5 Books To Read This Summer

Have you finished your summer reading list? Are you looking for something new to read? If so, check out these five books you should read this summer.

1. Hunger: A Memoir of  (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist. Her latest book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, was just released this June 2017! This memoir tackles vulnerable subjects such as body weight, food, and self-image. This powerful book is definitely worth checking out!

2. When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz, a Mojave American poet, published her debut poetry collection in 2012. When My Brother Was an Aztec gives readers a glimpse into life in and out of the Mojave Reservation. If you are interested in exploring family-narrative poetry, take a look at Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec.

3. Enigma by Tonya Kuper

Tonya Kuper is a part-time instructor at UNO. Her debut novel, Anomaly, is the first book to the Schrodinger’s Consortium duology. Enigma, the second book, was just released on July 3rd of this year.

This young-adult fiction series follows a “nerdy” teenage girl named Josie, who discovers she is unlike most other teenagers. She is an anomaly and can make objects appear and disappear using her own mind. If you like young-adult fiction or want to follow Josie on her epic journey, read Tonya Kuper’s Anomaly and Enigma.

4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Look familiar? Gene Luen Yang visited UNO in Spring 2016! Yang was also recently named the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress.

Have a look at Gene Luen Yang’s award-winning graphic novel, American Born Chinese. The story’s protagonist, Jin, is a teenager faced with racial struggles and stereotypes. Like most teenagers, he is also trying to figure out who he is. This graphic novel is sprinkled with humor and culture throughout. It certainly is worth a read!

5. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie is an award-winning writer of books like, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Flight, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven to name a few.

His memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, was just published this June. This book allows you to see into Alexie’s life through verse and prose as he experiences grief, from his mother’s passing, and memories from a complicated childhood. If you are a fan of Alexie’s writing, consider adding You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me to your summer reading list!

Poetry – Titling Your Poem

The poem floats on the page, an amalgam of your hard work, love of language, and intense feeling. You feel serene and somewhat spent, ready to share your creation with someone – almost. The poem is complete, except for one thing – the title. For many poets (including myself), this is one of the hardest parts of writing a poem. How do you choose the right title? How do you know what kind of title would work best for your poem? Here are a few kinds of titles that I always consider when I’m stuck for what to name a piece:


  1. A title taken from inside the poem

One simple way to title a poem is to take something from inside the poem itself. This kind of title is often thematic, in that it reflects the poem’s central image or idea. Many poems are named in this way, and examples are thick on the ground. One such poem is “Tulips” by Sylvia Plath. (You can read it here.) These kind of titles are effective and efficient – they get tie in with the poem and give the reader a taste of what is to come.

  1. An explanatory/contextual title

A title like this can be extremely useful, particularly if you fear that the poem itself could use a bit of context. Try for a title that can give the reader some insight into how they should read and understand your poem. Consider Geoffrey Hill’s poem “In Memory of Jane Fraser.” (You can read it here.) Jane’s name is nowhere inside the poem, but by giving it that title the reader is aware not only that it is an elegy, but that it is an elegy to a specific person. An explanatory title can be a great way to add just a touch of much-needed context without having to add it into the poem itself. It needn’t be overly explicit or too informative, of course,

  1. A lead-in title

Sometimes, you have a title, but it feels like a brick, sitting heavy on top of your poem. Other times, you can’t find a title that doesn’t interfere with the musicality or lessen the impact of the first line(s). In these instances, a lead-in title may be just the thing, because they let you get to the heart of the matter right off the bat. A good example of a lead-in title is Robert Duncan’s poem “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow.” (Read the poem here.) The title sets the scene, but also pulls you right into the body of the poem. There is no disconnect or space between title and poem, which creates an immediacy that serves the piece well.

  1. A refrain title

If your poem has a refrain, you may consider that for a possible title. Though you want to be careful about overdoing it, just as you have to be careful when using refrains inside the poem, a refrain title can be the best topper for a musical poem. For a good example of the refrain title, check out Walt Whitman’s famous poem, “O Captain, My Captain.” (You can view the poem here.)

  1. A sensory title

Sometimes, you don’t want to use language that is in the body of the poem, nor do you want to try something that explains too much. Perhaps your poem doesn’t need any extra context, but it needs something before you dive into the body of the piece. In these cases, you may consider an image or association that can grab the reader’s attention without exposing too much of the poem’s intent right off the bat. Look at Audre Lorde’s poem, “Coal.” (You can read it here.) In this poem, the title is a concrete image that ties in with the poem, but isn’t necessarily directly related to it. Rather, it adds to the visual detail of the piece, and brings with it the connotative weight of the word to bear on the reader’s interpretation of the poem.

