Freeing the Words of the Midwest


The founding editors of Flyover Country Magazine, Casey Nichols, Peter Grapentien and Tony Battaglia (from left to right) are all Kent State alumns and began the magazine to showcase the midwest’s literary and artistic diversity.

Jen Kuczkowski

The Midwest has always been disregarded, especially in terms of literary and artistic diversity. It’s often labeled “farm country” — the gray area between the east and west coasts. At least that was the thought of Tony Battaglia before he started a literary magazine, Flyover Country Review, to highlight the region’s artistic genius. 

“I think people, especially ones that aren’t from here, tend to think rural Nebraska basically when they hear Midwest,” Battaglia said. “But living here we know that there’s a lot more diversity than that.” 

In order to help the Midwest become better known for its creative side, Battaglia and three friends decided to create Flyover Country Review, to showcase some of the best local literary talent in the area. All editors are Kent State alumni: the founders are Battaglia and Peter Grapentien, the poetry editor is Casey Nichols, and the editor and record keeper is Quinn Hull.

“We’re trying to subvert the idea of ‘flyover country,’ which is the idea that the majority of the value of the United States lies near either the west or east coasts,” Grapentien said. “We want to show that the Midwest does have a rich artistic community.” 

The Review is striving to not only prove to people elsewhere that there’s greatness in the Midwest, but Grapentien said another main goal is to give its writers exposure and spread their works further. The magazine isn’t alone though. Other local literary magazines such as the Midwest Gothic and Great Lakes Review are also moving in the same direction, helping to revive a solid sense of midwestern writing. But Flyover Country Review is supposed to be more personal, approachable, he said.

“Initially, it all started when I mentioned it to Tony in the car one day while driving back from a David Sedaris reading in Cleveland,” Grapentien said. “We were complaining about not getting responses from literary magazines because I had gotten a rejection letter… a year later from magazines I never even remembered submitting to. I was like, ‘We should just make our own magazine that doesn’t do that.’”

Out of that conversation came the creation of Fly Over Country and a new endeavor for the group of friends.

“I never really planned on being a part of a team that creates their own magazine,” Nochols said. “I always thought Id be a contributor to one, so it’s cool to be someone who’s on the flipside calling the shots.”

She and Hull were added to the staff as the publication grew, and after almost a year of being an online only publication, Flyover Country Review debuted its first print copy, Issue Zero, in August. 

“I think we planned from the very beginning to do print, because as much as it’s important to embrace online publishing and new technology, I think there’s something about actually holding the magazine that’s more satisfying than online and to our readers,” Battaglia said. 

Nichols said that even though print is dying, its still held at a very high standard in the literary community, and to be actually printed is more highly regarded than to be published online. 

“It’s all about giving our authors a chance to be known as actual people and feel valued,” she said. 

In order for the very first print copy of the Flyover Review to be published, though, there needed to be some fund raising. The team turned to Kickstarter, an online peer-funding website, for help to make its dream of print a reality.  

“I feel like we had some doubts as we as we were getting everything ready before the Kickstarter program,” Battaglia said. “Then the funding was halfway there within the first 12 hours of the donation period, and by then I think we were pretty confident.” 

The magazine collected double the money the first day to fund the entire project and printing of a hardcopy issue. The original goal was to raise $545, but the actual amount raised was more than $2,200.

“When Tony and I first put it online, we were both worried that ‘what if no one donates? It’s going to be so embarrassing.’ But then one of our friends donated $100 immediately, and after that it just kept happening,” Grapentien said.

The first few donations on their Kickstarter were said to be from their family members and friends, but after that, they started to receive large donations from people they didn’t even know. People, professors, literary lovers; they didn’t know them but they were donating.

“Its really heartening to know that there are people out there who want to give you money to publish things,” Nichols said. 

Thanks to the donations, 200 copies of Issue Zero were printed containing poetry, short stories and photography, all by local Midwestern artists. 

Grapentien said they have both student stories as well as prominent Ohio writers that contribute to the magazine. 

 “The majority of people who submit works are people who have written their whole lives but haven’t been able to do it a whole lot because of other obligations,” he said. “But now they can write and its really cool to be able to publish something like that.” 

To get your hands on the print issue of Flyover Country Review, check out local bookstores and coffee shops in Kent, including the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State and surrounding cities. The next issue is scheduled to be released in December, followed with regular quarterly editions. 

“We called our August print issue ‘Issue zero’ for a couple reasons but it’s because it’s like a demo record or like an EP,” Grapentien said. “Our next one is going to be more of a polished piece.”

The editorial team plans to add a donate button to its website, since it is a non-profit group. Looking ahead, Grapentien and Battaglia have a different direction they want for Flyover Country Review. They said it’s really tough to find the work of local writers and artists because of how individual and small scale their distribution usually is.

“What I’d like to see us maybe do in the future is start an ecommerce thing online that sells local literature and art work, and act as a port that people can come to find this stuff on and get it out to people,” Grapentien said.

As Flyover Country Review continues to grow and expand its name as a literary magazine, new content can also be found online at

“We’re really trying to do something different,” Grapentien said, “and show people that the Midwest has more to offer than just gritty corn stories.”

Contact Jen at [email protected].