Contributor Rhea DeRose-Weiss On The Catch-22 Of The Writing Life

Rhea DeRose-Weiss recently sat down with Fourteen Hills fiction editor Amy Glasenapp to discuss her story from issue 16.1, "The Neon Artist." Here, she offers insight into her craft practices and talks about how hard it can be to communicate with an audience while at the same time trying to distance yourself from it.

14H: What does it look like where you write? What can and can’t you tolerate in that space?
Rhea DeRose-Weiss: Right now, I write in my bedroom, which is about the size of a shoebox. I’m not a writer who has a routine; I don’t do the things we’re told we need to do -- like write every day, have a routine -- but I’d like to develop that. I’m usually just sitting at my tiny desk in front of my laptop, sometimes with music, sometimes not.

14H: Do you research first or do you just sit down and write, filling in information gaps later?
D-W: Well, I normally just sit down and write. I don’t usually write stories like The Neon Artist, where I’ve incorporated history from past eras, and I was actually trying to remember how that actually happened. I don’t remember what came first. I think the idea of the neon artist came to me and then I went to the library to do some research. I wrote the first version of the story several years ago in grad school. Then I went back to it and revised it and sent it out.

14H: Have you ever attempted a longer work, or do you primarily write short stories?
D-W: I primarily write short stories. I have attempted to write longer things but haven’t finished anything. There’s an idea I’m kicking around for a longer piece. It’s just an idea at this point.

14H: Is writing something you’d like to do professionally?
D-W: At this point, writing fiction is almost dangerously close to being a hobby, but I’d like it to be more of an elemental part of my life, because it’s pretty important to me. A lot of who I am is wrapped up with the idea of being a writer. I’m in my second year of teaching and still just figuring it out. My goal would be to get that balance between teaching and maintaining the regular practice of writing. I would like to put out a collection of stories.

14H: Were you inspired by any particular artists or artistic movements while you were writing The Neon Artist?
D-W: Inspiration? It’s hard to remember, because it’s been a few years. Some inspiration came from my own life and being in school for writing. I remember feeling like writing is a dying art form. Also feeling like the things that make me a writer are also the things that alienate me from the rest of the world. It’s sort of a catch-22, trying to communicate with an audience while distancing myself from people.

You can read the full interview here. You can also watch Rhea perform her story at the release party for issue 16.1 right here.

Rhea Derose-Weiss grew up in North Carolina but does not have a southern accent. She moved to San Francisco in 2004 to complete a Master's in Creative Writing from a school that no longer exists. She now teaches at The Academy of Art University, where she attempts to instill in students the importance of narrative arc and the danger of the comma splice. "The Neon Artist" is the title story of a book-length collection in progress. 

-Editors, Fourteen Hills


Announcing A Call For Submissions For The Michael Rubin Book Award


The San Francisco State University Book Series annually publishes the fiction or poetry of students enrolled at SFSU whose work shows exceptional accomplishment and promise. The 2010 Michael Rubin Poetry Book will be selected through an open competition by an independent judge. Funding for the SFSU Book Series is provided by the students of SFSU through the Instructionally Related Activities Fund. The competition judge for 2010 is widely acclaimed writer Terese Svoboda.

  • The winning manuscript will be published by Fourteen Hills Press and the SFSU Creative Writing Department.
  • In 2010, the award goes to a prose manuscript. In 2011, poetry. 500 copies will be printed of the winning prose manuscript or 300 copies of the winning poetry manuscript are printed.
  • The author will receive 50 complimentary copies one month after the release of the book. The author will also have the opportunity to purchase additional copies of the book at a considerable discount.
  • Fourteen Hills Press will layout the book and decide on a cover design in cooperation with the author of the manuscript.
  • Fourteen Hills Press will organize a release party in San Francisco scheduled immediately before the release of the book.
  • The book will be distributed through Small Press Distribution (spdbooks.org) and through the consignment efforts of the Fourteen Hills Press staff.

  1. You must be currently enrolled as a student at San Francisco State University.
  2. You must submit your manuscript of prose (or poetry depending on the year) on standard 8.5 x 11 paper.
  3. Your manuscript must be at least 45 pages in length and no more than 175 pages in length.
  4. The first page of your manuscript must be a cover letter. The cover letter must include your name, the title of your manuscript, your phone number, mailing address, email, and SFSU student ID number.
  5. You must include a table of contents if there are multiple works within your manuscript.
  6. You must include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). If you want your manuscript back, make sure there's enough postage on it. If you don't include enough postage on it, we reserve the right to dispose of your manuscript. If you don't want your manuscript back, include a standard letter-sized SASE.
  7. Your submission materials should be sealed in an envelope. The envelope should be labelled "Michael Rubin Book Award Submission - Date".
  8. No revisions to the manuscript will be accepted after submission.
  9. Individual works may have been previously published in magazines or journals, but the entire manuscript must be unpublished. Manuscripts that have been previously self-published are ineligible.
  10. You must have no prior relationship to the judge. This year’s judge is Terese Svoboda.

Learn more about past winners at our blog post about the history of the Michael Rubin Book Award.

And stay tuned for more updates about the Michael Rubin Book Award as we get closer to the submission deadline, which, again, is April 15. Every SFSU student currently enrolled is eligible. We hope to receive a lot of great submissions this year.

- Daniel Lichtenberg, Fourteen Hills Editing Manager


New Standards: The First Decade of Fiction at Fourteen Hills

New Standards: The First Decade of Fiction at Fourteen Hills
Purchase the anthology at Small Press Distribution for $15.00

"It’s always the same. Say hello to television. Say hello to advertising. Say hello to the suburbs. Say hello to the three-piece suit. Say hello to the adjustable thirty-year mortgage. Say hello to Frank Sinatra, to the U.S. Army , to Jesus Christ Your Personal Savior—but whatever you do don’t say hello to this, this alien thing—this existence that to us marks the unattainablility of the gullible entity writhing inside the family unit, the one we knew so well, that zero, that nothing, that organism trying to find sustenance—this alien thing that helps you achieve the unattainability of the departed."

So writes Christopher Sorrentino in “Julie Halo,” one of the twenty featured writers and stories in New Standards: The First Decade of Fiction at Fourteen Hills, the first anthology from our international literary magazine. The anthology, published by Fourteen Hills Press in 2005, tackles themes of suburbia, family, and misguided love, while skirting the edge of this so-called gullible “unattainability.” The compilation features many of our most celebrated contributors, including: novelist Pam Houston; Stephen Elliot, whose recent memoir The Adderall Diaries has received a flurry of critical acclaim; San Francisco State University professors Peter Orner (The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo), Robert Gluck (Denny Smith), and Nona Caspers (Heavier Than Air); as well as narrative writers Lawrence Braithwaite (Wigger) and Joanna Howard (Frights of Fancy).

Just what kinds of “new standards” does Fourteen Hills Press offer? We’ve got everything from American expatriates fighting off cockroaches and Communists in Bulgaria, to a young lover trying to edge his way out of his mistress’ complicated love life, to a lost girl awakening from amnesia, only to find that her hometown is filled with conflicting street signs, and even teenage twins navigating that intricate space between emotional and familial love. Regardless what issue the stories were originally published in, where the stories are set, or what unique style they inhabit, they all share a common thread: they challenge us to reexamine ourselves and our culture.

Sometimes these reexaminations come in the form of deconstructing one’s life to reveal the nasty surprises lurking just beneath the surface. Nicholas Montemarano’s narrator notices this while confronting his family members at the end of their lives, in “Pretend”:

“The point you wanted to make about life—as I see it now—was that regardless of what a nice lily-hearted person might be, there will always be someone out there ready to pounce, and that the same things that may get you into heaven will certainly get you a swift kick in the ass in this world.” (p. 324)

Fourteen Hills readers should not be scared off by the intensity of these excerpts. The stories featured in our New Standards anthology also depict the other half of life’s complexity; love, connection, and the promise of something real.

Want more?
New Standards: The First Decade of Fiction at Fourteen Hills
Purchase the anthology at Small Press Distribution for $15.00


If we haven’t yet sold you on the New Standards anthology, stay tuned for our March 25th event, an evening that features some of the fabulous Fourteen Hills contributors, all of them acclaimed writers in their own right.

The details so far:

Fourteen Hills Celebrates the New Standards Anthology: A Fundraiser
Join the Fourteen Hills Staff along with Nona Caspers, Peter Orner, and other guest readers (TBA) for a reading of and discussion about fiction.
Admission fee of $10 includes a copy of the anthology ($15 value)
Thursday March 25th, 7:00pm
The Poetry Center
Humanities Bldg, Room 512
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
RSVP on Facebook

See you there. Stay tuned on the blog when we'll be asking our readers to post questions for us to ask the authors on the panel!

- Julia Jackson, Fourteen Hills staff


From The Archives: A Valentine’s Day Treat From Kim Addonizio

Former Fourteen Hills contributor and recent Pushcart Prize winner Kim Addonizio makes drinking a Pacifico beer sound incredibly lascivious and illicit — like an affair — in this poem that first appeared in issue 4.2:


God it’s sexual, opening a beer when you swore you wouldn’t drink tonight,
taking the first deep gulp, the foam backing up in the long amber neck

of the Pacifico bottle as you set it on the counter, the head spilling over
so you bend to fit your mouth against the cold lip

and drink, because what you are, aren’t you, is a drinker — maybe not a lush,
not an alcoholic, not yet anyway, but don’t you want

a glass of something most nights, don’t you need the gesture
of reaching for it, raising it high and swallowing down and savoring

the sweetness, or the scalding, knowing you’re going to give yourself to it
like a lover, whether or not he fills up the leaky balloon of your heart —

don’t you believe in trying to fill it, no matter what the odds,
don’t you believe it still might happen, aren’t you that kind of woman?

*fans self* Why don’t you share that one with your sweetheart this weekend, and see what happens. You may also like Addonizio’s other contribution to issue 4.2, “No More Poems About The Marriage.” Remember, you can order back issues at any time through our website.

Have a great weekend, friends. Spread your love of words far and wide!

-Leanne, Fourteen Hills assistant poetry editor


Contributor Tsering Wangmo Dhompa On Reading Poems in the Bathroom and Other Topics

Hollie Hardy, Poetry Editor of Fourteen Hills, sat down with Tsering Wangmo Dhompa in her San Francisco home to talk about a wide range of topics. Here are a few highlights from the interview:

14H: Can you talk a little bit about your poem “From Catabolism” published in Fourteen Hills, Vol. 15.2? I looked up “catabolism” in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and it is defined as: “the part of metabolism involving the break down of complex molecules.” The poem begins, “A body is not always everything we are taught to expect…”  How does this title illuminate the themes of that particular set of poems?

TSERING: It is part of a larger set of poems. Initially I was going to title the book “Catabolism” because it was sort of this break down of certain ideas. What is perception?  What is truth?  That was my intention. But then I just realized that it was too confining of a title and also it makes me think too much. And then I was getting confused about the meaning and its relation with the poems. So then I made it a title of a smaller group of poems.

The poems in this group have to do with the process of thinking. Stemming from a particular verse in a Buddhist text that talks about how we see. The epigram is: “But if the mirage is the mind itself, what then is perceived by what?” The guardian of the word himself had said that mind cannot be seen by mind.

So in Catabolism, I sort of weave around the idea of how we say things, how we come to say what we say. They are sort of definitions but then they are reiterated. So we say it many times. Also the notion that learning to say correctly is no longer necessary. The notion of perfection, does that exist? All these different thoughts. How do you instruct the mind?

14H: What is your revision process like?

TSERING: I’ve become a little better about revision. I think I’m learning to be more patient. It seems like you need to read [a poem] so many times in order to really see each word.

So I have a few pages stuck on my wall and I’ll read them when I’m just walking around. Because when I’m reading on the computer, I’m reading with the intent to find something. But when it’s on the wall I’m sort of on the way into my closet and I’m just brushing my teeth. And then I’ll take them to the bathroom. I have two in the bathroom now. When I’m in the bathroom I’m just vacantly looking at them.

So there are different levels of concentration, perhaps, different methods of reading. And when I feel that, okay fine, I don’t think I should change anymore because then the whole meaning changes, you know, if you do too much, then I don’t know what the poem is about. So then I sort of consider it done for now.

14H:  Do you ever get stuck with writer’s block? And if so, how do you unstick yourself?

TSERING: Oh I get writer’s block quite often, but I don’t think of it as writer’s block really. I just expect it. How can you just sit down and expect to just write away?

So, if I cannot write, I don’t. I don’t sit and force myself. I just read. Or I do something else. I’ll go for a walk. Or I’ll think about certain things. Very often I’ll just read. Somehow all of it influences. Every day I try to write something in the morning. Whatever it might be.

To learn more about Tsering’s life in Tibet and Nepal, and the many conflicting meanings the word “home” has for her, read the full interview here

Check out her poem From Catabolism, published in Fourteen Hills and picked up by Verse Daily, here.

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa was raised in India and Nepal. She received her MA from University of Massachusetts and her MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Her first book of poems, “Rules of the House,” published by Apogee Press in 2002 was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards in 2003. Other publications include “In the Absent Everyday” (Apogee Press 2005), two chapbooks, “In Writing the Names” (A.bacus, Potes & Poets Press) and “Recurring Gestures” (Tangram Press). Tsering lives in San Francisco.

-Editors, Fourteen Hills


Truong Tran's "lost and found" at the Mina Dresden Gallery, Tomorrow Night

Dear Readers,

It's our pleasure to bring to your attention the first time visual artist Truong Tran will be exhibiting his work to the public in a dedicated solo show.

You may remember Tran's artwork from Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review issue 15.1 or you might recognize his work as the same as the artwork on the homepage of our website, 14hills.net. Or, even better, you might've never heard of his work before now.

Tomorrow night, Truong Tran's first public exhibition, a solo show that will last the entire month of February, will have its opening reception.

Mina Dresden & Kearny Street Workshop Present:
Truong Tran's lost & found
Mina Dresden Gallery
Opening Reception
February 5, 2010
7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
312 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

From the gallery:
Truong Tran is committed to making art accessible through the creative reuse of everyday materials. His process includes merging disparate objects, forcing them to compromise and accommodate one another in their process of becoming something new, something difficult and beautiful. In his work, Tran explores themes of surfaces, containers and the self-portrait. Tran uses wax, thread, light, color and found objects as a way of constructing veils that must be lifted to arrive at the meaning embedded within. He uses boxes to represent the containers that hold society's expectations of identity and self. It is here that he reinterprets and challenges these expectations and the construct of the self-portrait.

Artist bio:
Truong obtained his MFA from San Francisco State University and has received numerous honors including the Fund for Poetry Grant, three San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants, and The Intersection for the Arts' Writer in Residency Fellowship. He has shown his work locally at Intersection, APAture, Kearny Street Workshop, and A. Muse Gallery. He has published many volumes of poetry, most recently Four Letter Words, Apogee Press. He is currently the Visiting Professor in Poetry at Mills College. Of his visual art, Truong says, "they are poems that won't fit on a page or in a book." Visit http://gnourtnart.com

There will definitely be at least a few Fourteen Hills staff members in attendance. You can count on it.

-Editors, Fourteen Hills

What’s In A Name: The Genesis of “Fourteen Hills”

Back in October, we started wondering how the SFSU review came to be named after the picturesque hills in its hometown. Michelle Carter, a member of our esteemed creative writing faculty, brought to our attention the quote that inspired the name:

“The greatness of Rome is somehow associated – whether correctly or not – with the fact that it was built on seven hills. How much greater, then, should San Francisco be, standing on fourteen hills? … The answer, so it seemed to me, surely must be ‘Twice.’”

That’s Scottish writer A.G. Macdonell quoting the American Railroad Guide in his 1935 book, A Visit to America. Macdonell continues his ruminations on the wonders of San Francisco on the next page:

“I think that the compilers of that Railroad-Guide were lamentably deficient in the art of advertisement. Why did they stop at the comparison with Rome? Is not San Francisco therefore to be reckoned as fourteen times as great as either of them, or better still, seven times as great as Athens and Troy put together?”

Given that some believe San Francisco has as many as seventy-four hills, it seems that our city is exponentially as great as any other city in the world. We’re beginning to work on making the Spring issue of Fourteen Hills just as great right now.

You can read more from A.G. Macdonell’s book here.

And if you’re a fan of Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun and many other wonderful things, she was one of the original staff members of Fourteen Hills. We’ve heard that she was, in fact, the one to give the magazine its name. Thank you Frances!

-Leanne M., Fourteen Hills staff