Intern Post, John Chakravarty: Small Failures

The submission process must be the most impersonal part of a writer’s career. The author has just spent days, weeks, or even years writing, editing, and workshopping the best piece of fiction they can muster. But without an audience, it’s just a piece of journal writing. Professors and other writing professionals will encourage the author to “get your work out there” and “you need a few rejection letters under the belt.” So this piece of written human soul gets crammed into an email and whisked away to a faceless submission editor.

Finding places to submit work to is the first part of this impersonal interaction. The best way to find a literary journal that will like your work is to read journals that have similar work to yours. The problem is, that the pieces that they are publishing may either A. be much stronger and more practiced or B. not anything like what you write, in terms of style. SmokeLong Quarterly is my favorite online journal, but my written work has not measured up to their level so far. I find this uneven balance when I am submitting work where I’ve either spent a lot of time reading a journal and realized that there’s no way my work stacks up. Or I’ve never heard of the journal, and think they must just be publishing anyone, why would I bother. Scanning through lists and call for submissions can feel like job hunting with incredibly vague parameters.

However, the worst part of this process is the rejection email. There’s never a right time or place to receive the email and it’s never quite worded the right way. A rejection email that sticks out in my mind said, “while we loved the absurdist normalcy of the piece, we regret to inform you…” I appreciated the time it took for them to write something personal about my work, but it left me questioning what that meant. I spent the next few days workshopping the email, trying to get a positive deconstruction of the narrative and what the character was trying to say to me. Needless to say, I didn’t get anywhere.

Being on the other side of this as a submission editor had a similar disconnect. We had almost three hundred fiction submissions. Three hundred is a relatively low number for some journals, but it set a record for Superstition Review. I found myself stuck looking at a neverending list of titles from strangers. They show up like an excel database, or some customer list. It’s very different than sitting across from someone in a workshop.

Writing the rejection email I ran into a similar conflict. Based on the rejections I’ve gotten the email should do the following; thank the writer for submitting, tell them no, and ask them to read the journal anyway. Which always feels inauthentic when on the receiving end.

The value in submitting can’t come from personal connection. Instead, it has to come from a place of personal growth. Only by submitting (and being on the other end) can an author learn to make mistakes and to take risks. Keeping a piece of writing private keeps it safe and for some people that’s enough. Exposing a piece of writing forces the author to grow their craft and skill by releasing that inhibition. Social media has exposed the extremes of our society. Most often, we only see something that is of extreme success or extreme failure. Small failures have to happen for any professional to grow. For writers that comes in the form of rejection letters. These are only small failures, and they must be overcome in order to grow. I hope that Superstition Review gets six hundred fiction submissions next semester and that many more small failures get to occur.

Guest Post, Elizabeth Bradfield: In Praise of Jackalopes and Secret Agents

Elizabeth Bradfield

Secret agent in the field

Sometimes, on an airplane, I wonder if the person beside me thinks I’m a pathological liar after they ask, “What do you do?” and I begin to answer.  Or fumble toward answering.

Sometimes I want to lie.

Do you lie?

Sometimes I do.

By omission, if nothing else.  Too many answers when they want one.  I work on ships.  I am run a press.  I teach.  I do website design. And then the real answer, which to many is strange and either provokes awkward silence or too many questions: I am a poet and a naturalist.

At the core of my being, that reply rings and resounds.  Poet and naturalist are callings I heed.  Passions I am grateful to follow.  They are ways of moving through the world.  Words for how I navigate.  They are not careers.


A career is paystubs and (hopefully) promotions.  It is marked progress or at least marked time.  It is commerce.

Being a naturalist is not commerce. It is carefully observing the world without humans at its center.  You might get paid to lead a walk or give a talk, but being a naturalist constitutes more than that calendared moment.  Being a poet is the same.

Poetry is not commerce. Sometimes, a little money might come from a poem.  Sometimes.  A little.  But not often.

And that is our freedom, as poets.  The poems won’t pay the rent.  Their value is reckoned differently.  Even after they go out into the world, they are ours.  And we can allow whim and art and passion to make them.  For most poets, there is no “brand” to protect for market-driven reasons, a narrowing of expression which would hinder our making with self-consciousness.  The exploration and the experimentation of each new poem is the thing that makes us poets.