  1. The dreaded “Untitled”

There are times when a title of any kind feels like a streak of spray paint on the Mona Lisa. Of course, many writing professors won’t allow an untitled poem in the classroom, but when you are writing your own work, you may decide to ditch the title altogether. Untitled poems can be effective if the non-titledness fits with the poem’s atmosphere (unless you happen to be Emily Dickinson , in which case you need never title anything). Tracy K. Smith eschews the title to great effect in her Terza Rima which begins “What happens when the body goes slack?” In this poem (which unfortunately isn’t available to view online but can be found in her collection Life on Mars, available here.), the lack of title adds to the sorrow and confusion of the poem, which deals with death and the yawning gap of loss. A title on such a poem would be too pat, too solid. The words need to drift, much as the speaker of the poem does. If you have a poem where a title would only hurt the piece, you may consider simply leaving it off.


Hopefully these ideas will get the gears churning when you’re confronted with that blank space above your piece. If you need more inspiration, here are some other articles that might help:

Poetry: Abstracts versus Concretes

I remember the day in my very first college-level poetry class when my instructor (a wonderful poet and teacher by the name of Neal Kirchner) asked us the difference between concrete and abstract language. When we had given up on our half-hearted attempts to articulate our understanding of the concept, he showed us the distinction in a way that has stuck with me.

First, he put up a slide with the word “WAR” typed in black on a white background. Next, he showed another slide, this time with an image of the painting “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso. We started talking about the difference between the two slides, and the impact they each had on us. Looking at “Guernica” produced an almost visceral reaction. The woman screaming over the body of her baby, the terror on the face of the horse – these images produced a deep effect in the viewer. The word “War,” however, required so much interpretation, had so many possibilities, that we couldn’t agree what it represented – it became our vision of war, rather than the author’s. Though the medium was an image, rather than words, I felt a glimmer of understanding beginning to kindle in my mind.









That class is where I first came to understand that abstract language (with which my poems to that point had been positively riddled) may have an unintended effect: it can garble and even dissolve its own meaning. I swore then and there to make sure my own poems would be full of concrete language, that they would aspire to the same impact that “Guernica” had achieved.

This was a lofty goal, particularly because I, like many others in my class, still wasn’t completely sure how the distinction worked, and how it produced the effect that it did. Today, we’ll dig in and try to show the difference in another way. By rewriting a passage from a famous poem without any of the concrete language that it uses, we can see how much concrete language affects a poem’s meaning and its power.

Let’s use a few lines from Sylvia Plath’s well-known poem, “Daddy.” In lines 57-63, the speaker talks about her difficulty in dealing with her father’s death, and her subsequent mental illness:

“I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.”


Now imagine that same section told in more abstract language:

“I was ten when you died.
At twenty I tried to kill myself
Because I missed you.
I wanted to share something, even death, with you.

But I got professional help,
Though I don’t feel like I’m really healed.”

The second (and I admit, poorly translated) version feels flat and lifeless compared to the emotive power of Plath’s words. It’s difficult to even say that the same sentiment is conveyed, because we can’t really feel any emotion behind the second version. There’s no concrete language to ground us, to give a sense of reality and physicality. We don’t connect with the speaker in the second version the same way we do with the speaker in the first version. We understand the words on an intellectual level, but they don’t have the power to move us in the same way. The physicality of the words “bones,” “glue,” and “sack” all provide sensory detail that gives us textile and visual imagery, as well as bringing their own connotative weight to bear on the poem.

The phrase “I was ten when they buried you” has more power than the translation of “I was ten when you died,” because “died” is an abstract term, whereas “buried” is a concrete one – it provides an image of a funeral, of a burial, and, in context, of a ten-year-old girl standing at her father’s graveside. There is too much room in the concept of “died” for us to form those images with any confidence. The concept described in the lines “But they pulled me out of the sack / And they stuck me together with glue” demonstrates so clearly the way that the speaker felt about her treatment for illness. She felt it was a patch-job, that it was a mere cosmetic fix. She’s merely “stuck” in her form, not truly healed. This isn’t conveyed so clearly in the abstract version, for all that it says essentially the same thing. In this brief analysis of only a few lines, it’s clear how powerful a tool concrete language can be in a poem.

To be fair, abstract language isn’t something you can’t or shouldn’t employ. Nor is concrete language a magical key that will make your poem or story automatically great. However, understanding the difference can help you to make conscious choices about how you want to convey meaning in your poem. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write, and many famous and talented poets have and do use abstract language wonderfully in their work. The power of concrete language is that it can make your poem’s meaning more clear, more beautiful, more surprising, and more effective. Also, concrete language has become something of a gold standard in contemporary poetry – you will hear about it again and again in workshops and from instructors. Don’t be afraid of the discussion, or of using either abstract or concrete language, but rather use your understanding of the differences to push each poem to its most powerful incarnation: a rich, sensory ride from which the reader will never really recover.


Want to understand more about concrete versus abstract language? Try these sites and pages:


Featured Image:

Many days as a writer, we sit, we wait, we curse ourselves, all while wondering when the next time we will be able to write… anything.

During these troubling times, the times we feel lack significant inspiration, it is important for the troubled to look to their one true love.

That one true love, for me, is the world of sports. Simple to the naked eye, yet complex when studied. When I study athletes and the sports they conquer, I find not only athleticism, but also an abundance of self-belief and ambition. If anyone, and I mean anyone, is looking for inspiration, look to the city of Leicester, England, and their now-wonderful soccer club. With a population of 330,000, the vast majority of their citizens did not believe the Leicester City Foxes, of the Barclays Premier League, would finish in the Top Four of the league, let alone finish as champions.

The odds at the start of the season for the Foxes to win the most prestigious award in soccer, besides the World Cup, was a deflating 5,000/1. That means if you bet a dollar, you would reap in a reward of five thousand dollars. Wow.

After a 38-game regular season, , the Foxes were crowned champions of the Barclays Premier League, and each and every Leicester fan was overcome with jubilation.

And just what did this achievement and time of jubilation and inspiration look like? Below are photographs of the Leicester City trophy lift, and their championship city parade.


Find your inspiration. This city, this community, this team did, even when the odds were against them. 5,000/1 odds.

Staff Summer Reading List!

harrypotterpoaHope everyone is having a fantastic, fun filled summer so far!  With the semester being over, we hope there is more free time in everyone’s schedules.  For those of us on staff at 13th Floor Magazine, we can’t wait to use our newly found free time to do a little summer reading for pleasure than for homework.  So, to inspire you, we’ve compiled a list of books we’re looking forward to getting to read (or reread) over the next couple months.

To make it interesting, we’ve mixed our lists together to inspire each other with our very different tastes in literature.  Although we share a common passion for creating an outlet for our peers to showcase their original work, we all have very different picks for an exciting new read.  We encourage you to make your own list, or choose some from ours.  Curl up under the shade of your favorite tree or on a chair by the pool while soaking up the UV rays, and get lost in a new story for a while.

Here’s the list:

  • Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  • Insurgent by Victoria Roth
  • Farthest House by Margaret Lukas
  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffeneger
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Outlander by Diane Gabaldon
  • The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • A Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
  • The Waves by Virginia Woolf
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki
  • The Tain: From the Irish epic Tain Bo Cuailnge
  • On Certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • The Fire in the Fiction by Donald Maass
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel by Lionel Shriver
  • Anthropology of an American Girl by Hillary Thayer Hamann
  • The Dream of a Common Language by Adrinne Rich
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Enjoy your readings!  If you decide to read some from our list, let us know what you thought about the book or the author.  We look forward to getting lost between the covers of a book for a while and are excited to discussing them later.  Happy reading, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Happy Finals Week from 13th Floor!

SadPencil_FinalsWeekHappy finals week from 13th Floor Magazine!  We hope all of your exams, papers, and projects are going well so you can get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.  This year has gone surprisingly fast; Issue 1 was released ten months ago, but it feels like only mere weeks have passed.  Having time fly by so quickly can allow finals week to rear its unwanted head sooner than expected.  Some of you have gone through this routine for the last eight or so semester while other have only made it through one.  Either way, it is always a smart idea to refocus your energy and study habits when it comes to finals.  An article from Florida International University, published in December 2013, has eight great tips for helping you prepare for your finals.  This useful list covers the effects of study locations, switching subjects, study groups, snacking, sleeping, taking breaks, testing yourself, and the importance of organization.  This article, although likely containing information you’ve all heard before, is a useful reminder of the importance of doing your best during a week of examination.  To read the full article, click here.   After this week concludes, we will congratulate our class of spring graduates for all the hard work and effort they have put in over the last few years.  This is a very exciting time for undergraduate chapters to close and new ones to open.  So, congratulations to all of you who are graduating and to all those who are still working towards their degree.

Look forward to our special summer installment, or Editors’ Edition, coming soon!

