Tag Archives: literary journals

Poetica Magazine call for submissions

Poetica Magazine's Holocaust Edition

The beautifully haunting, tentative cover of Poetica Magazine’s 2014 Holocaust Edition

Poetica Magazine is a great literary journal I recently found that publishes poetry and fiction, in addition to occasional themed editions and chapbooks. Though the journal refers to itself as one of “Comtemporary Jewish Writing,” it is open to submissions from people from all walks of life:

“We publish original-unpublished works by Jewish and non-Jewish writers alike. We are interested in works that have the courage to acknowledge, challenge, and celebrate modern Jewish life, beyond distinctions of secular and sacred. We like accessible works that find fresh meaning in old traditions that recognize the challenges of our generation. We evaluate works on several levels, including its skillful use of craft; its ability to hold interest; and layers of meaning.”

With three print editions a year, there are a lot of opportunities to find some great writing that falls into the broad theme of “Jewish life”. And, with so many editions, it becomes easier to submit — you don’t need to wait for a one-month period that comes just once a year. You can find Poetica‘s guidelines here.

Additionally, if you’ve got any poetry, or fiction that is centered on the Holocaust, you can submit to the 2014 Holocaust Edition. But there’s a catch — the work must have been publicshed elsewhere first. This is a great opportunity to those writers out there who have had a book published and would like to get a sample of their work to a wider audience, which is a huge deal. The official call is below:

Only previously published works will be considered.

Works previously published in Poetica will not be considered.

Please submit 1-10 pages with acknowledgment page:

list the name of publication, edition, year published.

Writers must hold all the rights to their work:

please include a statement with the submission.

And submitting to the Holocaust Edition does, unfortunately, have a price — $10 per submission. I’m usually a big hater of publications that require a reading fee for submissions, but for this one I think I’ll break my own policy and send something along — there are a few pieces from my book, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, that might place nicely in the edition.

I hope you’ll take a look at the journal, consider submitting, and pick up a copy today!

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Filed under Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, Inspiration and Prompts, My Writing, Publishing, Submissions, Writing

Would you share your dirty laundry with strangers?

Literary Laundry — Guerrilla Art Project by the poetry editors of the Long River Review

The editors of Long River Review UConn’s student-run, award-winning literary journal — have a unique way of raising awareness for their journal. Each spring, the student editors embark on a Guerrilla Arts mission, ambushing UConn’s Storrs Campus with displays revolving around the literary arts. The events work in two ways: making people aware of the journal, and helping to get creative juices flowing.

I was a member of the editorial board in 2010 and 2011, and though we put our best effort forth that year (utilizing chalk, perception street art, and even post-it notes), one of the displays from this year has definitely put us to shame.

Called “Literary Laundry,”  the project involves clotheslines, editors’ dirty laundry, and confessions written by passersby and stuck up on the lines for everyone to see. It’s a fun, interactive way to get a community involved in the writing process, and a great outlet for those deep dark secrets. And, if you’re lucky, you might even find something worth writing about from the experience!

Below are the editors’ statement about the project and some photos for your enjoyment. Would you have the guts to share your dirty laundry?

“Inspired by one of this year’s published poems — Danilo Machado’s ‘Laundry.’ Our conversation-starter with passersby was: ‘Hey, would you like to share your dirty laundry with us?’ The reactions were priceless. The actual ‘dirty laundry,’ written on the index cards — even better.”

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My interview with the Long River Review

After the reading that I gave last Wednesday at UConn in support of the Long River Review‘s 2013 issue, I was interviewed by one of the student editor’s about my book, my writing, and the editing process.

The staff of the journal is amazing, and I’m certainly glad to see that the journal is in passionate and capable hands since my departure (I was the Creative Non-Fiction editor for the journal for the 2011 issue).

Below, find the text from the interview, along with a link to the original posting. Keep reading if you’d like a generalized view of the publishing process. Or if you’d like to know my favorite animal, color, and word (in that order).

***

After graduating UConn in 2011, former Long River Review editor Timothy Stobierski went on to publish his first book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer (River Otter Press, 2012). Several poems in Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer have since been nominated for a Pushcart prize. On March 27th he came back to UConn to do a reading of his poetry in support of Long River Review’s 2013 issue. The following interview was conducted after the reading by Long River Review’s Catherine Findorak.

LRR: You mentioned during the reading that you started writing at a young age. What exactly started that for you? When did you start getting serious about your writing?

TS: Well, I first started writing in second grade, because every day in second grade we had an assignment where we had to write a journal entry. At the end of writing, everyone would have to read theirs out loud. At one point I remember writing one that was a bit long, so my teacher wouldn’t let me read it out loud–which I was happy about because I hated reading stuff out loud. I realized that if I just kept writing longer and longer pieces, I would never have to read them out loud. Even if I volunteered, just to throw my teacher off balance, I wouldn’t be able to, so that was awesome. Around sixth grade is when I sort of started writing the first poems that I can remember actually writing, saved on my computer that I can look at, which are horrible. And then, you know, it just sort of grew from there.

LRR: Do you still hate reading them out loud?

TS: Yes and no. As long as I don’t make eye contact while I’m reading them out loud, it’s fine. With you guys, you’re all wonderful lovers of literature, so I hope that it was bearable.

LRR: Of course. It was awesome.

TS: To family, I can absolutely not read them out loud. Or to people that I know. If you want to read it, you can read it. I am not reading it to you.

LRR: I’m the same way. So, you were an editor at the Long River Review, and your first poems were published in the Long River Review as well. How did your experience at UConn shape you as a poet?

TS: Good question. Well, actually, I would say at least more than half of the poems in this book [Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer] were written while I was a student at UConn. They were things that were inspired by either the classes I was taking with Darcie Dennigan, or Sharon Bryan,  Penelope Pelizzon, or they were inspired by things that happened, as often is the case with poetry or with any kind of writing. Life creeps in. In terms of the publishing side of things, I really credit Gina Barrecca with that, because as a part of her creative non-fiction workshop course she forced us to send work out or we failed the class. That sort of got me in the mode for sending stuff out. And the Long River Review showed me what the publishing and editing process was like. It’s sort of like a cheat sheet, because you know what the editors are going to want, just in terms of what makes their life easier. And, of course, the Long River Review will always be my favorite lit journal, because it was the first journal that published one of my poems.

LRR: Who are your favorite poets—your influences?

TS: For a long time when I was first starting out at UConn I was really into Emily Dickinson, because I had a class where we had to read a lot of Emily Dickinson. I tried writing like her, which is impossible. I don’t think she really impacted my style now—or, not obviously, it might be in there somewhere—but for a few years that was sort of what I wrote. And, again, it was probably god-awful. Other poets that impacted my style…Darcie Dennigan—I had a workshop course with her, so that’s one way she impacted it. Another way she impacted it was in her book Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse there were a couple of poems that I really enjoyed, that I tried to copy in some of my poems. My poem “A Family Saga” is sort of written as a parallel to one of her poems, “Seven Generations of Stephen Bruneros.” Billy Collins I love, because he’s just a fun poet to read. And Emerson—like I was saying during the reading, I hated him for a long time, and I don’t really know why I did. Now I won’t say I love him, but I appreciate his style and the themes in his poetry.

LRR: You mentioned during the reading that in one of your poems you tried to sort of mimic, or respond in a way to an Emerson poem because of a class assignment. Did the act of doing that help you to appreciate his poetry more?

TS: I think in the long run, yeah. That’s probably why Darcie had us do that—it was to realize first how difficult it is to write in a certain style or a certain voice, and to put yourself in their shoes to see how you’re constrained by what you can say because of how you say it. If you realize the different kind of voices you can use, you can sort of use them to your benefit.

LRR: Can you talk a little bit about your process for editing? You mentioned a lot of poems in this book you wrote while you were at UConn, and I guess last year you were sending this out to be published. How long does it take you from when you first start writing a poem, to when you’re sending it out, for you to have a poem that’s finished?

TS: Sometimes one write through is all I need, and I feel like it’s ready to be published. I’m probably wrong, but sometimes I get it down in one go, and I decide to send it out while it’s still there before I decide to go back and delete everything. Other times there are poems that I write and I’ll put them aside for a few months. I’ll look back at them, I’ll make a few tweaks and I’ll put them aside for a year, and then I’ll go back and I’ll be like, ‘what the hell is this crap?’ Actually one of the poems in my book “Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes” is one of those poems. I wrote it, and I absolutely hated it the first time I looked back after writing it. Like, what the hell did I do, what did I massacre to get this horrible poem? And then when I went back to it with fresh eyes about a year later, I realized that it wasn’t complete crap. It needed some tweaking around. But I sent it to a friend who I trusted with their eye—I trusted their editing ability—and they said they enjoyed it. So I figured it couldn’t be terrible.

LRR: This is kind of a hard question. What makes a poem successful? What sort of things do you look for—either while you’re reading poetry, or in your own poetry?

TS: That’s not that difficult of a question, because I figured at some point someone was going to ask me either what the book was about, or what the process was like. I kind of went over this in my head and came to a pretty sound conclusion–in my mind, anyway. When I write a poem, regardless of whether there’s a storyline that goes to the poem, whether there’s a certain plot, whether there’s a certain play with language–which in some of my poetry, you’ll find– what I try to do is to make the reader feel something. And if the reader reads or listens to a poem and comes away not feeling the emotion that I set out to make them feel, then I sort of failed in that aspect. Sometimes a poem can take a reader in different directions, and that’s not necessarily a failure. But overall, a good poet, in my mind anyway, is someone who is able to make the reader feel something. Hopefully feel something other than hate for the poet.