Career: v. move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction. “The car careered across the road and went through a hedge.”

If you’re like me, you’d probably say “careened.”  The car careened around a corner.

In North America, that’s become an acceptable usage of the verb.  But to careen is more truly to turn (a ship) on its side for cleaning, caulking, or repair.  Where I live, we see ships careened in the summer.  Wooden hulks coaxed to float by annual patching.


A boat out of the water is a vulnerable and strange thing.  It keens with the weight of its careening.  It does more than list.  It leans.  And it leans hard—maybe against a piling driven into the sand to hold it upright when the water pulls away.

Meander, when I was younger, was one of my favorite words.  I loved the way my mouth had to work around it.  Now, it sounds a little whiny to me, mewling, and I don’t use it in poems.

I would be careened without poems, without the deliberate observation, the delighted surprise that springs from being open to what emerges, that comes from both writing and being a naturalist.  I would lean and break.  I would be a hulk on the shore.

I career between these selves, these lives.


Odd hybrids have always held power.  Minotaur, selkie, siyokoy, Anubis, angel, jackalope.

“In the 1930s, Douglas Herrick and his brother, hunters with taxidermy skills, popularized the American jackalope by grafting deer antlers onto a jackrabbit carcass and selling the combination to a local hotel in Douglas, Wyoming.”

Praise the jackalope.  Praise the strange beauty of two lives deliberately brought together.  And the secrets and omissions that conjoining must necessarily entail.

Secrets are held within us, alive but invisible.  Some, of course, can be horrible and dangerous.  But not all.  Some fuel us.

When I am speaking as a poet, talking to students about image or line, the secret of my naturalist life pulses within me.  I am comforted by its warmth.  My shoulders hold an echo of the weight of my binocular strap and my eyes a squint of light on water.  I need the power of that other, more physical life to buoy me when I flounder in the world of words.

When I am working as a naturalist, searching for animals or coaxing people to bend down and look at feeding barnacles, poems sing in me. Lines by other poets, phrases that might become a poem of my own. I don’t share them.  I joke with the crew, drive the boat, do head-counts, take data.  I don’t want to talk about writing poems.  I want that buzz in my pocket, that secret gathering power in its unspoken form.

Sometimes, though, shuttling between poet-self and naturalist-self leaves me disoriented.  As if I’m too much in limbo, liminal, always becoming and never there.


Dedicating oneself to two worlds can mean slower progress in each.  There is a benefit to laser focus, to sustained and dedicated effort in one field.  But not all of us are wired for that.  Some of us struggle and itch if we have to offer only one answer to the question, “What do you do?”

I want to honor the power and necessity of that non-singularity.  The energy of that pendulum swing between ways of seeing, ways of engaging.  Poetry and plumbing.  Poetry and psychoanalysis.  Poetry and parenthood.

Many writers (myself included, at least partly, for the past four years) earn a living by teaching writing.  But not all writers are in the academy, and not all writers want to be in the academy.  Some hold writing apart from whatever they do to make money, keep it separate from their working lives, free to range and explore unseen by supervisors or colleagues.  Free to rebel and speak against as well as for.

It’s harder, sometimes, to find these writers.  It’s harder for them to take time to travel and give readings; they don’t have students who go out and share their work.  But their books are out there to be found. Their voices sing.

Writers who have wandered, whether it’s into teaching or doctoring or carpentry, know that I claim you as kin.  We won’t have “careers” as writers, but we will career, and the energy our non-writing life—its vocabulary and systems and specific conundrums—will make the words we explore vital and strange. We will have lives as writers.  As jackalopes, as secret agents of words.

Former SR Intern Carter Nacke, Web Content Editor for KTAR

Little did I know, my future career began when I was a junior at Arizona State University. I was  enrolled as a slightly-disinterested print journalism major in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism – prestigious, I know – with a tourism minor. My goal was to become a travel writer, like those fortunate enough to be sent around the world to extravagant locations, much like the hosts of Travel Channel Shows.

But then I took a class entitled Business and Future of Journalism. Not only was I exposed to the fact that my field of journalism was forecasted – not predicted, forecasted – to be extinct within 30 years, but I also learned that the future of journalism as a whole was quickly moving to the digital realm, something I only used to submit papers or slaughter a few friends in Call of Duty. Having been faced with the very real possibility of graduating college into a dying field, I decided to bite the bullet and enroll myself in an online media course, hoping it would at least move my resume further up in the pile of the eventually unemployed.

I loved my online media class. I went from a person who basically only used the Internet to access Wikipedia to a full-blown web geek. I even took the advanced portion of the course the next semester, learning to design my own webpages and how to make Flash objects. I found myself shifting away from the ideal of being a travel writer (another job that could soon be left hungry) to some sort of multimedia journalist, something I still am pursuing.

I interned with a local radio station’s website, News/Talk 92.3 KTAR. While I spent my time, as many interns do, performing menial site updates, transcribing audio and maybe working on a few press releases, I did get to experience a fair bit of breaking news. At the end of the internship, I inquired about employment, was told there were no openings (I probably shouldn’t have shown up 30 minutes late a few times), but we parted ways amicably.

Fast forward one year. To make ends meet, I was bartending and managing a restaurant that I had worked at since I was 18. But then I got a call from my old boss at KTAR, who was looking for immediate help. I took the job and was moved from a part-time employee to a full-time Web Content Editor at in December 2011, after a year of working poor shifts and bugging my boss daily to bump me up.

Looking back on it, a series of well-taken hints and a leap of faith lead me to my current job, but it’s much more than that. I graduated with honors from a prestigious journalism school. I worked hard to make ends meet and even turned down a few job offers from sites like Yelp! that I knew were not for me. I held out for the job that would allow me to pay the bills, but that would also interest and challenge me.

What I took from everything was this: try everything you can once. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t sell yourself short. The economy and job market are really, really bad right now. You have to fight for every inch. But if you don’t fight for it, no one is sitting by waiting to help. Sometimes you have to make ends meet and there’s no shame in that, but make sure, when you sign that W-2 at the start of your new career, you’re where you want to be and doing what you want to do.

Meet the Interns: Tabitha Gutierrez, Advertising

tabithagutierrez_0Tabitha Gutierrez is a senior majoring in Business and English Creative Writing.

Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?

Tabitha Gutierrez: At SR, I am in charge of advertising and getting the word about SR out to the public. I write press releases/newsletter providing updates about upcoming readings, submission periods, etc. as well as pursue ways of gaining advertising.

SR: How did you hear about or get involved with Superstition Review?

TG: I heard about Superstition Review through an email from the English department regarding internship possibilities. I selected SR as my internship because I felt like a student run magazine was new and interesting.

SR: What is your favorite section of SR? Why?

TG: I especially enjoy the artwork. Being an English major, I read multiple works from various authors daily. However, I have always loved art and find that the art included in SR makes a nice change.

SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal? Talk about him/her.

TG: My dream contributor would be Tim Burton. Although I am obsessed with his movies, I absolutely love his artwork that he does. He has albums filled with art for movies and characters that are truly unique. Also, I think that any stories submitted would be different and fun.

SR: What job, other than your own, would you like to try out in the journal?

TG: I think that it would be interesting to work with art selection. I would love to view and compare different works of art and discuss how others view it as well.

SR: What are you most excited for in the upcoming issue?

TG: I am most excited to see the results of readership. I feel like an increase would reflect a contribution that I did in advertising.

SR: What was the first book you remember falling in love with and what made it so special?

TG: When I was younger, I really loved the Diary of Anne Frank. Although sad, I felt like it was the perfect combination of history, youth, nonfiction, relatability, etc.

SR: What are you currently reading?

TG: I cannot put the final book of Twilight down. I already read the series but loved the last book that I had to read it again. I know it is a sensation but I find a real art to the way it is written.

SR: What are some of your favorite websites to waste time on or distract you from homework?

TG: I usually get distracted by YouTube. Not matter your mood, you can always find something to fit your desire. If I am in a funny mood, hilarious pet videos always keep your mood up. Or, if I am in an artsy mood watching people sing and try to get there name out there can be inspiring.

SR: What would be your dream class to take at ASU? What would the title be and what would it cover?

TG: My dream course at ASU would be a Next Step class. I think that faculty focus so much on the transition into college, getting classes, and your overall freshman year, but barely focus on your Senior year. I wish there was a class that explained the best way of breaking into career fields, what to really expect, realistic salaries, etc. How are we supposed to base degrees and majors on something so unfamiliar?