What makes someone a Las Vegan? Is it the first time you correct people when they mispronounce Nevada? Is it being one of the first to discover the hot new spot on Spring Mountain Road? Is it getting choked up when you hear the Killers perform their rendition of “Home Means Nevada”? Or is it picking up a stranger who has been shot while attending a music festival and driving them to the hospital? Then going back to the scene and picking up another stranger and another one and another one until the blackness of night is broken by the oranges and pinks of morning?
“1 October” (as the tragedy is called within the city by officials and media outlets) put Las Vegas in the national conversation in a new and horrible way. It also changed the conversations people were having here. Suddenly the terms “transient town” and “starter city” were replaced with “Vegas Strong,” with neighbors lining up for hours to give blood on Oct. 2. And a community garden was planted in the span of a week. The new book Healing Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Community Healing Garden in Response to the 1 October Tragedy (University of Nevada Press) tells the story of that garden, how it came to be, its purpose, and its continued mission.
The format is a literary collage of essays, images, poetry, and dialogue. In the first section, the reader is granted a behind-the-scenes look at the garden’s creation. There’s also an introduction to the people who conjured an ameliorating public space based on a napkin sketch in five days. People like co-creator Jay Pleggenkuhle, who realized that it was more important for the garden to simply exist, and quickly, rather than chase perfection.
In subsequent sections, the book explores how the garden seeded within the community ever-important remedies of hope, love, joy, life, and peace. Setting the stage for each chapter is a meditation of sorts written by UNLV and Get Outdoors Nevada (an outdoors advocacy nonprofit) staff. Teeming with resources, the book also devotes pages to practical tools for handling trauma at every stage and at every age. Claytee D. White, Director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV Libraries, prefaces the Love chapter with the following:
“Love is commitment. Las Vegas worked passionately to nurture the world. Our client base—now our friendship base—is truly global. We all collaborated to make the world a better place for everyone. For a time, there was no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ There was just us—all of us as one.”
The book acts as a memory box, gathering and harboring the voices that are grieving—and grateful. It is the perfect extension of the garden, forged collectively to aid in a process that involves forward momentum yet allows for positive reflection on the damage done. Images of individuals kneeling in the dirt, hands deep in the hard work of building something new, are interspersed with close-ups of flowers saturated with color, and angelic mementos hanging from slim branches. This is a way to ferry home the emotional support provided by the garden, particularly for the many who were touched by 1 October, but don’t reside in Las Vegas.
In a quote from the Peace chapter, Joy Rineer, architect and supplier for the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, summarizes what those who love this city have known for a long time and those who watched it from afar finally learned after 1 October.
We are a strong community. We are a small-knit community. We’re a community with incredibly deep roots and identity….We’re big and we’re little all at the same time. People see only the big. They see only the billboards….Yes we’re that. But we’re so much more; we’re this.
The reader can spend hours attempting to interpret exactly what Rineer is referring to when she says this, does she mean the garden? The strength to create it? The community that keeps it alive? In any case, the feeling is what comes across clearly here and in the text as a whole. It is an embrace meant to renew our energies and replenish our soul. It is the type of clasp that Las Vegas is not known for, yet, as this book showcases, our city offers it in spades.
Healing Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
in Response to the 1 October Tragedy
Edited by Stefani Evans and Donna A. McAleer
University of Nevada Press | 104 pages | $19.99
How does one cry for help from these seasonal prisons?
–On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
Merry and bright? Or dark and dismal? Depending on how you holiday, we have you in mind this season with an entirely new zine.
We’re spiking the eggnog to introduce spiced realism and bittersweet fantasy to this problematic season. We’re lighting a bright candle of truth in the frosted darkness of mass consumption and sleep-inducing turkey (if that’s your culture.) We’re drunk with metaphors, celebrating Winter Solstice with the inaugural publication of our fiction-exclusive Dark Holidays Zine.
You’re invited to join us by sending your holiday-themed short stories and flash fiction for review.
Considering that there are over 30 holidays celebrated by seven of the world’s major religions in these winter months, we are looking forward to a variety of interpretations on this theme. Your story can simply take place during this season, or center on a specific holiday event/idea, but before sending work be sure to consider the ways in which it interrogates the gloomier side of this time of year.
At least five of very best entries will appear on our new website in the month of December, with the small-run print zine appearing shortly thereafter. The submission period will be from November 22nd to November 29th (Black Friday) or until we reach a maximum number of submissions, so don’t delay!
We’re feeling the holiday spirit, so we are operating at a loss to bring you this issue; all submissions are free for this round. If you’re interested in a little more than just the standard interaction, you will notice we are also offering several options under “Payments”, one of which is to receive personal feedback from a Witness editor, and a guaranteed response by December 21st (solstice.) You do not need to select any of these options when submitting your work, but thank you for considering our hardworking volunteer editors and readers.
We look forward to reading your dark fiction!
A few things to note:
Please limit your submissions to one short story (up to 7,500 words), or three flash fiction entries (under 1,000 words each) in a single document upload.
Make sure to fill out the forms carefully and include the title(s) in the Title Box on the submission page.
Work should be double-spaced and set in a standard 12-point typeface.
Further information regarding payment and submissions can be found on our main Submittable page.
The Spring 2019 issue of Witness is here!
