Review of Lisa Sandlin’s Story, “Phelan’s First Case”


Author and Instructor, Lisa Sandlin

Happy Holidays from 13th Floor Magazine, and hooray to being finished with finals!  A special congratulation goes out to those who have recently graduated, two of whom being our Photographer, Chelsey Richardson (Risney), and our former Promotions Editor, Ali Hodge.  These ladies have contributed so much over the last few semesters, and we are thankful for their creative talents.

Lisa Sandlin, an instructor in the Writer’s Workshop program and sponsor of the only literary magazine at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, has a short story featured in USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series (October 2013).  Her story, “Phelan’s First Case” has received a positive review featured in The Austin Chronicle.  The article’s author, Wayne Alan Brenner, thought Lisa’s work was a must-read.  He says:

Sandlin’s tale of a young PI and his ex-con insinuation of a secretary was engaging as hell. The writing was brisk, the genre style familiar enough – not quite subversive, nowhere near trite. The plot was jake, too, but it was only a hanger for characters – the private dick Phelan and his canny amanuensis Delpha Wade – that you wanted to spend entire novels getting to know. Over too soon, the story, goddammit – as if it were too good to last. 

To read the full review of Lisa’s story, click here.  While our resident creative writing instructor and supporter of 13th Floor Magazine is featured in this collection, there are other worthwhile stories included in Akashic’s USA Noir. If you’re interested in having this book for yourself, or know of a friend who wants some quality reading material to curl up with over the holiday break, you can purchase it here.

As always, we are accepting submissions for our next issue.  If you are unfamiliar with the submission guidelines, please review below.

Submission Guidelines

  • All files should be in .doc, .docx, or .rtx formats
  • Do not put your name in the document.  Do not put your name in the filename. Please use only the title of your work in the filename.  This is very important to us as we want to maintain a fair and unbiased selection process for each of our submissions.
  • In the body of your e-mail, please include a brief biography.  You can write whatever you’d like, but feel free visit our Meet the Staff page if you need some ideas.  If your submission is chosen for publication, your biography will be included in the magazine as well.  Remember, the biography needs to be in the body of your e-mail, NOT your submitted work.
  • For visual art, sent us pictures of your artwork.  If there is any special information about the art, like the medium, influences, etc., feel free to include that as well.
  • All prose and poetry should be double spaced and in standard fonts Times New Roman or Arial.  
  • Be sure to thoroughly edit your work for spelling and grammar errors so you can represent your best work possible.  If you need editing assistance, don’t hesitate to use campus services like the Writing Center.
  • If you would like more tips on professionally formatting your document, please read Formatting 101 by Marlys Pearson.

E-mail Submission

Once you have professionally prepared your submission, e-mail it to 13thfloormagazine@gmail.com Remember, include your biography in your e-mail!

If You Are an Educator

Please encourage your students to submit their best work. It’s a great way to get experience submitting professionally, and may result in publishing credits! Your help is crucial to making our campus magazine a success!

El Museo Latino Letras y Voses This Saturday!

EMLWe know you’re all planning on attending the second installment of the UNO Writer’s Workshop Reading Series tonight at 7:30, which will feature poet and translator, Carl Phillips.  However, if you’re looking for even m0re literary entertainment, then you should consider attending El Museo Latino’s Letras y Voses/Letters and Voices this Saturday, September 20th, at 1:00 p.m.  El Museo Latino is located at 4701 S. 25th St. Omaha, NE.  This museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing Latino art and history, and it is also the first museum of its kind in the Midwest between Chicago and Denver.  Lisa Sandlin, who is a Creative Writing instructor and a sponsor of 13th Floor Magazine is involved with El Museo Latino, and always encourages her students to check out an integral part of Omaha’s literary and ethnic community.  The featured readers for this event will be Miguel M. Morales, Mario Duarte, and Gustavo Adolfo Aybar.

This is a great opportunity to attend a reading series that has and emphasis on how culture and literature can blend together.  The museum is a great place to view some exhibits of Latino art and history, and to hear some talented authors showcase their work.  If you’re interested, then don’t hesitate.  We look forward to seeing you tonight in the Weber Art Gallery and on Saturday at El Museo Latino!

Don’t forget to send in your submissions!  The deadline is October 31st!

On Campus: Interview With Lisa Sandlin

sidebarwidgetUSANOIRHappy Spring Break from 13th Floor Magazine!  If you have not yet submitted your work, get them to us soon because you have one week left to do so.

Author Lisa Sandlin was recently interviewed, discussing her publication in USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series, her work as a creative writing instructor, and her involvement with both the El Museo Latino reading series and the 700 Words reading series.  Lisa is currently teaching creative writing in the Writer’s Workshop program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Her story, “Phelan’s First Case” (2011) was selected to be featured in the USA Noir series, a volume combining noir works from across the country.  For those who do not know, a noir is crime based fiction with  bleak settings and cynical characters.  To preview or purchase USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series, click here.  To browse the various volumes of Akashic Noir Series, click here.  More information about Lisa’s other publications and achievements are available on the faculty page for the UNO Writer’s Workshop program.

Q. What was the selection process like for USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series?

A. Akashic Press has a Noir Series based on place. They began the more than 60 volumes with “Brooklyn Noir” as they are based in Brooklyn. My story was solicited by the Texas editor of “Lone Star Noir” because I’m from Texas and I wrote about my hometown. “Phelan’s First Case” was then chosen to be in the Best of Noir anthology. I don’t know how they made those decisions—Johnny Temple, the editor, was in charge.

Q. For those who haven’t read “Phelan’s First Case,” how would you, the author, summarize the story?

A. It’s a send-up of the ’30s-’40s noir story with the stereotypes of the hard-boiled detective and the filing-her-nails secretary—only it’s sort of flipped around. Phelan is not hard-boiled; he’s just starting out and making it up as he goes: this is his first job. His secretary, on the other hand, is fresh out of prison after serving 14 years. She has a great deal of experience with less inspirational human motives and behaviors.

Q. Do you have any particular exercises to help you with your writing process?

A. Reading good stories and books.

Q. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be an author?

A. When I was 30. I wrote a paragraph about a little white girl and a little black girl, accompanied by their mothers, gazing at each other across a fence. The two sets of gazes were very different.

Q. How long have you been teaching at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and what do you enjoy most about the Writer’s Workshop program?

A. I’ve worked here 5 years and I enjoy the students most. Very especially, the ones who read, who are open, who have to write.

Q. What is your involvement with the El Museo Latino reading series?

A. I’ve worked with its wonderful director, Magdalena Garcia, to bring writers to read in that exciting space. Our next reading—everyone is invited!—is on Saturday, April 12 at 1:00 pm. Opener: UNO’s Chelsey Borchardt. Readers: UNO Black Studies Chair, scholar and poet, Dr. Nikitah Okembe-RA Imani and Lucy Adkins, whose new book is: Writing in Community: Say Goodbye to Writer’s Block and Transform Your Life. Go tour El Museo Latino’s current exhibit on Guerreo. Check out the beautiful fabrics, dresses, hats, sculptures, color, whimsy, and amazing artistic skill. 

Q. Last semester, you were involved with the 700 Words Prose Slam, in which many students from the Writer’s Workshop program participated.  Is this even going to happen again for the spring semester?

A. We’re working on it right now. Possibility: April 23, 7:30, Pizza Shoppe Collective in Benson. Come at 7:15 to sign up. Bring two pieces, fiction or nonfiction, 700 words or fewer. These are short, sharp pieces that should engage an audience. We’ll take up to 15 readers—anyone can enter, $5, audience members can come for free!

Q. As an involved faculty member and the first sponsor of 13th Floor Magazine, what would you like people to know about our online, student-run literary magazine?

A. It’s professional, elegant, inclusive, and going places!

Q. What advice would you give to those who are in the process of submitting their work?

A. No errors. Zero tolerance for grammar mistakes or typos. Send your best work.

Photo credit: Jen Landis

Successful Events for Margaret Lukas and Farthest House

Photo credit: Jen Landis

Photo credit: Jen Landis

Last weekend, author Margaret Lukas attended two events that showcased her novel, Farthest House.  On Saturday, February 22nd, she participated in the third annual Author Fair at the W. Dale Clark Public Library downtown.  Over 75 local authors and publishers attended this information-filled and talent-driven event.  In addition to the excitement of Farthest House being debuted by its esteemed novelist, the Author Fair was an educational and enlightening experience, complete with words of wisdom from publishers, bookstore owners, and other various others whose work was exhibited.  Although Omaha has a relatively small literary community compared to other parts of the country, it was truly something special to see how much great work is in our own back yard.  To Margaret and each other the other participants of the Author Fair, thank you for you passion for the written word.

On Sunday, February 23rd, The Bookworm, a local bookstore in Countryside Village, hosted the book signing event for Farthest House.  Both a mother and a Creative Writing instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Margaret received support from her family, students, and colleagues, all of whom were excited to share in such a special event with her.  Thus far, her novel seems quite promising, especially according to recent reviews on Amazon.com, one of which stood out among the rest:

“Such a hypnotic story, full of beautiful images and heartbreaking vignettes, Farthest House is a great book for a long weekend of reading”

-L. Lloyd, Amazon.com customer review

To read more of the reviews about Farthest House, click here.  If you would like to get a copy of this novel for yourself or a friend and find out more about Margaret Lukas, visit farthesthouse.com.

