‘Almost Rain’ — new poetry from Simon Perchik, available now!

Almost Rain by Simon Perchik

Almost Rain by Simon Perchik

Two months ago I was approached by Diane Smith, the founding editor of Grey Sparrow/River Otter Press (who published my book), about editing a book of poetry that she was considering publishing. I agreed, and within the hour I had an eighty page poetry manuscript with a familiar name on it — Simon Perchik.

Simon Perchik is an American poet who has been writing poetry since the 1960s. And when I say he’s been writing, I mean writing: with over 20 books credited to his name, he is one of the most widely published and prolific poets of our day. Repositories of his work and correspondence reside in the Library of Congress Rare Book Collection, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection at Yale, and the Avant Writing Collection at Ohio State University. In short, he’s a pretty big deal.

And I got to edit his work. Talk about pressure.

Themes of loss, loneliness, and longing are prominent in Perchik’s work, which thrusts the reader into a world of turmoil somehow still filled with beauty. What the poet accomplishes best is the conveyance of mood — to read one of these poems is to become one with the speaker; to feel the his pain, his joy. To put it bluntly, Perchik is the kind of poet that I one day hope to be. His poetry is the kind of poetry that someone can read, and reread, and reread and come away with a different interpretation each time; a new layer.

This poem, from the end of the book, is emblematic of the rest of the work within the monograph:


These waves still surface, not sure

it’s her lips that open and close, kept moist

though you can’t hear her voice

scented with rotting wood, weeds

and bottom sand—you row this boat

left, right, swinging your arms

half moonlight, half almost makes out

the words rising from empty shells

and the dress you first saw her in

—you need more arms, clear summer nights

from that inch by inch love song

heavier than these overgrown paths

no longer listening for her forehead

that once anchored the Earth

and water too knows what it has

reeling from a gentle stroke, another

another, facing the sky

it leaves behind, caressing her hair

her breasts, her shimmering—some nights

you can hear her, one by one

—some nights it’s colder, colder.

If you’re a reader of poetry looking for a book that capitalizes on over 40 years of training and practice — a careful honing of skills — then this is the book for you. It is a collection by a poet at the pinnacle of his career; a lifetime of expertise distilled into one beautiful tome. And to top it all off, it’s accompanied by the haunting art of Peter Ciccariello, who’s artwork has been featured in such notable publications as Poetry Magazine and the cover of Rae Armantrout’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning book, Versed.

Some say that life begets life. I say that poetry begets poetry. Pick up a copy of Almost Rain today and bring some poetry into your life!


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Filed under Grey Sparrow / River Otter Press, Publishing, Random

Tribute Issue of The Newtowner coming soon!

Cover art by Harry Campbell

For the past few months I have been volunteering with The Newtowner on a very special project: a special tribute issue of the magazine offered as a “healing gift to the people of Newtown” after the tragedy that they have faced.

The issue features work by such notable authors as Wally Lamb, Lois Lowry, Katherine Paterson, Steven Kellogg, and Yusef Komunyakaa alongside letters from national leaders like Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and the people most directly impacted by the crisis: the people of Newtown. Teachers, students, and residents of the brave town offer their own words of love, hope, and compassion, showing us that good can come from even the most heinous of actions.

Though the issue is not yet available (you can pre-order copies here), I can tell you from my work with it that it accomplishes what it has set out to accomplish: it examines the tragedy with a focus on the victims, not the perpetrator, and offers itself as a beacon of light and hope to cut through the darkness and despair. It shows us the strength not only of the people who have been forced to heal, but also of the art and literature that can help mend broken hearts and shattered lives.

I will post something closer to the publication date once it is finalized, but I wanted to let all of you know that this has been in the works. There are 14 days left to the campaign of supplying each family in Sandy Hook with an issue of the magazine, and you can do your part by donating anything that you can to their indiegogo page here.

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Writing jobs you might not know about

A blog I follow on Tumblr (phantasmagoricwicca) posted an infograph from The Write Life Magazine that I truly love, because it illustrates something that a lot of people don’t know: you can make a living off of writing by working jobs that you might not know exist. From ghost-writing to copy-writing to technical writing, there are many ways that you can follow the dream of writing even if you haven’t been able to get your novel out onto paper. Writing is an important skill used by virtually every industry out there — all you need is to know where to look! So, to help out any aspiring writers out there who also need to make some cash, take a look below (or click this link here to view the original).

“You know that you love to write, and doing that and getting paid sounds pretty dreamy. But writing isn’t limited to novel writing or journalism – there’s a whole host of writing jobs that are creative, pay well, and you might not know about yet. Here are 9 careers in writing to find out more about. (Forward it to all of the English majors you know, they’ll thank you for it!)”

9 Writing Jobs You Might Not Know Exist, from The Write Life Magazine

9 Writing Jobs You Might Not Know Exist, from The Write Life Magazine

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Crafting the perfect book submission

'Piles of Books' by ollily/Flickr

‘Piles of Books’ by ollily/Flickr

When seeking publication, it is easy to feel as though everything is out of your control. After all, everything is out of your control — as a writer, the only thing that you control is your writing (and even that is an arguable point). But we can all agree that it’s true that whether or not a publishing house picks up your book is completely out of your hands. Or is it?

In reality, there are a lot of things that you can do to increase the likelihood that a publisher will want to pick up your book for publication. And it really boils down to a pretty simple idea: if you want a press to publish your book, it helps if you’ve done most of the work for them. What follows below is a step-by-step guide to helping a publisher want to publish your book, based off of my own experience as a published author who has worked for two (and a half) publishers over the past few years.

  1. Edit your book. This should really go without say, but it needs to be said nonetheless. If you want a publisher to take you seriously, make sure that the work you send out is the absolute best work that you can produce. Read through it multiple times to make sure that you’re not missing anything. Make sure that the concepts flow properly; make sure that there are no spelling/grammar/punctuation errors (this is a REAL turnoff for most presses); make sure that your submission is formatted correctly. This isn’t to say that your book won’t be edited once it’s picked up by a press (it most certainly will be) but it shows the editor that you took the time to fix what needs to be fixed. And hey, it’ll save them some time once the book enters the proofreading stage — when a single editor is working on 20 or 30 projects all at the same time, even saving so much as an hour’s worth of work becomes a big deal.
  2. Target your submissions. You will save yourself a lot of time, paper, postage, and headaches if you follow this one step and none of the others — target your submissions to relevant presses. If you’ve written a murder mystery, submit it to publishers of murder mysteries; you’re not going to have any luck with a publisher of textbooks. If you’ve written a textbook, veer away from publishers of popular fiction. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Duh,” but you’d be surprised at how many writers do absolutely no research on a press before submitting their work. And go on their website to see how they like their submissions formatted — some like things done differently than others, and they are usually pretty strict as to what they will consider (if they say to send the first three chapters double-spaced, send them the first three chapters double-spaced and nothing else). You do yourself no favors by submitting blind, or by blatantly going against their wishes.
  3. Do some market research. Before an editor decides to publish any book, he’s got to convince the publication committee (the people responsible for the press’s bottom line) that the book will indeed make money, or at the very list break even. A big part of this process is compiling some market research. What’s market research? Simply put, it’s data that will help a publisher predict whether or not a book is going to sell, and how many copies they can expect it to sell, and compiling this data can take a bit of time — so if you can even do some preliminary research to help the press out it can be a big boost to the likelihood of your book being picked up. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but this is the standard market research a press likes to have done before agreeing to publish something:
    • Competing Titles (similar books published by presses other than the one you are submitting to)
    • Comparable Titles (similar books published by the press you are submitting to)
    • Author Sales History (the author being you) — if you’ve written a book in the past, tell them how many copies were sold to illustrate you already have a following
    • Author Associations (what organizations you belong to that you can use to promote your book) — alumni, professional, social organizations, etc.
    • Target Audience (who is going to buy your book and why) — you want a specific target audience that is broad enough to ensure the possibility of large sales
  4. Avoid artwork if possible. If you’re submitting a photobook or a book on art history or some related topic, then feel free to disregard this step. but if your work does not directly relate to art, heed this warning: including plans for artwork with your submission can severely reduce the likelihood that your book will be published. Artwork will impact almost every step of the publishing process: it impacts layout, it impacts cost (which means they will either make less money on each copy sold, or they will have to increase the cover price, which in turn means they will likely sell fewer copies), and it quite simply adds a lot of extra work for the press. Obtaining rights, photocopying images, formatting images to the correct dimensions, ensuring artist credit is correct…having a large number of images can add hours — days of work to a book project. The presses I have worked with have turned down many, MANY projects simply because the submissions made reference to artwork. If you’re dead set on including artwork, completing the tasks below will work in your favor, but I still advise against it:
    • Send digital files of artwork, no solely physical images. Most presses prefer .TIFF files due to their higher resolution and the fact that they do not degrade with each “save”. Generally speaking, the higher the resolution (ppi, or pixels per inch) the safer you are — but around 300 ppi for photos or 1200ppi for drawings is a good estimate.
    • Accompany the submission with an “Art Log” — an excel sheet that assigns each image an identification number (ex.: Fig.1.3, where “1” corresponds to the chapter number and “3” means that it is the third image used in Chapter 1), a brief description, a size, whether or not the image is in the public domain, and where in the book the image will be used (chapter/page). The identification number in the art log should be equal to that image’s file name. You will also want to submit physical printouts of each image, marked on the back with its corresponding ID number, but make sure you send the digital files as well.
    • If you are using artwork other than your own: gaining the permissions to use the artwork ahead of time will save the press a lot of time and many headaches. If the image is not in the public domain, you will need to contact the image’s creator or the creator’s agent/representative to gain rights — and be forewarned, this often can, and does, cost money, especially for more famous works.
  5. Include a SASE. If submitting a hard copy submission, include a self addressed, stamped envelope or you might not hear anything back at all. If you expect to get your full submission back with any rejection, specifically tell them that you want it back, and include enough postage for the weight of the package or it’ll get shredded or recycled. Stamps cost money, and if a press shelled out free postage to respond to each submission they received they’d go out of business. Not only that, but it’s also the polite thing to do. Better still, tell them in your cover letter that they can notify you by email (and make sure to include your email address) — this will speed up response time greatly.

Really, that’s about all you’ve got to do to dramatically increase the odds of your book getting published. Simply put, publishers and editors are human beings, which means that on some level, they’re lazy. Doing as much work for the press as you preemptively can will make a big difference. It won’t be the only consideration (quality will always, hopefully, be top priority) but it’ll certainly help you edge out the competition; victory is in the margins.

When presented with an almost-there project that’ll take a lot of work vs. an almost-there project that’ll take almost no work, which would you go with?

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Filed under Author Tips, Publishing, Submissions, Writing

Grey Sparrow seeking submissions!

Grey Sparrow’s logo

Grey Sparrow seeks submissions on a rolling basis — meaning that you can submit anytime (which is absolutely wonderful). They are, however, currently awaiting submissions — particularly of flash fiction (under 1,000 words). If you’ve got any work done, now would be the ideal time to submit, while the editor is actively seeking it out!

The call, from Grey Sparrow Press’s facebook page, below:

We’re a little low on submissions… Possibly because it’s the summer, but always receiving quality work–could use flash.

So get out there and submit! Submissions details here.

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Filed under Grey Sparrow / River Otter Press, Submissions, Writing

‘Jack loves Jill’ reprinted in Eunoia Review

Crook Hill, Peak District by Rick Harrison/Flickr

‘Crook Hill, Peak District’ by Rick Harrison/Flickr

And last but not least, poem #3 from my book Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer reprinted in Eunoia Review:

Jack loves Jill

but Jill doesn’t love Jack,
Jill loves Andy, who has a mustache
and works the next cubicle over,
next to the fax machine; and Andy,
when he gets up to fax his expense reports
out to the central office, smiles at Jill,
but checks out Steph,
the mail delivery girl with blonde hair and nice tits;
and Steph of course thinks that Andy is too old,
and what’s with that mustache?
This isn’t the 80s, and even if it was,
mustaches were never cool.
Maybe if he shaved it off
she’d give him a shot, a handjob
in the supply closet—but right now she’s into Bill,
who pushes the sandwich cart and drives
a red Camaro and is capital H-O-T: hot.
But Bill loves Phil, and Phil loves Kate,
and Kate loves Dave, and Dave loves
Jane, and Jane loves Pat, and Pat—
Pat hopes one day only to love himself.
His mother didn’t hold him enough as a baby,
or so the story goes.

Oh Jack and Jill walk up the hill
on their way to the company picnic,
and Jack leans in for a kiss, but Jill will have none of this
and gives him a slap, and they both lose their footing
and fall.

The human element in all of this, if you’re looking,
is in the falling.


This is a reprint of work originally published in Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer.

Tim Stobierski is an alumnus of the University of Connecticut’s creative writing program. A freelance writer and editor, he has interned for three summers with Yale University Press and is currently seeking a career in publishing. His first book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, was published in October 2012 by River Otter Press.

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‘Permaculture’ reprinted in Eunoia Review

'Home Depot 4' by BernardBoyGenius/Flickr

‘Home Depot 4’ by BernardBoyGenius/Flickr

Poem #2 in Eunoia Review: ‘Permaculture‘ — check it out! Inspired by a TV ad for The Home Depot I saw years ago…you never know when inspiration will hit haha.


“Let’s plant a weekend, water it, and watch a summer grow.”
–The Home Depot

But why stop there?
Let’s plant a summer and harvest
a year, till in the year
and get back a decade. It’s all
in the soil, that’s what they say;
some say the soil
is even more important
than the seeds.
So let’s take a minute—scratch that,
a second, a picosecond—a chronon
and bury it in the backyard, down
where the children play. There’s plenty
of rain here, there’s plenty
of sun. In no time at all
we’ll have an eternity,
and if we till that back in like we did with the year
we can watch the next big bang
from the comfort of our own front porch,
and the one after that while we’re lying
in bed, and the next we’ll close our eyes to—
we’ll have seen it all before.


This is a reprint of work originally published in Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer.

Tim Stobierski is an alumnus of the University of Connecticut’s creative writing program. A freelance writer and editor, he has interned for three summers with Yale University Press and is currently seeking a career in publishing. His first book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, was published in October 2012 by River Otter Press.

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Filed under Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, My Writing