Skip to content

It’s Midnight. Do You Know Where Your Inciting Incident Is…?


by O-Dark-Thirty Senior Editor Jim Mathews

Have you ever started reading a short story (or started writing one) where the prose is flawless and the characters believable but halfway through you realize…you’re just reading flawless prose with believable characters? I mean, don’t we already have that in real life (give or take a flaw)? And isn’t that why people turn to fiction? To get something they can’t get from life? Or from a well-written newspaper article?

Read more

Holiday Gift-Giving for the Writer in Your Life: O-Dark-Thirty Editors’ Picks

Managing Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of craft and writing life blog posts that the editors of O-Dark-Thirty will be posting. Senior Editor/Fiction Editor Jim Mathews is leading the charge with three posts for the month of December.

It’s the gift-giving season, and O-Dark-Thirty’s Senior Editor/Fiction Editor Jim Mathews (who also said something about holiday cookies for our upcoming editorial board meeting on Saturday) started a blog post recommending a gift for the military writer in your life. The rest of the editorial staff shared their holiday gift-giving picks as well. Enjoy!

Jim says:

 “If you’ve got a fiction writer in your life — and yes, it may even be yourself – then what better gift than one that makes him/her/you an even better writer?

“Check out these links to a great writer’s tool to which every writer should have access: the Visual Dictionary.  It’s quite useful for slipping in those little details that can often add just enough texture to the image in the reader’s head…even if they don’t understand precisely what a ‘hip and valley roof’ is…or where the “wheelhouse” is on a ship…or what a “ribbed cuff” is on a cardigan…etc., etc — come to think of it, I don’t even know precisely what those things are!

“And if you want something with a bit of heft to wrap and tuck under the tree, you can also order the Webster’s version in hard copy here. And if it’s for yourself, just tell everyone it’s from Santa!”

Nonfiction editor Dario DiBattista adds:

“Moleskine [notebook], soft cover. Comes in tactical colors, if necessary. Able to fit unobtrusively into breast or back pocket. Helpful in taking discreet notes. Bonus: if you’re writing in your Moleskine when your boss comes by, he’ll think you’re doing something very important and won’t volunteer you for extra duties!”

Poetry editor Fred Foote recommends a few books set in Vietnam:

Contributing editor Carmelinda Blagg is into the classics this season. She suggests –

  • The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, paperback), which contains his early stories published as a collection in 1938; and
  • Difficult Loves, a collection of stories by Italo Calvino which includes about a half-dozen wartime stories.This is early Calvino – not as the writer of intricate fables, but as a moral realist with writing that is vivid and beautiful.

Managing editor Jerri Bell frequently gets her best ideas and phrases in the shower, and recommends AquaNotes waterproof pads and pencils with suction cups. They’ll keep the best part of your Great American Novel from sliding down the drain with the shampoo.

She also recommends Mary Lee Settle’s memoir All the Brave Promises: Memories of Aircraft Woman 2nd Class 2146391. Settle, an American woman who enlisted in the Royal Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, served as a communicator and air traffic controller at an air base in England in World War II. Her short memoir provides a different and significant perspective on the wartime lives and activities of the “Greatest Generation.”

And, from Art Editor Mike Fay:

“I’d go with Siegfried Sasson’s autobiographical trilogy under the pseudonym of George Sherston.  I’d also recommend David Jones’ prose poem In Parenthesis.”

The editorial staff of O-Dark-Thirty wishes all of our readers, contributors, and colleagues the very best of the holiday season!

2016 Pushcart Prize Nominations

The Editorial Board of O-Dark-Thirty is pleased to announce our nominees for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. We’re honored to have published such outstanding fiction, nonfiction, and poetry this year! Hearty congratulations to:


Peter Beckstrom – “Playground Patriots” (Volume 3, #3 – Spring 2015)
Matthew Cricchio – “Chewy” (Volume 3, #4 – Summer 2015)


Lori Imsdahl – “Freak Accidents” (Volume 3, #2 – Winter 2015)
Chris Stowe – “One Summer Night” (Volume 3, #4 – Summer 2015)


Caroline Bock – “Father, Found” (Volume 3, #3 – Spring 2015)
Michael Lancaster – “Salt Ponds” (Volume 3, #4 – Summer 2015)

February 2016 Themed Issue Congratulations (Part Two)

Congratulations to the following authors! Their work is forthcoming in the February 2016 women veterans’ themed issue of O-Dark-Thirty/The Report, our online journal and core publication. We’ll be posting work by these women veterans in February 2016 – one almost every day.

We were overwhelmed with the number and quality of submissions for this issue. While we’re publishing more than twice the usual number, we still had to decline many excellent works. We hope to see more submissions from women veterans in the future!


Lisa Wright
Kristine Otero
Ashley Bohn
Brittany Schick
Sarah Blum


Heather Johnson
Nicolya’ Jones
Elaine Little
Elizabeth Unangst
Valerie Bonham
Tessa Poppe
Lisa Wright


Maggs Vibo
Vicki Hudson
Gigi Tharpe
Melissa Thompson
Lucille Reyna
Nicolya’ Jones
Liz Medina
Laticia Brown
Reva Gaines
AnnaLou Jackson
Amanda Clerc
Brandy Williams
Lakesha Green

February 2016 Themed Issue Congratulations (Part One)

Congratulations to the following authors! Their work is forthcoming in the February 2016 women veterans’ themed issue of O-Dark-Thirty/The Review.