We are in our first week of March, and that means the submission deadline for upcoming Issue 3 is in a few short weeks!  Get those submissions in as soon as you can!

-Please note that both photos for this post are credited to Jen Landis-

Upcoming Reading Events with Margaret Lukas

Margaret Lukas, author of Farthest House

Margaret Lukas, author of Farthest House

This coming weekend, Margaret Lukas, author of recently published novel, Farthest House, has two reading events right here in Omaha.  Along with being an author, Margaret is a creative writing instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is a sponsor of 13th Floor Magazine.  We are very excited for her and would love to have as much support for her events as possible. On Saturday, February 22nd, from 1:00 pm-4:00 pm, the W. Dale Clark Library downtown will be hosting the Author Fair.  Over 75 local authors and publishers will be attending this event, so you don’t want to miss it!  In addition to Margaret, this is an awesome opportunity for all you writers to meet and mingle with other local talent.  To learn more about this event, click here.

The following Sunday, February 23rd, beginning at 1:00 pm, Margaret will be doing a book signing for Farthest House at The Bookworm, a local bookstore in Countryside Village.  There will be wine and cheese available as well, so grab your friends and spend an afternoon showing your support for Margaret during this exciting time!  To see more about this event, click here.

The W. Dale Clark Library is located at 215 S. 15th St., just off 15th and Farnam St.  The Bookworm is located at 8702 Pacific St. across the street from Westside High School.  We look forward to see you this weekend!

Although it might seem like the March 31st deadline is far into the future, it will sneak up on you sooner than you think.  If you haven’t done so, get your submissions for upcoming Issue 3 in today!

On Campus: Exclusive Interview with Margaret Lukas on Farthest House

Author Margaret Lukas sits for an interview about the release of her very first novel, Farthest House, available on January 14, 2014.  As a valuable member of the University of Nebraska at Omaha community, she is an instructor of creative writing in the Writer’s Workshop program.  She received her BFA from UNO’s Writer’s Workshop in 2004, and obtained her MFA from Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington, in 2007.

Margaret is a recipient of a 2009 Nebraska Art Council Individual Artist Fellowship.  She is a contributor to NEBRASKAland magazine  as well as an editor for the quarterly literary journal, Fine Lines. Her writing also appears online and in the 2012 anthology, On Becoming, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Her award-winning short story, “The Yellow Bird,” was made into The Yellow Bird, a short film and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

For this exclusive interview, we wanted to get better acquainted with Margaret, and wanted her perspective on Farthest House as the author, an educator, and a woman of exciting literary achievements.

Q. Although there is a short summary available, what would you, the author, say Farthest House is about?

A. The book is about my passions: passionate people, whether it’s painting or writing, or criminal investigation. And it’s about bad people who need smacked upside the head for hiding their evil deeds behind the cloaks, or vestments, of organized religion. It’s also about love and self-acceptance. As Clay in Farthest House says, “Everyone has something.” I really believe that. If you’re here, in human form, then just like Willow, you inherited a bum shoulder—whatever shape your particular defect takes. I hope through Willow’s struggle to reach self-acceptance, people are helped to reach their own.  I also wanted to write about family. There are so many lonely people in the world who feel that without blood relatives in their lives they have to live alone. I think we can find families and gather families.

Q. Do you prefer character driven or plot driven novels?

A. For me, characters are much more interesting than plot. I find people endlessly fascinating, and I can put aside a character-driven novel and reread it a year later and be fascinated all over again.  A plot-driven novel, again, this is just me, doesn’t hold that magic. Once the punch line has been revealed, and if that was the driving force, I’m done.  Characters stay with me.  My motto is “Fiction is Folks.”

Q. How long have you had the idea for the novel? How long did it take to write?

A. I spent about five years working on the novel before it was accepted for publication. But that’s not day-in-day-out time on just this piece. I was also working on a couple of other novels, and life happens as well. Weeks on end, no writing was done.  On a good day, I try to write two hours. If I get in fourteen hours a week, that might be the number of hours a Stephen King is able to put in a day.  So, to measure all writers by the same measure—say years—is really deceiving.

I hope that’s encouraging to people who aren’t finding much time to write. Keep at it. You’re still a writer, even if you’re only putting in one hour a day or week.  Keep plugging.  Those odd hours add up; the pages begin to form a neat little stack. Stay with it. There’s a saying, though I doubt I’ve got the wording exact, “Come as far as you can, and the Universe will meet you there.” I think that’s a great philosophy. Do your best, write when you can, and don’t compare yourself to the guy who’s knocking out a book a year.

