their focus from their creative work.

What is your role in the organization today?

I have been the Program Director since 2017. I oversee all aspects of the residency program, our regional exhibition program, and the Kimmel Permanent Collection, which comprises over 250 visual artworks, 200 literary works, and 75 musical works (albums or scores) donated to the center by former residents.

What do you find most rewarding about your work with KHN?

I had fallen into grant writing and development work before coming to KHN five years ago. I often joke that after years of building case statements for why people should want to support, talk to, and listen to artists, now, I just get to. Taking part in boundless cross-disciplinary conversations between visual artists, writers, and composers is the most rewarding part of my job. As much as I love art of all varieties, even more, I love hearing artists talk about what they do and why. Considerations such as composition, design, and character development, as well as the hustle and logistics of piecing together a career, are both unique and universal for all media and disciplines. I just love the “aha” moments for myself and others when one individual’s work or process spurs someone of a different discipline to say, “huh, I never thought of it that way before. Say more”.

What about the residency most surprises writers who attend?

KHN is their first experience in Nebraska or the Midwest for many of our residents. Most report that the residency, our facilities, and their experiences with the local community exceed their expectations. For writers especially, we repeatedly hear that although time went faster than they had expected, their productivity exceeded their goals. In hindsight, many resident writers have stated that each week at KHN seemed the equivalent of a month’s worth of productivity in their daily lives.

Autumn in the Midwest

When and how do writers and artists apply?

We host two application cycles each year: March 1st and September 1st. The March deadline determines awards for the second half of the current year (July – December), and the September deadline determines the first half of the following year (January – June). All applications must be submitted through our online application portal (via Slideroom), and there is a $35 fee to apply. Writers submit up to 10 poems totaling no more than 30 pages, or two stories, essays, or book chapters totaling no more than 7,500 words; a résumé; two artist statements; and contact information for two references. Additional guidelines can be found on our website ( Writing applications are always our largest pool of applications. We generally receive about 100-120 writing applications each deadline and award approximately fifteen, two- to eight-week writing residencies each session.

What makes you laugh?

My husband would tell you that I do. I have an extremely dry and punny sense of humor, so often, other people in the room only awkwardly laugh because I am laughing. Or they just roll their eyes.


Holly McAdams Olson joined KHN as Director in February 2017. She holds a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as a BA in Arts Management and a Master of Business Administration from Bellevue University. Prior to joining KHN, Holly established her love for supporting artists and cultivating the Arts in Omaha, working at The Union for Contemporary Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and as a former board member of WhyArts? Inc. Holly lives in Union, Nebraska.