LRR: That’s a good answer. Can you describe the experience of having your first book published? What’s some advice you’d give to young writers who would like to one day have a book published?

TS: The first thing is the process—with a book of poetry it depends on the press that you’re submitting to. Some presses will only want the first, say, 10 poems of your manuscript, or they’ll want the whole thing. And if it’s the first 10 poems, just pick the 10 strongest, that’s what you want to use. The press that published my book wanted the full manuscript—that was about 80 pages. So I sent it out to the editor, who I didn’t know beforehand, so it was kind of a blind call. I heard back about a month later with an email saying that the editor was interested in pursuing it. The next step in the process was drafting up a contract, which the publisher takes care of and sends to you. If you have any kind of clout or if there are certain things you are adamant about—like if you want a certain percentage of royalties, or if you want to retain reprint permissions, that’s where you’d sort of iron out those details. I was so happy to have a book of poetry published in my name that I didn’t really care at all about any of that, and I just signed the contract and sent it back. And I’m personally fine with it the way it is. With River Otter Press, which published my book, all of the profits from my book and a few other books they’ve published in the last couple of months go back into letting the press publish more books, which is something I’m more than happy to help with.

Then you go into a few rounds of editing. First it’d be structural editing. If there’s anything the editor or editors—I actually worked with three editors for this—if they think that a poem needs work, on the structure, or on the language, if they don’t think that it’s quite right, that’s what you’ll focus on first. Then after the big edits are taken care of, you’re going to go through and read it, probably four or five or six or twelve times, for copyediting. You’re looking for the misplaced comma, or the extra space between words. It’s really tedious, and it’s really difficult to do, especially when it’s your work, and when it’s something you’ve had to read about twenty times. It sort of just starts to go over your head. You’re not even paying attention by the end of it. For that process, it’s so awesome to have a number of different eyes looking at it. For me I had the editor-in-chief of the press, the poetry editor, and myself plus a few friends I had read through it once to hopefully catch any glaring mistakes. After that the publisher then has control over the rest of the processes. Picking a cover image, if there will be a cover image, is something that hopefully you’ll have some say in. I did. I’m actually the one that suggested this picture. But a lot of times, especially at bigger presses, you won’t. They’re going to try to pick a picture that will make the reader want to buy your book. It might not be something that you originally envisioned as being the cover of your book, but they do have your interests at heart. They want your book to sell. And they come at it from a marketing perspective, while you come at it from a literary perspective.

After the cover issue, the press puts it into production in terms of layout. You get a wonderful copyrights page, and all kinds of stuff. You might have a cheesy author photo taken.  Then you’re just dealing with layout and making sure the paragraphs line up and that all indenting is correct. Especially with poetry, where lines are jagged and whatnot, you want to just make sure things are the way they should be. Then just before it’s sent to print, you will go through it probably twenty times in one day because you are freaking out about whether or not you missed anything, and then it goes to print. And depending on the publisher, depending on how large the order is, and the printer, it could be anywhere from a month, to three months, or a year—well, hopefully not a year, that’s a long time– before you have the book done and for sale and on Amazon and hopefully bookstores. Lots of bookstores won’t carry something by a small literary press.

LRR: I feel like that’s true for a lot of poetry.

TS: Well, poetry in general, yeah. Poetry is not seen as a moneymaker. And in reality, it’s not. Unless you are a bestselling poet, like Billy Collins, you’re not going to make generally any money from poetry, and you should just be resigned to that. You might get some fame and glory—maybe. But you shouldn’t go in it expecting a big paycheck or anything. But yeah, once it’s done and printed, you should receive some author copies, that’ll be settled in your contract… After that, you’re just going around and publicizing it. You’re sending out queries to reviewers seeing if they’ll carry your book on their blog. If you know anyone who is a book reviewer, you’ll send them a copy, usually for free, just hoping that they’ll read it and like it and write a review about it. Or read it and hate it and write a review about it. Because really as long as there’s something out there, it’s better than nothing.

The end of the process is the despair with which you look at your book’s Amazon ranking, which will always, always, just crush a little bit of your soul. Except for that first day that it’s released and everyone you know has gone on Amazon to buy it. Because then it’s like, oh, #15,000? That’s awesome! And then–I think, at last look, my book was something like #2,064,104.

