Journal – No. 12

Fall/Winter 2009-10, Vol. 6, No. 2

Sample Spreads



Creative Nonfiction

Marianne Boruch, Stephan Clark, Sarah Einstein, April Freely, Sarah Klenbort


Cathy Day, Viet Dinh, Ander Monson, Marianne Jay, Benjamin Percy, John Warner


Sherman Alexie, Robert Campbell, T. Zachary Cotler, Matt Donovan, Robin Ekiss, Elizabeth Frye, Christopher Kennedy, Amjad Nasser (trans. by Khaled Mattawa), Benjamin Paloff, Ales Steger (trans. by Brian Henry), A, E, Watkins

Art Feature: Immovable Property (USA)

Amy Balkin, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Sarah Lewison, Laurie Palmer, Brooke Singer
download art feature pdf


Ashley Booth, Aaron Burch, Kathy Fagan, interviewed by Sean Karns

Editor’s Note

Editor’s Note

One of the best things about editing Ninth Letter is the opportunity to work with some of the most talented student designers one is likely to encounter anywhere in the country, or even the world—the downside to this, of course, is that just when you start to know these bright young people, they graduate and leave the U of I/Ninth Letternest. Although we miss our young designers when they go, we’re all incredibly proud of the successful work they do as professional graphic artists, and we like to think they look back on their brief time at Ninth Letter with a similar amount of pride and nostalgia.

To design this issue, we’ve invited back eleven of our graphic design alumni—Brett Tabolt, Kristie Weaver, Ho-mui Wong, Sam Copeland, Mason Kessinger, Becky Nasdowski, Heath Schultz, Rob Mach, Charles Hannon, Chad Kellenberger, and Jennifer Mahanay—all of whom are now putting their mark on the worlds of print and electronic media as design professionals. Though they’re scattered geographically, the magic of Skype, email, and blogging have made it possible for us to share text, images, and ideas almost as easily as if they were still sitting around the big black tables in the Ninth Letterstudio classroom. The work they’ve done here has been extraordinary—and of course, we expected no less.

Because this issue spotlights these alumni designers, it seems fitting also to take a moment to recognize some of our alumni on the editorial side who have recently been according some impressive honors in the writing world. Andrew Ervin, whose debut book of fiction Extraordinary Renditions: 3 Novellas is forthcoming from Coffeehouse Press in 2010, is currently a Resident Scholar at theSouthern Review at Louisiana State University. Lillian Bertram was awarded a 2009 Gaius Charles Bolin Fellowship from Williams College, where she is currently in residence. Ted Sanders received a 2010 Pen/O. Henry Award for his story “Obit,” which originally appeared in the Indiana Review. Andy Frazee’s poetry chapbookThat the World Should Never Again Be Destroyed by Flood was named winner of the New American Press Fall 2009 chapbook contest and will be published in Fall 2009.

Congratulations to these alumni, and to all our editorial and design alums who are making fine contributions to the fields of art, design, writing, editing, and teaching. We’re proud of you all.


Art Director’s Note

From Brooklyn to Washington D.C. to Chicago to Champaign and all the way down south to Makanda, Illinois, Brett, Ho-Mui, Mason, Becky, Heath, Kristie, Chad, Rob, Charles, Samuel and I decided to make this happen. We asked the question: is it possible to work on one project with individuals from five different cities? Well…in your hands, you have the answer.

Taking a sabbatical this semester from teaching, I asked to art direct and work on the twelfth issue of Ninth Letter with alumni from the School of Art and Design who had worked on past issues ranging from the second issue through the tenth. Meeting every week via Skype, we ranted about design, how it affects us, how it affects our audiences, and how it may or may not affect the world in which we live. We deliberated what it meant to be a designer today—what are our responsibilities? What should our responsibilities be? What more should we do? What more can we do? As expected, each of us had our own personal definitions and expectations for ourselves as designers, yet we all concurred that we felt fortunate to be in this field—an ever-changing and demanding field of creativity, communication, and problem solving.

As a means of respite from (and in some cases out of frustration with) their professional lives, each individual willingly decided to work on this issue as an opportunity to collaborate with former peers and to be a part of something cherished from the past. Trying to come to a consensus of direction, we struggled with the line between elegant restraint and dullness, between expressiveness and eye-candy. Deciding upon a quieter, simpler direction, we settled on introducing pockets of visual interpretation for each nonfiction and fiction manuscript. Additionally, we explored individualized forms for authors Ander Monson and April Freely. Stemming from their own content and visions, these works materialized into separate entities, as did our art editorial, “Immovable. Property (U.S.A.),” directed and organized by Assistant Professor Ryan Griffis from the New Media program of the School of Art and Design. (We welcome his participation wholeheartedly!)

For me personally, working with these former students reminded me how rewarding collaboration can be. Having the opportunity to reconnect and work alongside like-minded individuals on a project that we all truly believe in was almost decadent! No longer students of mine, these individuals over the years had grown into my colleagues through their own professional and life experiences. At long last, they are now people of whom I can call my friends. I cannot express my appreciation enough to each of them—for their time, their generosity, and their willingness to work on Ninth Letter once again (without class credit!). I hope you enjoy our efforts.




Jodee Stanley

Creative Nonfiction Editor

Audrey Petty

Fiction Editor

Philip Graham

Poetry Editor

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Art Editor

Ryan Griffis

Art Director

Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud


Sam Copeland, Charles Hannon, Mason Kessinger, Chad Kellenberger, Rob Mach, Jennifer Mahanay, Becky Nasadowski, Heath Schultz, Brett Tabolt, Kristie Weaver, Ho-Mui Wong

Assistant Editors

Ashley Booth, Dana Burchfield, Brian Kornell, Matt Minicucci, Paul Pedroza

Editorial Assistants

Aaron Burch, Blair Croan, Lindsey Drager, Caroline Duda, Eduardo Gabrieloff, Sara Gelston, Baron Haber, Cory Holding, Sean Karns, Melissa Larabee, Kristin McCann, Sara McWhorter, Heather Salus, Max Somers, Eric Tanyavutti, Jessica Thom, Crystal Thomas


Institutional Support at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: 
College of Fine and Applied Arts, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of English, LAS Humanities Council, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, School of Art and Design

Individual Sponsors:
Robert and Kay Merrick, Richard Powers, Robert Skiba

Raina Bahns, Kathleen Harleman, Keri Kaeding and Steve Danzer, Audrey Niffenegger, Melvin Skvarla

This project is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.