Submit to our 2019 Literary Awards!

This year's Literary Awards are now open for submissions. Our esteemed guest judges are Kristen Arnett, fiction; Anna Leahy, creative nonfiction, and R. A. Villanueva, poetry.

Winners in each category will receive $1000 and publication in Ninth Letter. All entrants will receive a one-year subscription.

Go here for complete guidelines and to submit your work!

Some Kind of Second Heart: New Bulgarian Writing


Journal – No. 14

Fall/Winter 2010-11 – Vol. 7, No. 2


Sample Spreads




Peter Orner, “Horace and Josephine”
Jane Downs, “Day of the Dead”
Michelle Bliss, “Our Elephant
Margot Singer, “A Natural History of Small-Town Ohio”
Mark Beaver, “The Badmobile”
Arianne Zwartjes, "The Anatomy of Trust or Breaking"


Jedediah Berry, “Ghost 7, Prince 9”
Michael Czyzniejewski, "The Amnesiac in the Maze”
Matt Bell, “Meshach, Meshach, Meshach”; "Rohan, Rohit, Roho"; "Virgil," Virotte," Vitalis"
Mary Miller, “Eureka, CA”
Roy Kesey, “Cairn”
Graham Arnold, “Sushi for Fish”


Paula Bohince, “The Bracelet”
Traci Brimhall, “To My Unborn Daughter”; "Parable of the Heroes"
Myron Ernst, “Invitation to a Pilgrimage in Winona, Western Kansas”
B. K. Fischer, “Liars Hall of Fame”
Eileen G'Sell, “'Little Boy,” “In Order to Form a More Perfect Union”
Jessica Goodfellow, “The Blind Man's Wife Makes a List of Words She Must No Longer Use”; "On Getting Bifocals"
Jenny Hanning, “Litter”
William Wenthe, “Consider the Hagfish”; "For the Coming Catastrophes"
Carol Guess, “Recital, King of Prussia, PA”
Lo Kwa Mei-en, “The Body that Has Something to Say”
Kristen Orser, “In the Miniature Chamber”
Charlotte Pence, “Bardo”
Catherine Pierce, “Any Escape Hatch”
D. A. Powell, “A Guide for Boys”; "Landscape with Temple, Mosque, and Little Crosses"
Matthew Siegel, “Matthew you're leaving again so soon”
Casey Thayer, “Our Parish of the Perpetually Lazy”
Kara van de Graaf, "Poem in the Eardrum"; "Poem on the Verge of Interruption"

Special Features

Allan de Souza, "Lies of the Land"

William Gillespie, "Newspoem"

Where We’re @

Jess Thom, “Past the Smokestacks”
Max Somers, “The Art of Being a Hoosier: Working and Writing in the Midwest”

Editor's Note

On behalf of the staff of Ninth Letter I offer sincere thanks to all the friends, readers, and contributors who have offered help and support, in ways financial and otherwise, over the past seven years. Special thanks to the individuals and organizations listed below, and also to the following supporters: Patrick Lane, Mary Morris, Steven Malk, W. Michael Garner, Sander Postol, Amy Sayre-Roberts, Lynn DeFries, Larry Anderson, Susan Fink, and Harmony Neal. Ninth Letter could not continue to exist without you!


Support at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

College of Fine and Applied Arts
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of English
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
LAS Humanities Council
Office of the Chancellor
Office of the Provost
School of Art and Design

Individual Sponsors

Kai and Baron Haber
Robert and Kay Merrick
Richard Powers
Robert Skiba

Melvin A. Skvarla

Raina Bahns 
Joan Golder 
Robert Graves 
Lee Gurga 
Kathleen Harleman
Janice N. Harrington and Robert Dale Parker
Keri Kaeding and Steve Danzer
Audrey Niffenegger
Kai Pham

This project is partially supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council.

Information about supporting Ninth Letter can be found at www.ninthletter.com; all donations and gifts to Ninth Letter are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Art Director’s Note

If you've made it this far into this issue of Ninth Letter, you've already participated in a moment in its design story that cannot be re-created. We tend to think of printed material as dead--fixed in time--but its permanence is an illusion. To be in the physical world is to decay, to change, and to move.

By unwrapping the contents of this issue, you have dislodged the original cover design and set into motion an unpacking of parts that together create a kind of landscape within which the stories, essays, and poems can situate themselves. Neither literal illustration nor wild tangent, the supplements are the results of how our team of designers has further elaborated on the themes, motifs, and subject matter about which the authors in this issue have written.

If you find that eventually the loose pieces have snuck off, and all you're left with is a bound book filled with not much more than page after page of words, well then you've arrived at the point.

Perhaps an anecdote here will better suffice: Over the past year, I've been working on a writing project, which often meant hours of staring at an empty page inside that infamous word processing program, waiting anxiously for the words to come. Hour after hour of burning that interface into my retinas proved to be too cruel a way to do serious writing, so I launched a search for something better. Something less...brute. I somehow stumbled on a program called Omm Writer (available for free at ommwriter.com). The web site calls it "a simple text processor that firmly believes in making writing a pleasure once again." Hey, that's what I want!

When the program launches, the interface looks like an abridged versio of the cacophony of tool palettes and menu bars found in a typical word processing program. You are faced with a gray field that takes over your entire computer screen. There is a dotted line that indicates the writing area, and six black buttons that comprise six basic menus (typeface, type size, background color, ambient sound selection, keystroke sound selection, and file menu). At first, admittedly, the entire package, with its sound effects and Zen mentality, felt a little too much like a new age self help book. Am I really writing this serious essay in a program that plays nature sounds while I type? I almost closed it right away and forced myself back to that other word processing program--until all of a sudden the Omm Writer did something that made me stop cold.

The whole interface dissolved.

You see, when you sit still and stare at Omm Writer, waiting for the words to come, everything that doesn't have to do with the actual act of writing (tool palettes, formatting option, the notion of a "page," etc.) slowly fades away. You are left with emptiness in all directions, without the digital representation of a letter-sized sheet of paper, without a thousand different decisions to make about how your words will look. Writing, here, seems like my ideas have many more possibilities, as if my words might be more exotic--more lovely, even--floating around in this boundless, effortless, beautifully empty space. The cursor blinks at me and I stare back at the visual audacity of simple black words on a white field.

This is all you need. This is all you need...


Current Web Edition: Winter 2019

Tower tarot card

Featuring Kara Vernor, Aiden Baker, Robert Fillman, Natalie Wee, Rhonda McDonnell, Darci Schummer, Colin Pope, Beth Gilstrap, Kevin Hyde, E. Kristin Anderson, Lauren W. Westerfield, Ted Mathys, Kerry Donoghue, Jessica Lynn Suchon, Collin Callahan, and Cheyenne Nimes  


Now Available! Volume 15, no. 2 - Fall/Winter 2018-19

Featuring new work from: Tom Howard, Matthew Gavin Frank, Teresa Dzieglewicz, Leila Chatti, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Whitney Collins, TaraShea Nesbit, and more! Plus: 2018 Literary Award Winners Ashley Farmer, Zachary Hester, and Pascha Sotolongo!

cover, volume 15 number 2


An Interview with Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet TsabariIsraeli-Canadian-Yemeni author Ayelet Tsabari (The Art of Leaving, 2019; The Best Place on Earth, 2013) talks with Brett Ashley Kaplan, Director of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, about her life and work


Call for Submissions

Ninth Letter is accepting submissions of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a special online edition to be published at ninthletter.com in Winter 2019.  Submissions will be open from February 10 to April 8, 2019.

The theme of this issue is Origins. We all come from home, and our associations with those spaces range from the warm and secure to the distant or fearful. Then, as we grow, leave or stay, and move into the world around us, we see our homes from new or distant vantages. Localities grow and evolve, or wilt in a changing global economy. When our cities and homesteads don’t look the way we remember them, have we left those people and places behind, or were we bypassed in their rush into the future? How do our origins transmogrify our explorations of the world? How does both a sense of belonging and detachment – to people, places, things, and the past – inform the decisions we make in our local but also our highly connected lives?

For more info, check out our web edition guidelines.

Featured Writer: Kate Angus

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.