The Ox Around Town

If you were able to attend the recent AWP conference in Minneapolis, we hope that you stopped by the Miami University table. We had a wonderful time meeting and talking with so many talented writers. With so many opportunities to discuss, you may have missed out on something Miami has to offer—we understand how overwhelming AWP is. Here are some highlights of what’s happening in creative writing in Oxford:

Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing
As of January 2016, Miami will now offer a low-residential MFA program for creative writers, in addition to the long-standing Residential Creative Writing MA. Fiction, poetry, screenwriting, CNF, and hybrid form writers are all encouraged to apply. Rolling admissions just opened April 15th and we are eager to get this program in motion!

Miami University Press
Each year Miami University Press publishes one book each of poetry, poetry in translation, and fiction. Their latest publications are Monetized by Alissa Quart (here’s an article from The New Yorker about Quart and her poetry), Fountain by Tote Hughes (read the first seven pages here), and Hafez: Translations and Interpretations of the Ghazals by Geoffrey Squires (winner of the 2014 Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize). Information on the annual novella contest is also available on the press’s website.

Creative Writing at Miami Facebook
Of course, social media is one of the easiest ways to track opportunities and events in Oxford. The Facebook page gives details on readings, open-mics, guest lecturers, and more.

And there’s always us! We accept submissions for poetry, fiction, CNF, and art/new media. Check our guidelines here: And don’t forget to submit to our inaugural Golden Ox contest. Winners in categories of poetry and prose will garner themselves a handsome $100 bill and publication in the pages of OxMag!

-Jess Marshall

Break the Block

This week is spring break here in Oxford, which for us means more time to work on our craft. Of course, everyone may need the occasional nudge to get words on the page. To help ourselves as well as our readers get pens scribbling and keys clacking, here are three prompts for when we’re stuck:


With the weather warming up, it’s a perfect time to try out a walking poem. Besides having a history stretching back to ancient Greece, walking poems are great because you have so many options when it comes to your actual focus: write about the physical act itself, describe what you see, hear, or smell, reminisce on times past, or explore a new space entirely. For this particular prompt, we encourage you to explore the familiar but through an unfamiliar lens.
For example, if you always drive through a certain neighborhood, but have never walked through it, the change could open your eyes to details you’d never notice from behind the wheel. If you take regular walks around a park, reverse your normal path. Just do something that shifts your normal focus! Don’t make this a five-minute jaunt, give yourself at least thirty minutes of foot time.
Most importantly, be sure to turn off all devices (no texting, no music, no nothing). The only exception would be to use your phone as a recording device, which is an excellent option if you want to capture a stream of consciousness.
Write as soon as you can after the walk.


Sometimes when you’re stuck, it’s best to leave your subject to fate. Take a piece of paper and write out twenty random concrete nouns. You can always use the old point blindly to a page technique, or use these:

Bucket Afghan Picnic Rhubarb Christmas Lights
Pillow Leather Boots Fingernail Visitors
Hotel Suburb Collar Balloon Smoke Alarm
Letter Balm Skull Pearl Forest

Once you have your list, cut out each word and fold it up. Throw all twenty folded pieces of paper into a bowl and draw three. These three words all have to be part of the climax of a story (any genre, any length). The only rule is that you must not redraw; you have to commit to those first three words picked and they must somehow be involved in the climax.
A benefit of this prompt is that it puts just enough constraint to allow focus, but still allows for plenty of freedom on how to get there. Also, throw those other seventeen words in a baggie and you can draw another three during another slow writing day!

Creative Nonfiction

This prompt is all about food, and why shouldn’t it be? Food appeals to all senses (the sound of bacon frying, the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, the sight of a deconstructed dish on the plate, the feel of a ripe pear in your hand, and of course, taste). For this exercise, we’re asking you to describe a food and a distinct memory (or memories) around it, but the catch is that you haven’t had the food since childhood.
For some of us, this may be our great-grandmother’s pierogis, fresh conch salad on a family vacation to the Caribbean, or simply French fries from a local greasy spoon that shut its doors decades ago. To get your memory going in the right direction, look at old photos, talk to your family or old friends about holiday feasts, or simply think about what your favorite cereal was (when was the last time you had a bowl of Fruity Pebbles?). When starting out, include all five senses for drafting. Forgive us if we make you hungry.
Another great way to glean specific memories about your childhood treats is to use additional triggers, like listening to the same music your great-grandmother always listened to when she cooked or going to the place where that local greasy spoon used to be. Of course, if you want, you could always simply try out the recipe on your own or go buy a box of sugary cereal and see how your perception of the food has changed.