Fiction by Mark Budman, Miriam Cohen, Samar Fitzgerald, Jameelah Lang, Robert McBrearty, Lance Olsen, Jennifer Sears, Courtney Sender, Eric Severn, and Christine Vines
Poetry by Kazim Ali, Marina Blishteyn, Lauren Camp, Trace DePass, Ricardo Hernandez, Adrian Lurssen, and Gale Marie Thompson
Nonfiction by Amy Collini, David Mura, and Richard Prins
Introducing the winners of the inaugural Witness Literary Awards:
Fiction– Jane Pek (1st place) and John Tait (Runner up)
Poetry– Sophia Stid (1st place) and Renia White (Runner up)
The editors of Witness are pleased to announce the winners and runners-up of the first Witness Literary Awards in Fiction and Poetry.
Poetry judge Hanif Abdurraqib has selected Sophia Stid’s poem “Apophatic Ghazal” as the first-place winner and Renia White’s poem “lump” as the runner-up.
Fiction judge Lesley Nneka Arimah has selected Jane Pek’s story “The Nine-Tailed Fox Explains” as the first-place winner and John Tait’s story “The Kristian Vang Fan Club” as the runner-up.
Winners and runners-up will be published in the spring 2019 issue of Witness.
About the winners:
Sophia Stid is a writer from California. Currently in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University, she has received fellowships from the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She is the winner of the 2017 Francine Ringold Award for New Writers. Her poems can be found in Image, Beloit, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Crab Orchard Review, among others.
Jane Pek is originally from Singapore and now lives in New York. Her work has appeared in the Brooklyn Review, where it was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. She holds a BA from Yale University, where she received the Meeker Freshman Prize for Poetry, and an MFA (Fiction) from Brooklyn College, where she received the Lainoff Prize and the Himan Brown Award for Creative Writing. She is currently working on a novel about an unusual detective agency and the algorithm-aided quest for contemporary love.
About the runners-up:
Renia White is a poet from the east coast. She earned her BA from Howard University and her MFA from Cornell University. She’s taught writing of different forms, has received awards from the Hurston/Wright Foundation and Sonora Review, and has been a finalist for the 1/2 K Prize, the Mary C. Mohr Award, the Pocataligo Prize, and other honors. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Offing, Prelude, Tahoma Literary Review, Slice, Ruminate, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.
John Tait’s stories have appeared in journals such as TriQuarterly, Crazyhorse, Fiction, Prairie Schooner, and The Sun and have been anthologized in The Crazyhorse 50th Anniversary Issue and New Stories from the Southwest. His work has won four national awards including the Tobias Wolff Award and the H.E. Francis Award for Fiction. He is an Associate Professor of fiction writing at the University of North Texas.
Jody Chan, “last summer”
Trace DePass, “[requiem] for colored boys who have considered jumping off the Brooklyn
Bridge & into an eternal wave of depression when Mick Jenkins ‘Waters’ Mixtape wasn’t enough”
Teresa Dzieglewicz, “There are no police in this poem”
Benjamin Grossberg, “In the Days Before Sumter”
Geetha Iyer, “Meaningful Symbols Placed in Meaningful Places”
David Koehn, “Delta 18”
Matthew MacFarland, “Poem I Cannot Title”
Meghann Plunkett, “Beyond Nature”
Sasha Mariel Prevost, “The Survey Asks Have You Ever Been A Victim of Intimate Partner Violence?“
Brian Clark, “St. Claire”
Dewaine Farria, “There is No Morality Outside the Tribe”
Rickey Fayne, “Now and Then”
Michael Kaplan, “Auditioning for Touch”
LaTanya McQueen, “What We Lost”
Shubha Sunder, “Final Exam”
Leah Velez, “Sink Lady”
John Van Kirk, “Missing and Presumed Dead”
Thank you to our judges, congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all who submitted work; we received many more submissions than anticipated, and spent time with so many excellent stories and poems, making this year’s selection process very difficult! We look forward to reading your work for the 2020 contest, which will open for submissions in August.
The editors of Witness are pleased to announce that we are open for submissions to the first annual Witness Literary Awards in Fiction and Poetry.
Submissions to our 2019 contest will be open from August 15 through October 1.
*Note: Contest deadline has been extended to October 7*
One winner in each genre receives $500 and publication in Witness. Runners-up receive $250 and publication in Witness. All contest entries will be considered for publication.
The judges for our inaugural contest are 2018-2019 Black Mountain Institute Shearing Fellows Hanif Abdurraqib (poetry) and Lesley Nneka Arimah (fiction).
About the judges:
Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems The Crown Ain’t Worth Much was released by Button Poetry in 2016, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released to critical acclaim in November 2017 by Two Dollar Radio. His next projects are Go Ahead In The Rain, a book on A Tribe Called Quest due out in 2019 by University of Texas Press, and They Don’t Dance No Mo’, due out from Random House in 2020.
Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. She has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award and the Caine Prize, and a winner of the African Commonwealth Short Story Prize and an O. Henry Award, and other honors. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GRANTA and has received support from The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, and MacDowell, among others. She was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 and her debut collection What It Means When a Man Falls From The Sky won the 2017 Kirkus Prize. She lives in Minneapolis and is working on a novel about you.
For contest guidelines, and to submit your work, please click here: