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  • Celebrating Chicago-Style!

     Senem’s Coffee & Tea House, Broadway Street


    Marlon, Designer, at Wilde’s on Broadway Street


    Mikaela taking a photo of Super Obama, Broadway Street


    Parker, C.J., Marlon, and Mikaela at Pasta Palazzo on Halsted Street


    Mikaela and Marlon


    Chicago Marathon, Lake Shore Drive


    What happens at 3Elements Review headquarters after submissions are closed? We like to get the publishing party started, that’s what! So last weekend I boarded a Megabus from Des Moines to Chicago, photocopies of submissions bursting against the seams of a faded folder, nearly a hundred paper wings contemplating flight. Excited to be en route to the Windy City, I looked forward to collaborating to make our debut volume a reality.

    When the bus rolled into Union Station a little after 11 pm, I felt accomplished, both having combed through every accepted submission and sneaked in a bit of sleep. Mikaela (Executive Editor) and Marlon (Creative Director) were kind enough to pick up this Iowa girl in their car. I am especially thankful for that because Union Station felt shockingly crowded and strangely surreal.

    Senem's Coffee & Tea house, N Broadway, Chicago

    Already disoriented from an abrupt end to my cramped, muscle-stiffening nap, I emerged haltingly from the bus to an incomprehensible, almost absurd scene. Duffel bags and backpacks plopped from the bowels of the bus, and a fidgety throng of soon-to-be travelers itched and bucked to board one of the massive, sputtering beasts. I don’t believe I could have navigated myself anywhere good in my somnambulant state. I pawed at my luggage and lumbered along as Mikaela led the way through the crowd to Marlon in their car. Even if she hadn’t kindly grabbed my heaviest bag, she could have led me anywhere, and I would have followed—a promise of wine, good conversation, and some actual leg room awaiting me once I reached their home. I pinched myself awake to take in the city lights on the drive toward Lake Michigan.

    Marlon Fowler, designer/developer at 3Elements Literary Review

    The next morning dawned quickly, and we sauntered through the neighborhood to a coffee shop where we edited and wrote, caffeinated ourselves and chatted, organized and classified, plotted and planned for hours, refining our vision and fine-tuning our process for future issues. Industry eventually gave way to weary eyes and general exhaustion, so we celebrated our hard work with a couple of beers and then dinner at a great little Italian restaurant where I splurged on jalapeño gnocchi with Italian sausage (hot stuff!). Everybody else’s food looked appetizing (especially Parker’s cheesecake), but mine was so delectable, the flavor obliterated any other memory of others’ orders. I must thank you, Chicago; I appreciate your consistent ability to satisfy my foodie taste buds!

    Mikaela Shea, Editor-in-Chief, 3Elements Literary Review

    In the morning, Mikaela and I were hopelessly trapped by the marathon, unable to meet the other editors at a planned location, so we hunkered down in one of the only coffee shops accessible to us. We made quick work of what we could accomplish so I could rush off to catch the Megabus back home.

    From left to right, Parker, editor at 3Elements Review, CJ Matthews, Managing Editor at 3Elements Review, Marlon Fowler, designer at 3Elements Review, Mikaela Shea, Editor in Chief at 3Elements Review

    I am riding that bus now, reflecting on the weekend as an autumn sun sets across brittle-bleached cornfields. I confess to a sense of inebriation at the potent concoction of conflicting emotions that effervesce to the surface of my cocktail thoughts: excitement, anxiety, trepidation, and (especially) gratitude. I am thankful for the passion and commitment of my wonderful colleagues. 3Elements is a labor of love. Mikaela Shea and Marlon Fowler of 3Elements Literary ReviewWe work on this literary magazine because we believe in its vision and in the value of the arts—literary and otherwise. I also reserve a heaping helping of gratitude for those who answered our first 3Elements challenge. 2013 Chicago Marathon on Lake Shore Drive in ChicagoWe never imagined we would receive so many artful and varied responses to our prompt—we hoped, but didn’t quite suspend all disbelief until they came pouring in. Now we can barely wait to share the talented writers and artists who fill the pages of our debut issue (to be released on October 31st).  And we’re psyched to see what you’ll do with the elements for the December issue!

