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Work Samples

Cottonmouth -- Short Story from The Land of Uz: Stories

Read "Cottonmouth" here, a short story published in Pleiades and the winner of the 2019 R.M. Kinder Award for Realistic Fiction.

PDF icon Cottonmouth -- Short Story from The Land of Uz: Stories

Girls On Hands And Knees (Short Story from The Land of Uz: Stories)

Read "Girls on Hands and Knees" here, a flash fiction piece published in Hobart in 2016.

PDF icon Girls On Hands And Knees (Short Story from The Land of Uz: Stories)

Cheddar Moon

Read "Cheddar Moon" here, a poem published in Barrelhouse in 2017. 

PDF icon Cheddar Moon

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About Aleyna

Baltimore City

Aleyna Rentz's picture
Aleyna Rentz is a writer from rural Southwest Georgia, where she grew up with her six brothers and sisters. She now lives in Baltimore, where she finished her MFA in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. Her short story collection, The Land of Uz, is currently a finalist for the 2021 St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press. She also won first place in Pleiades‘ 2019 R.M. Kinder Realistic Fiction contest, and third place in Glimmer Train‘s Jan/Feb 2018 Short Story Award... more

The Land of Uz

--A finalist for the 2021 St. Lawrence Book Award from Black Lawrence Press--

This short story collection borrows its title from the mythical setting of The Book of Job in the Old Testament. The Land of Uz is a place of improbable, almost comical misfortune. There, you suffer arbitrary punishment at the hands of a capricious God. He kills your family and robs you blind. He covers you with boils! It is a place of loneliness, absurdity, and bad skin.

The Land of Uz, mentioned nowhere else in the Bible, does not exist, and yet it does. I like to think all my characters live there, especially the ones in this collection: After experiencing sexual assault, a pianist leaves behind her conservatory and gives tours in a shoddy Glenn Gould museum. A recent college graduate’s plans to study nonsense poetry in Ireland on a Fulbright scholarship are derailed by a severe case of acid reflux disease. A female character in an unfinished John Cheever draft waits in despair for him to finish writing her story.

Uz has no exact coordinates. In these stories, it is a place that arises when you’re stuck in South Georgia, confined to the Florida Panhandle, constrained by gender roles, trapped inside your own head. Being a mythical land, it has its fair share of mythical occurrences. In one story, a shy boy befriends the ghost of Marcel Proust. In another, a college student attracts international fame by singing opera in his dorm shower. Voice-driven and threaded with dark humor, these stories explore confinement and the ways in which we plot our escapes.

There are sixteen stories in this collection; many have been published or are forthcoming in journals including Glimmer Train, The Iowa Review, Pleiades, Wigleaf, Passages North, Hobart, and others. This book currently does not have representation, and I'd be more than happy to consider any queries.

All is Bright

ALL IS BRIGHT is an 84,000-word literary novel that takes place in Christmas, Georgia—a misleading name, like something out of a Hallmark movie, when it’s really just another dying town in the rural south, one plagued by poverty and corrupt politics and a tyrannical strain of Christianity that runs deep, especially in the Ashgrove family. Elliott Ashgrove is a child prodigy and preacher’s kid whose talent for the piano borders on mystical—whenever he hears a song, he can immediately play it back both forwards and backwards. When he debuts his backwards piano playing in church and a choir member falls dead of a sudden heart attack, Elliott knows he is responsible, and that he must never play backwards again.

Elliott is the subject of the town’s fascination until Sandy Tompkins, outspoken Democrat and town pariah, returns from a tumultuous stint working for the Clinton Administration in DC. With no money and a surly nine-year-old daughter named Rosemary, Sandy comes to terms with what she’s lost—marriage, political ambitions, dignity—and struggles to start a new life. As she spirals downward, Rosemary plots her escape. Also a pianist (though certainly no prodigy), she befriends Elliott and convinces him to play backwards again, the result of which launches them into a precarious stardom that garners them an invitation to play at the 2007 White House Easter Egg Roll. Whether or not they’ll make it, however, remains suspect. Fame, envy, mental illness, and a hearty dose of Christian guilt unite the two families and threaten to dismantle them in a comical novel that explores what we choose to worship and how those things ultimately let us down.

This novel is finished but does not yet have agent representation. I am happy to consider queries!

Untitled Poetry Project

I come from plain-spoken people. Y’all, ain’t never, fixin’ to. Rural Southwest Georgia has a way of creeping into my poetry: I write about its entitled and sometimes violent boys; about the men they grew up to be; about the lives they’ve ended. Sometimes I write away from the South to highlight its distance from me—look how far I’ve come! I can reference Euripides! I write about bog bodies I’ve seen in Ireland and paintings I’ve seen in France! I like writing ekphrastic poems that look at well-known art from unexpected, often feminist, angles, but even in these poems, my southern accent still slips out, apparent in my conversational tone, my bent toward wit and sarcasm, and my stubborn refusal to bow to form or meter. Self-consciously poetic language makes me suspicious; I’m much more interested in authenticity, especially when it comes to voice.

If my poetry seems all over the place, it’s because I am, too. I teach at a private school in Baltimore County but grew up attending Title I schools. I’ve visited several countries while my six siblings haven’t ventured far past the Georgia state line. My Sunday school teachers warned my classmates and me that attending college would threaten our Christian faith, and I was deeply relieved to discover they were right. I want to say I left the South and haven’t looked back, but I can’t help myself—I’m looking back all the time.  

This collection is unfinished but slowly taking shape. One poem has been published in Barrelhouse, and another is forthcoming in Bayou Magazine.

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Aleyna's Curated Collection

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