After school is finished for the semester, many of you will be able to read for pleasure again, not just for homework.  If you haven’t yet done so, pick up a copy of UNO Writer’s Workshop faculty publication: Margaret Lukas’ debut novel, Farthest House, or Lisa Sandlin’s publication of her short story, “Phelan’s First Case” in USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series.  Truly great work from extremely talented instructions.

Special Editors’ Edition to Release Soon!

Editors' Edition to release May 5th!

Editors’ Edition to release May 5th!

Hey fellow writers!  The last fifteen weeks have flown by and we hope the end of the semester is wrapping up nicely for everyone.

This year has brought the staff of 13th Floor Magazine on an exciting journey.  We have flourished as a team, accumulated new staff members, enhanced our own abilities of writing and editing, and had the opportunity to collect wonderful, original work from our peers for our first three Issues.  We have seen support, sponsorship, and publications from two faculty members: Margaret Lukas with her debut novel, Farthest House, and Lisa Sandlin with her short story, “Phelan’s First Case,” published in USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series.  There have been exciting poetry and prose slams and can’t-miss reading events.  We had the much anticipated release of Issue 2 and are currently going through our recent submissions for upcoming Issue 3.

Many of our staff members will be graduating in a few short weeks, an accomplishment that has been achieved with hard work, time management, hours of workshopping, and late night editing, writing, reading….and rewriting, and rereading.  After dedicating ourselves to publishing the work of our classmates, we thought it would be fun to showcase our own work for a special, first time Editors’ Edition, which is due to release on Monday, May 5th!  Quite a few of these graduating staff members were vital in 13th Floor Magazine’s creation, and being able to see our work on both the front cover and within the pages is a privilege.  As you have all put forth great effort to share your creative, original work for Issues 1, 2, and 3, we want to showcase ourselves so that you, our readers, can get to know us as writers.

Look forward to the works of Kate Bard, Kristin Pothast, Alexandria Hodge, Jared Newman, Kelsey Bee, Chelsey Risney, Ahmad Jaffrey, Mystery Harwood, Justin Powell, Hannah Gill, and Britny Doane.  We are excited to share our best work with all of you!  This Editors’ Edition would not be possible without the support of all our readers, contributors, and supporters.  You are just as important to 13th Floor Magazine as we are.  Thank you for allowing us to continue to bring a creative outlet  for the arts to the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Sizzlin’ Summer Writing Prompt #5


How about those crazy summer storms? They start with a hot, humid summer day, then the wind picks up and before you know it those fat drops of water are pouring like sheets from sky, with thunder rolling around in the background from what seems like every direction. Have you been caught in one yet? Or have you watched from the safety of a porch, sipping a glass of cold riesling (like me)? Maybe you can use your own summer storm experiences in this week’s writing prompt. Add a little romance for that sizzle! Then be sure to share some or all of your results in the comments below, and polish it up for Issue #2!

Remember, all writing prompts are taken from The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan, a great little kit to spark your creativity when you’re feeling blocked.

How this works: I will use the toolbox to identify a protagonist, his or her goal, an obstacle to that goal, and an action the protagonist takes to achieve the goal. I’ll also post an extra credit sensory detail for you to use in your story in some way. Use your imagination to build a story around these elements, and post your results in the comments section so we can all be wowed by your creativity!

Sizzlin’ Summer Writing Prompt #2: Margaret (protagonist), who loves Sy, wants to see the world (goal), but a fear of heights is keeping her from her goal (obstacle). To achieve her goal, she gets on television (action).

Extra Credit Sensory Detail: the hole in his sock

Previous Prompts:

Sizzlin’ Summer Writing Prompt #4


So summer seems to really be on the upswing. I hope you keep a journal on hand at all times to jot down events and experiences that would make good fiction. Let’s keep going with our writing prompts, shall we? Be sure to share some or all of your results in the comments below, then polish it and send it in for Issue #2!

Remember, all writing prompts are taken from The Writer’s Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan, a great little kit to spark your creativity when you’re feeling blocked.

How this works: I will use the toolbox to identify a protagonist, his or her goal, an obstacle to that goal, and an action the protagonist takes to achieve the goal. I’ll also post an extra credit sensory detail for you to use in your story in some way. Use your imagination to build a story around these elements, and post your results in the comments section so we can all be wowed by your creativity!

Sizzlin’ Summer Writing Prompt #2: Fred, the monster (protagonist), wants to discover happiness (goal), but Laurie, the famous acrtress, is keeping him from this dream (obstacle). To achieve his goal, he loses weight (action).

Extra Credit Sensory Detail: a man wearing a plate on his head

Previous Prompts: