Hothouse’s Mix for Summoning the Muse


Many of us lead hectic lives—and inevitably must brave the ups and downs of our professional and/or personal lives while toiling away on a short story, book or chapbook, et cetera. For the most part, I’m incapable of weaving beautiful words the moment I plop down on my hard desk-chair. First and foremost I need to prune my scattering thoughts and focus on my story, my characters and their conflicts—and in order to do so, sometimes I take pensive walks (but only when the Texas heat is bearable) or better yet, listen to music.

It’s difficult not to be a tad persnickety about music—not to mention music that’s meant for whirling the creative wheels in your brain. Whereas some writers are keen on listening to smoother varieties of music, like Chopin’s Nocturnes or Henry Mancini’s jazz soundtracks, for example—others may prefer the jarring sort, like rock or metal. (Stephen King comes to mind.)

Needless to say, these are only the most obvious examples—there’s a myriad of musical genres out there, many of which I probably haven’t even heard of—that other writers may appreciate when inspiration-hungry.

As of now, I’m working on a short story with a bleak, wintry backdrop, so I’ve had to persuade myself against listening to smooth jazz (while writing), which played a tremendous role for my summer ’16 novel—but doesn’t mesh well with the minimalist prose style I’m currently dabbling in. So for the time being, I’m substituting Bill Evans with the atmospheric, haunting soundtracks of Her (2013) and The Revenant (2015)—give them a listen!

Lastly, I thought I’d ask the Hothouse staff about their own preferences. Each of us seems to harbor unique tastes, so the playlist I put together has a fascinating, quilt-like aesthetic that we hope you’ll appreciate.

Elizabeth Dubois

Most of my writing/musical choices depend on what I’m working on. Lately, “Lovely You” by Monster Rally has been putting me in the right headspace. Most of Monster Rally’s stuff is an uncanny blend of whimsy and melancholy. 

Meredith Furgerson

I often find that writing in a darker setting sparks my creativity. I’ve been getting back into ’80s goth, new wave music now that it’s October with bands like Bauhaus and Joy Division. If I had to pick one song it would be “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” by The Smiths.

Olivia Arredondo

Bloom by Beach House is an amazing album to listen to while writing. All the songs flow together perfectly, and their sound is so whimsical–it’s like being in one long, dream sequence that, for me, really facilitates the creative process. It just gets me in the right head space, just super relaxed and ready to let my mind wander freely. I could listen to them forever.

Holly Rice

My music choices tend to change depending on what I am writing. However, my go-to song tends to be “The Call” by Regina Spektor. I love the way the song builds as the artist describes a single person’s idea growing into a group of people’s actions. It’s a soothing song, and the lyrics remind me of the writing process.

Olivia Zisman

Because I write a lot of fantasy fiction, which (for me) requires world-building and fast-paced, action-packed but character-driven plots, I have two playlists I listen to exhaustively on Pandora: one, a Heart of courage station, and two, a Lord of the Rings station. The first gives me the feeling that I am about to walk into battle, and the second makes me think I am stepping into some eco-friendly hobbit hole, meeting the faun Mr. Tumnus outside of a wardrobe, entering through the Room of Requirement, or falling down a rabbit hole with a very Luna Lovegood-esque Alice. Definitely recommend!


~Mika Jang, Fiction Editor 

A Weekend at the Texas Teen Book Festival

On Friday, I got the opportunity to volunteer for the Texas Teen Book Festival at St. Edward’s University. My friend and fellow “book person” Madison and I helped BookPeople unload boxes of Young Adult novels, set up the store and panels, and organize the novels by author.


On Saturday, we attended a panel with authors Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and Renée Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn). When asked about their thoughts on “Beauty and the Beast” and the upcoming live-action remake of the animated classic (new stills were released the other day, y’all, and I was happy-dancing like Snoopy around my room), both authors critiqued Belle giving up her dreams of having adventure outside of her quiet village to, instead, be with her captor.


While I appreciated their critique, I may as well have had cotton in my ears because that is my all-time favorite Disney movie! (The book, however, is a different story for another day, ha!)

We also listened to the closing keynote given by Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha trilogy, who talked about the ways in which we can defeat the stereotype that comes with reading Young Adult fiction.



I would definitely recommend people of all ages to go to next year’s TX Teen Book Fest, but keep in mind how jam-packed the event will be! Expect to have your books signed by two authors, not five. Know that, although the book stacks in the store look like they could be stairways to Heaven, the books go quickly. And the t-shirts? Don’t get me started. Those will be completely sold out within the first few hours of this ALL-DAY event (clearly, still a little bitter about it).

As for next year, I think I’m not going to bring any books at all (*collective gasp* sacrilegious, I know) and instead just enjoy hearing the authors talk. That means no rushing to the signings, no balancing half my height in books within my arms—NO stress! Simply sitting at the panels and absorbing their advice like a sponge (-bob, pre Mrs. Puff’s Boating School).


With that said, some of the signings were totally worth the wait—like, for instance, when I got to see the look on Laini Taylor’s face after I told her my absolute favorite page in her whole series was pg. 134 of Dreams of Gods and Monsters. The main character Karou and her friend Zuzuna are playing a game of Three Wishes, and Karou responds with: “World peace,” to which Zuzana rolls her eyes and says, “If it doesn’t include food, it’s a lie.” True girl, true.



(*raises proverbial glass*) To food! Er, I mean, to ending the YA stigma!

~Olivia Zisman, Poetry Editor

Hothouse’s Hottest Fall Semester Reads


Have you ever judged someone solely by their taste in music, clothes, or even (gasp) literature?

You’re probably thinking “of course not, that would be judgmental and insensitive!”

Well, you sit on a throne of lies.

Because we all do it! This month I asked each member of the editorial team for their most recent “ohmygosh-this-book-is-so-good-I-couldn’t-put-it-down” moment, and they happily obliged. Unbeknownst to this group of wonderful ladies, what their answers give us is not just a list of fantastic literature, but also a short glimpse into their personalities and values. This special edition of Hothouse’s Hottest Reads outlines this month’s fictional favorites and what these books say about their readers.


1. Duplex by Kathryn Davis

Recommended by: Elizabeth Dubois, Editor-in-Chief

A bewildering and fun read, Duplex is a fantastical story, crossing multiple genres such as: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and magical realism. Davis’s suburban setting is far from boring; filled with robots, sorcerers, and multiple worlds, this work of beautiful prose will encapsulate you. Sometimes you may not know what is happening, who is speaking, or if they even exist, but this disorienting narrative will make you think. In the words of Elizabeth: “Duplex is impossible to describe; is the whole novel a metaphor or not? You decide.” Wow. This suggestion tells us that Elizabeth is complex, deep, and quite frankly, a little strange. (in a good way!)

41zk-s6lel-_sx317_bo1204203200_2. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Recommended by: Mika Jang, Fiction Editor

An instant New York Times Bestseller, Colorless was published in 2013 in Japan and sold one million copies in a month. This heart-wrenching bildungsroman follows the past and present life of Tsukuru Tazaki, an alienated and disenchanted soul. Tazaki is forced to face the people who have rejected him in his past, one by one, as he journeys in search of fulfillment, identity, and truth. With his unique style (merging realism with mysticism) Murakami presents another must-read. Mika shares her connection with the story by saying: “Colorless is equal parts mystery and melancholy; Tsukuru’s dreams became mine- as did his nightmares and loves and losses and revelations- in his last-ditch pursuit of happiness.” What an awesome recommendation; this tells us that Mika is an inspired, creative, and empathetic soul!

images3. Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry

Recommended by: Olivia Arredondo, Marketing Chair

In this fun and humorous exploration of Florida’s most bizarre attractions, Dave Berry reveals the secret gems of his home state. Through hilarious commentary, this best-selling author defends some of Florida’s odd and eccentric characteristics from clothing- optional bars to skunk-ape sightings. A new favorite of Olivia’s, she says: “I have told every single person I know about this book that explores Florida’s wackiest, silliest, and most wonderful roadside attractions; I will talk to anyone at length about the Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters.” Not sure what that is? I guess you’ll have to read to find out! This recommendation tells us that Olivia is quirky, fun, and has an appreciation for the odder things in life.

images-14. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Recommended by: Holly Rice, Managing Editor

This heartbreaking and inspiring young adult novel follows the journey of Suzy Swanson, whose former best friend has recently drowned; everyone says that ‘things just happen,’ but Suzy knows that it must have been a rare jellyfish sting. On a path to self-discovery and closure, Suzy travels the globe in order to prove her theory, and the reader learns fascinating facts about the sea along the way. Our managing editor, Holly Rice, says: “Whether or not you are a fan of middle grade, this National Book Award Finalist is a wonderful story about what it is like to deal with grief; the writing is lyrical and poignant, and it is sure to remind you to treasure every moment you have with those you love.” Holly, Now we know that you are an introspective and loving individual who enjoys learning. Great suggestion!

images5. The Rose Society (a Young Elites Novel) by Marie Lu

Recommended by Olivia Zisman, Poetry Editor

The Young Elites series is a perfect pick for this Halloween season; set in a Renaissance-like world, the protagonist, Adelina, is rejected by her family and turns into a fierce leader who sparks a war between three societies that must fight for power. But in the most recent book of the series, The Rose Society, Adelina’s powers become solely fueled by revenge and hatred, and she could become more of a hazard than a heroine. Our poetry editor, Olivia Zisman, exclaims: “Think X-Men’s Magneto meets Lord of the Flies’ Jack meets Star Wars Darth Vader. Because she is so dark and twisted, the main character is more of a villain-protagonist than an antihero. Read it before the series finale comes out on the 11th of this month!” Thanks for your suggestion Olivia; now we know that you are an imaginative and animated soul, but also possibly a little dark and misunderstood. I might watch out for this one.

That concludes this month’s hottest reads! (And my subsequent, pseudo-intellectual judgements about their readers). From Murakami to YA, we truly had an eclectic list of fantastic literature this time around, and we hope you feel inspired to go out and read one, or more, of our suggestions. Thanks for reading!

~Meredith Furgerson, Nonfiction Board Editor

Welcome our 2016-2017 Editorial Staff

Get to know the 2016-2017 Hothouse Editorial Staff below and look out tomorrow (the 18th) for details on how to apply to be on General Staff.

photo-on-5-3-16-at-4-45-pmElizabeth Dubois, Editor-in-Chief

Elizabeth is responsible for management, production, and final editorial decisions. When she’s not running Hothouse, she writes creatively, and her short fiction piece, “I Guess That This Must Be the Place” was awarded a Glimmer Train Honorable Mention in 2016. Her literary and aesthetic interests include Renata Adler’s Speedboat, Kathryn Davis, Carole King, and Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon. 

img_4162Holly Rice, Managing Editor 

Holly is responsible for assisting the Editor-in-Chief with management, production, and overall administration. She spent her summer working as the Editorial Intern for Disney Publishing Worldwide, and is currently researching representation in Young Adult Fiction for the English Honors Program. Her favorite stories and poems are the ones that scare her, and authors like Margaret Atwood, Edgar Allen Poe, and Markus Zusak influence her own creative writing.

Olivia Arredondo, Marketing Chair 11038115_963374690339897_7785021662511871927_n
Olivia  leads all marketing and design projects and initiatives. In addition to her duties at Hothouse, she is a marketing associate at Austin-based non-profit Unizin, Ltd. and a freelance writer. Her favorite books are Euphoria by Lily King and Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam, and her favorite author is Karen Russell.

Mika Jang, Fiction Editor 

Mika oversees editorial decisions for the Fiction board. Having been ‘born with a reading list she will never finish,’ she reads eagerly and omnivorously; an index of her current muses wouldn’t dare exclude works by Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Donna Tartt and Janet Fitch. Presently she is editing her National Novel Writing Month manuscript, but in her spare time she dabbles in translating Korean short stories, practices her calligraphy, or embarks on hiking adventures with her 3-year-old dog, Poong.


Meredith Furgerson, Nonfiction Editor 

Meredith is responsible for Nonfiction editorial decisions. You will probably find her in the library studying English and French, or in the Writing Center where she works as a consultant. In her free time she is most likely crafting, working on her honors thesis, or playing with cat, Viola. Her literary interests include speculative fiction and contemporary women’s literature. Her favorite authors include Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy, and Anne Sexton.

OliviaHeadshot.jpgOlivia Zisman, Poetry Editor

Olivia is returning for her second year at Hothouse, where she previously contributed as fiction board member and will now be contributing as poetry editor. Currently in her third year at UT, she has served as a TA for k-12 students at Rice’s Creative Writing Camp and continues to serve as a freelance content writer for an e-commerce fashion startup. Passionate for pit bull rights, her Hufflepuff heart wishes she could break Fluffy out of Hogwarts. In her spare time, she is protecting (or fighting off) other fantastical creatures—in a book, that is.