The issue will also feature an interview with former Marine Tracy Crow. Tracy is the author of a memoir, a novel, and a writing guide, and the editor of the anthology Red, White & True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present.

We were overwhelmed with the number and quality of submissions for this issue. While we’re publishing more than twice the usual number, we still had to decline many excellent works. We hope to see more submissions from women veterans in the future!


Kate Hendricks Thomas
DeAnna Acker
Tenley Lonzano
Carolyn Schapper
Deborah Fries
Karen Dadey


Liz Ann Stetler
Victoria Rahn
Susanne Aspley
Rachel Brune
Sarah Estime


Anna Weaver
Maggs Vibo
Charlotte Brock
Maggie DeMay
Patricia France
Melissa Poff
Kristine Iredale
Jenny Linn Loveland
Crisann Hanes

Pushcart Nominations

We’ve just made our 2014 Pushcart Prize nominations. If you’re not familiar with the Pushcart Prizes, they recognize excellent writing published in small presses. This is our first set of nominations and we chose one piece each of fiction, Jim Beane’s “Liberty” from The Review Volume 2 #1 (print); poetry, Richard O’Brien’s “Ballad of the Ur Wasp” from The Review Volume 1, #2 (print); and Ruth W. Crocker’s “What the Dog Knew” from The Report (web).

Congratulations and best of luck to Richard, Jim, and Ruth.

Enjambment, via The Economist.

Yes, you read that right. The Economist, that bastion of dry, anonymous British wit, opinion, and snobbery thought on all things economic, today published a few notes on the poetic device enjambment, here.

What could possibly

come next?

Thirty Things….

Over at Booktrust, a British website about all things literary, the writer-in-residence (oh, how I long for that title…..) Matt Haig put this gem listing thirty things being published has taught him.  A worthwhile few minutes of your day, we believe.

Size Matters… or Does it?

The fantastic New York Review of Books is turning 50 this year. As part of their celebration, there is this piece about the personals ads which appear in each edition of the review. (Be sure to follow the embedded link to the NPR story, too.) Aside from the inherent charm of the piece, there is a lesson to be learned. Whether you’re writing a novel or a personals ad or simply tweeting about dinner, every word counts.

A Story About O-Dark-Thirty from The Writer Magazine

Here’s an article about our literary journal, O-Dark-Thirty, from The Writer Magazine.


A literary project features the stories of veterans, their families and friends.

Author Beth Garland had heard of the Veterans Writing Project – a nonprofit offering no-cost writing seminars for veterans and family members – so when she saw that VWP planned to launch a literary journal, she sent in her short story Reintegration. “I wanted very much to convey the incredible dignity and bravery that real soldiers and their spouses who are coping with PTSD or severe injuries demonstrate every day,” she says, “while at the same time revealing how human they are.”

Garland is married to a member of 20th Special Forces Group. She believes American pop culture has romanticized the concept of a soldier’s homecoming. As her narrator in Reintegration observes, “You imagined that after he’d grabbed you up in his arms like Richard Gere did Debra Winger in the end scene of An Officer and a Gentleman, you two would speed to the closest motel and rip each other’s clothes off.”

Readers responded to her story, which appeared in the inaugural issue of the journal O-Dark-Thirty, with gratitude. They were “moved by the fact that reunions aren’t always those lovely images of soldiers hugging their families that we often see in the last twenty seconds of the evening news,” Garland says, “that there’s a lot more to it than that, especially for soldiers who are physically and/or emotionally wounded.”

Editor Ron Capps – a soldier for 25 years – launched

O-Dark-Thirty on Veteran’s Day 2012.

“I think it’s critically important to both integrate the writing by our veterans and their family members into the broader stream of American literature,” Capps says, “and to highlight that it is somewhat separate in that it has influences that other works simply don’t.”

Tone, editorial content

Readers will find humor in the pages of O-Dark-Thirty, along with sorrow and pain, trauma and rage. “There is work in our journal that was written by service members who are recovering from posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain Injury and pretty grievous physical injuries, too,” Capps says. “We also have some work from their caregivers, and you can only imagine what they feel.”


The writers in O-Dark-Thirty range from World War II veterans to soldiers on active duty and to support communities around them. One served in Iraq as an Army Scout medic and now works as an actor in Los Angeles. Another, a clinical therapist, is the daughter of a World War II Army veteran.

“We’ve had a few pieces come over the transom that sort of rang all the bells,” Capps says. He offers Jason Davis’s raw and courageous essay, Brian and Me, as an example. “Our nonfiction editor is a former Marine who fought in Fallujah,” Capps says, “and he wrote on Jason’s piece, ‘Please, please, please publish this.’”

He also points to Grady Smith’s short story Al Gomez. “Grady’s story is so subtle and disarming,” Capps says, “you don’t notice what’s happening until you’re thigh deep in it and past the point of no return. It’s masterful.”

Advice for newcomers

Capps seeks submissions that have nothing to do with the military experience. “The broader the range of topics we can present,” he says, “the better.”

He’d also like to see more writing from family members: “If you’re a military family member – spouse, partner, sister, brother, daughter, son, mother, father, grammy, grampa, grandchild – send us your stuff.”

“A journal of writing by veterans, service members and military family members. We seek quality, literary writing on any topic.” Quarterly, $30. Types of work accepted: Poetry, fiction, nonfiction. Reading period: Year-round. Submission format: Mail or submission manager on website. Contact: Ron Capps, Editor. Veterans Writing Project, 6508 Barnaby St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015.

Melissa Hart is the author of the memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood. She teaches at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon.