Featured Writer #113: Katherine Vaz



Read an excerpt from Katherine Vaz's new novel Above the Salt plus an exclusive interview with the author.


Above the Salt (Flatiron Books/Macmillan, 2023) is based on the true story of the converts to Presbyterianism on the Portuguese island of Madeira who were violently driven into the sea. John Alves grew up in jail with his mother, Serafina, condemned to die for heresy (and later granted a reprieve). The following excerpt covers John’s passage from Trinidad to New York to the haven of Jacksonville and Springfield, Illinois, where he and his fellow exiles were adopted. John will court a fellow Madeiran, Mary Freitas, at the Lincoln household before betrayals and the Civil War upend the rest of their lives. Read the full excerpt and interview here!


An Interview with Anders Carlson-Wee



Tyler Robert Sheldon talks with Anders Carlson-Wee about Disease of Kings (October 2023). 



Order Latest in Print: Spring/Summer 2023

Journal – No. 8

Fall/Winter 2007 – Vol. 4, No. 2

Sample Spreads




Dan Chaon, Carlos Béjar Portilla, Eric Vrooman, G. C. Waldrep, Craig Foltz, Jill Summers, Sheila Heti, William Gaddis, Steve Almond, Yan Lianke


Christine Hartzler, Kathleen Rooney, Jane Ashley, Matt Roberts, Travis Kurowski**, Kurt Caswell, Diane Comer


Abraham Smith, Cal Freeman, Frank Matagrano, Eileen G’Sell, Frankie Drayus*, Sîan B. Griffiths, Bob Hicok, Nick Courtright, Douglas Kearney, Matt Bondurant, Keith Montesano, Jim Daniels, Kevin González, Molly Brodak, Rose Black, Sarah E. Smith, Sasha West, Thomas Reiter, Weston Cutter

Art Feature

Anthony Petullo: In the Eyes of an Outsider

Editor's Note

*Frankie Drayus's poem "Dear Mr. Denby" appears in this new issue with some printing errors. We offer our apologies to the poet and to our readers, and will reprint this fine poem correctly in our next issue. A correct version can also be viewed as a pdf here.

**Travis Kurowski's essay "Basquiat and Six Uses of Space" appears in this issue with some text missing. A correct version of the essay can be downloaded here.. "Basquiat and Six Uses of Space" will also be reprinted in its entirety as a chapbook, which will be mailed to subscribers and customers who purchase this issue. We're very proud of this essay and apologize to the author and our readers for the error.

It’s closing in on winter, and if you’re looking for a good read to curl up with next to the fire, I think you’ve already got your hands on it. This issue of Ninth Letter is full-to-bursting with funny, poignant, weird, lovely, spellbinding writings—some are poems, some are stories, some are essays, and more than a few fall into those unnamed spaces between the genres that we at 9L love so well. Have questions or comments about what you find in our pages? We’d love to hear from you at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or comment on our blog.

Our electronic doppelganger ninthletter.com uploads new content on a regular basis now, so be sure to check back there frequently, or sign up online to receive email updates. Recent audio/video podcasts include interviews with Chicago-based author Amy Güth, punk/folk singer-songwriter Bitch, and Native American filmmaker James Fortier. We are also now accepting submissions of video art projects for ninthletter.com’s “Featured Artist” section, and guidelines for this can be found at the web site as well.

As always, we couldn’t keep up the good fight for art and literature without the support of many wonderful people on campus and in the community. On behalf of the staff of Ninth Letter, I offer our thanks to the following people and organizations:

Institutional Support

  • The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership
  • College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Critical Research Initiative Program
  • Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • LAS Humanities Council
  • Office of the Chancellor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • School of Art and Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Individual Sponsors


  • Robert Skiba
  • Robert and Kay Merrick


  • Kathleen Harleman

And thanks always to our faithful readers, as well as to new friends encountering Ninth Letter for the first time. Enjoy this new issue, and many more to come.


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



Jodee Stanley

Creative Nonfiction Editor

Steve Davenport

Poetry Editor

Tyehimba Jess

Art Editors

Joseph Squier and Nan Goggin

Art Directors

Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud and Daniel Goscha

Assistant Editors

Lillian Bertram, Christine Bryant Cohen, Adam Deutsch, Andrew Ervin, Aaron Madrigal, Lara Mann, Harmony Neal, Juan Sánchez, Ted Sanders, Amy Sayre-Roberts, Leslie Singleton

Editorial Assistants

Jaime Brunton, Russell Evatt, Rebecca Faught, Cory Holding, Bryan Keyes, Arley McNeney, Jackie May, Christy Scheuer


Samuel Cop[eland, Charles Hannon, Elise McAuley


Travis Austin, Aditya Bhargava, Samuel Copeland, Kelly Cree, Lauren Emerson, Sarah Esgro, Lauren Ferguson, Adam Fotos, Mark Hauge, Sarah Kowalis, Jonathan Lopez, Elise McAuley, Jessica Mullen, Archana Shekara, Brett Talbot, Ho-Mui Wong

Featured Writer #112: Michele Morano

Fuori di Testa

A crush starts in the back of the throat, at the edge of a swallow, attraction meeting a hint of repulsion like a wave rolling forward even as it pulls back, like “uh-oh” and “here we go again,” again being the operative word. Crushes are iterative: with each new one, you’ve been here before, never mind that you’re forty, then fifty, then fifty-five years old and happily partnered; the crushes keep coming on people you know and people you don’t. Read more...


2023 Regeneration Contest Winners


Ninth Letter is excited to announce the winner, honorable mention, and finalist of our 2023 Regeneration Literary Contest. Special thanks to contest sponsor, the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, and to our guest judge Dr. Craig Santos Perez. The winning story will be published in print and online in December 2023, and the honorable mention essay will appear online. Thank you to all of our submitters, finalists, and readers.  


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