That’s in a very large nutshell the process that I went through. The one [piece of advice] I can say without a doubt is that if you’re a writer of any sort, you need to submit. It’s something that will be hard when you’re not used to it—when you’re first starting out. You won’t want to, because either you are expecting it to come back as a rejection, or you just don’t think it’s any good—you yourself don’t think it’s any good, or you don’t think someone else is going to think it’s good. Then you just wind up keeping it in your bottom drawer somewhere, or in all likelihood on your computer. But you have to force yourself to send something out.

When you get a rejection—because you will get a rejection—just keep submitting it. If you think there’s validity in the editor’s statement that there’s something wrong with your work,  go back and edit it, go back and read through it again, and see if you can change it and make it better. But keep sending it out there. Unless you think that it’s a lost cause, which sometimes is the case, and then you just move on to your next work.

The other thing that I would say for advice would just be that you’re going to need someone else to read your work if you want to be a writer. That’s sort of what completes the process of being a writer–having someone there to read it. And most of the time, everyone is not going to agree with you, with what you’re saying. They might not think it’s that good, or they might not think you have any valid statements in it. You want to take their comments under consideration, but you don’t want their comments to shape your work. Again, if after 25 years of writing, you haven’t had anything published because you haven’t budged to anyone’s criticism, you might want to go back and reevaluate everything. If someone offers constructive edits and criticism—take it, but don’t let someone else’s ideas of what your work should be becomes your idea of what your work should be.

LRR: That’s good advice. I have three more very important questions. What is your favorite word, your favorite animal, and favorite color?

TS: My favorite animal is a tiger. No special kind of tiger, just the regular orange, black and white ones. My favorite color is green, because my eyes are green and I’m egotistical. My favorite word…whenever this kind of question comes I usually go to the word “defenestrate” which means “to throw something or someone out a window.”

LRR: Interesting. I didn’t know that word.

TS: I learned that from Gina Barecca, actually. I tend to like words that were common but aren’t common anymore, like “haberdashery”. Things like that. I guess if you want to put one on record, go with “defenestrate”.

LRR: Okay. I think that’s it. Thank you very much!

TS: Thank you for having me!

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My poem, ‘Pieta’ has been nominated for a Pushcart!

Woooh! I’m excited (in case you couldn’t tell). One of the poems in my book, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer — Pietà — has been nominated for a Pushcart!

Originally published in the Summer 2012 print issue of Emerge Literary Journal, this poem was one that I worked on with Darcie Dennigan while I was a student at UConn. I’m honored and humbled to have had this poem nominated for the award.

The Pushcart Prize, for those that don’t know, honors the best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction published by small presses each year. An anthology of the winning works is published annually.

Fingers crossed! Wish me luck!

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On the significance of the personalized rejection letter

Image by Sean MacEntee, Flickr

I received a rejection letter today for a submission I sent out I few months ago, and I’m not going to sugarcoat it: it stings. Every writer will agree that no matter how many times you send something out, no matter how many publishing creds you’ve got under your belt, no matter how many books you may have to your name, a rejection letter will always hurt. But it’s a part of the gig; you need to send stuff out there if you want to be published, and you will, no matter what, get rejection letters.

But there are different kinds of rejections.

The worst, by far, is the standard rejection slip: a message typed up and saved in a word doc that is the go-to rejection for most publications and publishing houses. Simply copy-and-paste into an email and send it on its way. Not personalized in any way, it does little to comfort the writer who receives it. I have received many — many — of these rejection slips.

The rejection I received today was different, though. To begin, the editor actually addressed me by name. I know it could have simply been done by an auto-fill program that takes info from a submission and plops it into the email, but I know it wasn’t. In my submission, I used “Timothy” — in the email, the editor used “Tim”. This is one of the little things that lets a writer know that a human being actually took the time to type a letter up instead of letting a program do it: a slight variation in name.

And then there’s the fact that the editor referred to my submission piece by piece, telling me which submission she was especially sad to have to pass: telling me its strengths, the spots it could still use a little work. I’m pretty sure they haven’t come up with rejection-software that sophisticated yet (though I’m sure publishers are devoted billions of dollars into that project as we speak).

The editor took the time to tell me that she “loved” one poem specifically, but that in considering the issue as a whole it simply would not have fit. And that is something I completely understand. The over-all layout of an issue (or book, or project, or whatever) is very important. No feelings of ill will towards her.

I simply have to thank her, and all editors, for sending out these kinds of rejections. It does so much more than the standard slip does: it offers guidance, it shows the submitter the human side of a business that is slowly becoming more and more automated as time goes on.

And as writers, that’s all we really want. We write so that we can connect to another person, even if it’s through a rejection letter. This one showed me that, even if I won’t be having my poem published in the upcoming issue, I’ve definitely connected with someone. It’s a really nice feeling.

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Filed under Publishing, Submissions, Writing