Q. How long did it take Farthest House to be published? What was your most valuable lesson from that process?

A. The process (from acceptance to publication) took about two and a half years.  Which is pretty standard for publishing houses.  During that time, the novel was read by four different editors and I did four or five edits. It’s a long process, but necessary.  The one thing I learned was pay attention to punctuation.  When the comma guru went through it a final time, I was embarrassed to see my errors.  I teach this stuff, and I’d never let my students get away with so many errors.  But I was so absorbed in setting and characters, or so sure I couldn’t error, I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Q. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to become an author?

A. I’ve wanted to be a writer since about the age of 12. I read Great Expectations at that age and was blown away.  That was the book that did it for me and probably countless others.  I tried to rewrite it.  After I married and the babies started coming, I quit writing fiction and took up journaling. I could pick up my journal even if I only had ten minutes and write without having to get into a fictional zone.  I was also an avid reader during those years and absorbing craft without realizing it.

Q. Do you have any specific exercises to help you during your writing process?

A. What works for me is early in the morning. I pour that cup of coffee and turn on the computer. The longer I wait in the day, the more likely it is that something else will rear its head and interfere.  If I’m writing, but feel nothing important is happening on the page and I want to quit, I’ll first set a timer. Just an old wind-up egg timer for an hour. Something about that thing ticking, and knowing this hour is it for the day, spurs me on and almost without fail the writing improves.  Silly, likely self-hypnosis, but it works. I also like music, instrumentals, the tempo. If I’m stuck, I’ll often pick up a pen and my novel journal and write in long hand for a bit. I’ll ask the characters what they think, and I’ll get pages of just what it is they do think.   That practice deepens the work.

Q. What inspired your novel?

A. The inspiration was not as clear cut as you might imagine. I had an image of an old woman who wrote mysteries and was neo-pagan. By that, I mean spiritual but not religious. When I first conceived of Mémé, that woman, I had her Native American.  Then I started reading about the campaign Native American’s have to stop the misappropriation of their religions.  I dropped that aspect of her character.  The rest of the novel has evolved in the writing. Draft after draft.

Q. Did you do a lot of research for Farthest House?

A. Not much. I did some research into the area in France where the narrator was born, and I studied Google maps of the region. Most of the novel though, is set in a fictional small town in Nebraska and in Omaha. I was raised in a small town, and for the last forty years have lived in Omaha, so no research was necessary on those two locations. I did have to look into the Willie Brown lynching for Jonah’s character. There’s so much written about that horrible day in Omaha history. It was easy to find far more material than I could use.

I love research, and it’s always a temptation to stop right in the middle of a paragraph and go off on some hunt that will consume the rest of my writing time.  I have to rein myself in. One thing that I’ve learned in terms of research is to print off everything that I’m going to use or even might use.  So often, I’d find something, use it, then feel the need six months later to recheck the fact. I’d be back revisiting sources—spending twice the time on research. Now, I make a copy of everything and put it in a three-ring binder under a proper heading. That single practice has saved me hours.     

To order your copy of Farthest House, click here!  To hear the first two chapters read aloud, click here!

In addition to congratulating Margaret on the release of her first novel, 13th Floor Magazine would also like to extend our thanks for her continued support and sponsorship.  It is greatly appreciated and we could not be more excited to share in her wonderful accomplishment!

On Campus: Margaret Lukas to Release New Book

9781608080809-COVER-187x300Writer’s Workshop instructor Margaret Lukas is set to release her new book, Farthest House with WriteLife LLC on January 14th, 2014.

Farthest House, with its rich threads of mysticism, explores jealous, betrayal, and ultimately the healing power of self-forgiveness. When Willow is born and her mother dies moments later, only the narrator of this spellbinding, debut novel knows the death isn’t from complications of childbirth. Amelie-Anais, who lived in France and is now buried on the Nebraska hilltop where the family home resides, tells this story of deceit and survival from beyond the grave. Following Willow’s life and Willow’s incredible passion to paint despite loneliness, a physical handicap, and being raised by a father plagued with secrets, Amelie-Anais weaves together the lives of four generations.

“Margaret Lukas has written a page-turner of a novel. Farthest House, boldly narrated by an unsettled spirit, is part-ghost story and a full-out love story of a family coming to terms with its mysterious past, much of it lived in an ancestral home set within a gorgeously rendered Nebraska landscape. Above all, Farthest House is the story of Willow, a bewildered little girl who grows into a passionate painter. I can’t remember the last time I rooted so enthusiastically for a heroine.” – Anna Monardo, author of Falling in Love with Natassia, and The Courtyard of Dreams

Farthest House is $17.00, and available for pre-order from WriteLife.com.

Listen to Chapter 1 and 2 of Farthest House at FarthestHouse.com.