Last year I backed a Kickstarter to fund LitKit, a subscription box of books, writing tools, and prompts! It’s a great project, so I wanted to give you guys a peek at what came in January’s box and show you the benefits of signing up!
Part of the mission of LitKit is to promote independent authors and publishers. January’s LitKit featured the work of tNY Press (formerly The Newer York Press), an experimental publisher that showcases “storytelling for the modern brain.” They publish nontraditional novels, an annual literary magazine (The Shrug), and other stories (The EEEL).
In this box, tNY included Sharpen by Rich Ives, a poetic, illustrated manual for letting go. It’s a great read and an even better reread. (I wrote a more detailed review over at Cannonball Read.)
The second book was volume 4 of The Shrug. I was thrilled to see a Virginia Woolf quote from A Room of One’s Own opening a collection that intended to “split the conversation of womanhood and gender into fragments.” I was also impressed by the disclaimer: “Read slowly to avoid complications, read entirely. You won’t like some of this work. […] This is intended; enjoy the various ghosts that can inhabit your thoughts.” In the past I have found many literary magazines intimidating, but I found this statement disarming–the idea that one should seek to enjoy, rather than dissect, the stories within.
I loved every piece in the magazine, but here are ten of my favorites:
10) ‘Band Names Inspired by My Mother’ by Evan Allgood
“The Leftovers” and “Text Me When You Get There” were my favorites.
9) The White Coats Are Coming! The White Coats Are Coming! by Christine Tierney
I love the mounting anxiety in this piece, which was only made worse by my own recent hospital stay.
8) The Incomplete List of Phobias by Ghada Khalil
Khalil hides a poignant deconstruction of sex among a list of uncommon phobias.
7) All My Everything by Mollie Boutell
A story of refusing to bow to conformity.
6) Love Story Set in a Grocery Store by Sara Woods
I love how simple this single sentence story is. Woods captures what many love stories miss: this simplest of gestures.
5) The Fire Upstairs by J.H. Yun
I read Yun’s piece as a comment on postpartum depression, one that illustrates how apathy develops even in those closest to those afflicted. The father yells about how “he’s tired of telling that damn fire to stop burning every day;” the daughter asks her mother “Why must you always be on fire? Everyone in this house hates to always be burning.”
4) The End of the Night by Andy Valentine
A short story of the continuation of abuse and how it travels from one person to another.
3) Instances in Which Prudence Might Demand You Put All Your Eggs in One Basket by Michael Shirzadian
Most of the items on this list deal with literal eggs and literal baskets, which makes the final items that much more staggering.
2) Interview with Artist by Steve Vermillion
This piece kept returning throughout the magazine as the interviewer continued to ask questions of the artist. The artist’s responses were merely a blank page. I’m not sure if Vermillion intended this as an invitation to the reader, but I took it as one anyway.
1) Dear animal machine self who is myself but doesn’t always feel like it by Sarah Woods
This stunning piece deals with the relationship between ourselves and our bodies. Women are raised to be ashamed of this “animal machine self,” but this shame and deep divide between the self and the “self who is myself but doesn’t always feel like it” is even more profound for trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary individuals.
Finally, there were a couple items within that came directly from LitKit founders Meg and Michael.
First are those lovely pencils, made entirely out of recycled paper. Here’s a close up:
Second was a calendar of writing prompts for February, and an invitation to share the stories and submit future prompts.
Finally, a postcard. On the front is a story about leaves, and an invitation to write my own story about leaves and send it on the pre-addressed postcard.
Here is my story:
As a girl, she pressed leaves and flowers into the pages of her favorite books. Now, when she came across those tales and felt that ache in her bones, that dust in her lungs–she turned the pages with creaking fingers to find that, fragile as they were, the leaves still held their color.
I found this gesture from Meg and Michael to be especially impressive. Even though not everyone will return their postcard, it’s still extra time, and shows that they are interested not only in sharing work that moves them, but also in creating a community in which all are welcome to participate. I expect that as this community grows there will only be more opportunities to interact with other writers, artists, and book lovers. I look forward to seeing what other plans the LitKit team has in store, and hope that I can continue to be a part of it.