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    Process and Prejudice

    I am really prejudiced with where I write. Let me explain.

    I had an amazing teacher, Nami Mun, that wrote an amazing book, Miles from Nowhere. When asked how she writes, she said that she has to write in different spaces for each different story or voice in a story. She went on to elaborate that she would change rooms, desks, or seats when she needed the experience in her writing to change, whether it be a different narrator, style, language choice, or even altogether piece. I really liked this idea. In Mun’s class, not only did she push me in terms of my own revision and process, but she inspired me to try this type of moving around when I’m writing.

    It’s helped.

    I usually write on my laptop even though I have a huge desktop computer that is lovely and state-of-the-art and expensive. It’s my little laptop, though, that is mobile. When I need to be isolated, I find somewhere outside to write. When I need characters to fight against their surroundings, I have to do that myself, so I will write at a coffee shop. I’ve even taken my computer to a bar and written there in order to get the full ambiance.

    And, of course, in my apartment, there are places that are more conducive to writing certain items. If I am writing in a first-person female voice, I cannot write in my room for some reason. That gets written on the couch or at my desk or on the loveseat. Sometimes, it is written on the porch, but not often. First-person male is always written in my room or on the couch–never the desk, never outside. I don’t know why this is. It just is. Third-person can be written anywhere for me, but usually in public spots. I didn’t notice that I gravitated this way in my writing, but after Mun explained her process, I started questioning my own. I think changing areas invigorates the writing.

    “No, I can’t write at this desk. The last chapter was there. I need to find somewhere new.” “No, I must write outside, not inside, because that’s where this story takes place.”

    I am writing a novel that is set in San Francisco (partially). So, I’m going out there in December, meeting the dude, and exploring the places my characters will go. Then, I want to find somewhere new to write these scenes–a new coffee shop, a new corner of my apartment, a new park… it doesn’t matter, as long as it breathes fresh air into my piece.

    So, I would say that I am prejudiced in where I write. I will cross off a writing area on my list once I have completed a draft of a piece in that space. I can return to that place after I’ve explored others, and then it is new again. But, for a few drafts or stories or chapters, I look at that place and know that I cannot write there for some time. Emotionally, it’s out of the picture for a bit of time.

    What about you? Where do you like to write? Hit us up in our comments!

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    Brainstorming with the Elements

    My first class at Columbia College in the Fall of 2011 was a bit strange, because in class, we spent a good deal of time playing word games. We’d line up our chairs in a semi-circle so that everybody could see everybody else, and we’d go around the circle, each student giving a word. Any word. We’d go around and around. “What does that word give you to see? Who sees something for this word?” our professor would ask.

    As strange as it was, during my first class, “clothesline” really got my mind churning. Then we would have to pick a word that evoked some feeling and put that word in a place. I imagined a clothesline, hanging between two dead trees in the country. It was dark and cold, and two shirts hung from the clothesline, flapping like ghosts. “Clothesline” gave me an entire story, and when it came time for us to write, I couldn’t put it down fast enough. That story became what is now my novel.

    I had the idea for 3Elements a year or two before I even moved to Chicago to get my MFA, but in a way, it’s a very similar concept. What does “procession” give you to see? A funeral procession? A trail of ants? A group of prisoners shackled and headed from the prison bus to their new home? A procession of children headed inside from recess?

    What does tandem bicycle give you to see? In most of our submissions, it has been a symbol for a broken relationship – one rider on a two-seater bike. How about a working relationship? Two businessmen on their way to work? A grandfather and his granddaughter headed to a rodeo? A therapist’s idea of curing an angry couple? A rusty tandem bicycle that leans against a rotting garage, entangled in weeds?

    What does ache give you to see? A Charlie horse? A broken heart? A migraine? A phantom limb throbbing? A horseback riding injury? Knowing you’ll never see so-and-so again?

    What I have done in the past is what I have just done here – I took each element, thought about them individually, and made a list of everything I saw or thought of with each word. My list on this blog has been pretty general, because it’s your job to give each word a unique image, metaphor, or meaning.

    In just two days, we will post the brand new elements on our website. Consider trying this approach (list-making) if you are struggling to figure out how to use the elements.

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