Happy writing!

-Jess Marshall

Dangerous Places

This week, many of us are preparing for the MEGAA (Miami University English Graduate and Adjunct Association) symposium, “Dangerous Spaces.” This is the twelfth symposium MEGAA has hosted here in Oxford, and features not only many talented members of the Miami community, but several students from other institutions from around the Midwest, as well as two from our graduate partner program at Fudan University.

The theme itself is intriguing, but upon further contemplation, conversation, and reading over the titles of panels and papers, the question centers on the word ‘dangerous.’ Obviously, there are those physically harmful environments which are easily digested as dangerous, but some panels are exploring the hostility in the everyday for many people: race, nationality, domesticity, living with trauma, gender and sexuality, and classrooms. For these areas of interest, we must maintain a positive view—one focused on moving forward.

I expect the symposium to largely use a more optimistic lens on danger, through the idea of the subversive equating progress. Even Socrates saw youths in his time as raucous and without respect. My father, not a fan of my music, knew his father had hated the Beatles, and that his grandfather had hated Sinatra. But each generation’s subversive nature is eventually seen as progress (what would a world without Sinatra or the Beatles sound like?), each foray into danger, a risk for betterment of society.

The MEGAA Symposium begins with breakfast and registration at 8:00 a.m., March 13th, in Room 337 of Bachelor Hall. If you are intrigued by the idea of danger equating with progress, or any of the possible interpretations of “Dangerous Spaces,” we encourage you to join us!

-Jess Marshall

MEGAA Symposium Poster 2015 Version 2

Poster art, “Through Glass Eyes” by Beth Haselby

Goodbye, Binge Guilt

As the Midwestern winter wears on, snow keeps falling, and temperatures wildly fluctuate (but never seem to reach 35°), writers have a great opportunity to do the two things to improve their craft: reading and writing. Sometimes though, we also just want to slip under a cozy blanket on the couch and bask in the light of the television for a good binge session of a favorite show. This can make us feel guilty for not being more productive, not consciously honing our craft. But if we are being emotionally affected by those stories on the screen, aren’t we still learning about ourselves as well as our potential audience? Sometimes we do need to set the writing aside, let our minds rest a bit, but still we feel this undercurrent of shame.

To assuage that feeling, we would like to recommend to all writers (and readers, film lovers, quilt makers, and, well, everybody), Lisa Cron’s TED Talk on the importance of stories. Cron, a writer who has worked in publishing, consulted for major networks, and is currently an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, argues that the power of stories is stronger than simple escape, but the human universal that shapes our decisions and destinies. More than that, she challenges us to reflect more upon our consumption, not to feel guilty about it as long as we are interrogating our emotional arcs as they follow storylines (even those pesky cleaning supply commercials).

So before you curl up under that afghan and start your eight-hour sprint through a few seasons of Friends, take the time to listen to Cron explain to us why we care about Ross and Rachel (and even Joey), and be guilt free.

-Jess Marshall

The Ox Around Town

This past Monday, Rodrigo Toscano performed at Miami University’s Shriver Center, reading from his soon to be published epic poem, Explosion Rocks Springfield. Toscano’s energy, and his clear delight in performing his work, kept the audience enthralled throughout. His opening line and refrain, “The Friday evening gas explosion in Springfield leveled a strip club next to a day care,” was a headline reporting an incident in Massachusetts. After the performance, Toscano relayed that amazingly enough, the daycare happened to be closed for a staff meeting and the manager of the strip club evacuated employees and patrons to a nearby cafeteria when gas was initially detected. Less than twenty people were injured in the blast, and it seemed a minor miracle worth writing about.

Having worked extensively with collaborative forms in the past, Toscano is natural in front of a crowd (and the audience did join in a chant of “Jank!” so he still hasn’t separated himself entirely from improvised collaborative work). Every reading of the startling and stark headline employed different accents and emphasis followed by lines exploring varying perspectives, forms, and rhythms. The audience was engaged for the duration of the performance (his exclamation of another repeating line, “Hi-ho!” made us all snap to attention each time), and Toscano’s Q & A afterward gave further insights to the intricacies of the poem. We know reading his lines will be quite different following the pleasure of seeing him perform, and are eager for Explosion Rocks Springfield’s release.

Speaking of releases, don’t forget to check out our new issue of OxMag, dropping on February 14th. Featuring work from David Ebenbach, Michael Czyzniejewski, James Reiss, Darren C. Demaree, Erica Bernheim, Bret Anthony Johnston, and many more talented writers, it’s sure to be a decadent treat for Valentine’s Day!

-Jess Marshall

Fall 2014 Issue

Lots of changes here at OxMag this fall. New management, new schedule, new shoes. We’re thankful to everyone who has submitted and provided awesome work for this installment of OxMag. Submissions are now OPEN!  

And while you’re submitting your great and amazing writing, check out our writing award, the Golden Ox, new this year!

OxMag Interview w/ 4/16 readers!

The OxMag Interview 




The roster for OxMag’s final reading of the school year (and I’m probably not supposed to say this) features writers and poets I am most excited about right now. Bios not provided. You will be able to snag whiffs of their unsettling grandeur on April 16th at 7pm in Miami University’s Shriver Bookstore.


Do you dream?

I don’t really dream. I used to, very often. But now I fade to blackness every time. I have a good bed, so I don’t often dream.

This week’s dreams:

-ex-lover hugging me overly hard so I could feel in my body, asleep, how compact his body was, in a time crunch while he is annoyed at how long I take to order soup or salad and a cheddar roll

-ex-lover’s new lover breaking into the house begging to sleep with the both of use say no, she becomes very deeply tan and her tan is her embarrassment from a whole-room glow of purple tanning bed light

-everyone tells me my mother is dead and I’m and orphan… “an ORPHAN”, and I ask them to please not say it with such emphasis, as it has just happened.

Parties were only bad in like the fifties because either your neighbor was trying to get your wife or sell you something or buca-buca religious. Now they always suck! I didn’t dream last night because I had a lot of bell pepper cocktail from a keg party. I’m excited for us friends at a best party on a big scale.

Most likely, but I don’t remember them.


How come you didn’t become an inventor?

I’ve invented poems. I create words. Poetry is the best way to invent. Much better than fiction. No one likes fiction writers, anyway.

I didn’t become an inventor because I think you have to be electrically smart to pull this sort of shit off. It takes delusion and belief. I’m not smart at all. I have good instincts. I don’t think instincts are inventive. They’re like leftovers.

Like a baby, like a baby doesn’t know his arms are his until they are, his brain invents the relationship between itself and the arms, not the arms themselves but the relationship, the realizing. I invent hatred every day. And stress. We invent it for ourselves, not to say it’s immaterial. It’s in the too much that all of us should be eating should we be cut wide open.

I’d rather help fix the shit that people invented badly.


Would you ever marry one of your fans?

One of my fans? I don’t know. Probably [Alex] Friedman. I sent him a postcard and he hasn’t sent anything back. He has to work for it.

If I married one of my fans, I would feel very put out by the attention they were giving me. Compliments make me feel really fat.

I hope I’m on that path. But not a fan of mine. A fan of my hunka.

Yes; in fact, I plan to.


What are you reading right now?

I’ve been reading the Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry… Dana Ward, Bruno Latour. Plus lots of disability studies.

I am reading May-Lan Tan. She my one and only. I don’t want to tell you what she’s like because I want you to read her by yourself, and I want you to know what I mean. I don’t ever want to talk about it with you. I want to know you read it. Fuck everyone who ever wrote anything before she did.

I got M Sarki’s Shorter Prose in the mail and it’s signed! Graham Foust’s Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems, always Loren Goodman’s Famous Americans, always always always Patchen, and Joe Wenderoth is buck.

A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley, The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, and tons of  literary criticism about haunted houses and ghosts.


Who would be your literary dream date?

I would say Gertrude Stein. In Paris.

It would be so hard to come up with what to say to a literary date. Writers are so critical and sharp. They’re thinking about what you said and picking it apart.

I think I’d just have to stare at them from across the table and practice blinking. I faint for Diane Williams, Danielle Dutton, and Noy Holland. I love May-Lan Tan. I think I’d want to be the waitress graciously bringing them the wine they need to be geniuses, and that role would better suit. Keep me in the apron around these babes.

I would like to talk to Patchen about putting himself on the line for money to his friends. His letters ask.

Probably Flannery O’Connor: I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go on a date with God. Or maybe F. Scott Fitzgerald, since I’d sell my soul to write like him. I’d settle for a few pointers over dessert.