Technology and the Space between Publisher and Author

The most rewarding experience I had while interning at Superstition Review came, rather not surprisingly, during the selection process for our most recent issue. I say not surprisingly because it is during this process that you get the opportunity to give an author the thing they have been searching for: publication.

What did surprise me though were two works that the fiction editors discussed during the selection process and how we were able to work with the authors of those pieces in order to get them published in Issue 11. Both of these pieces would have more than likely received “nos” if we had not been able to work with the authors, something that I was not previously aware was even possible. I had never before thought of the freedom that technology afforded the literary world and the opportunity it offered in erasing the barrier that seems to exist between the publisher and the author.

The first example I want to talk about is the piece by Jacob Appel, “Burrowing into Exile.” Appel originally submitted a story called “A Display of Decency” which looked at a young man’s struggle with religion. It was well written and a good read, but the piece was drenched in baseball paraphernalia and took place in the 1940s. The general consensus was that this created a setting which might be difficult for our particular readership, which tends to be younger. In fact, one of our fiction editors did not recognize many of the references in the piece. This decision about how any given story fits a publication’s aesthetic is one that all literary magazines have to make (and trust me, as a writer this is a difficult lesson to learn). This could have easily been the end of this story: a decline due to incompatible audiences. Instead we contacted Appel and solicited another, more contemporary, piece from him. This is something that I do not think would be possible without the immediacy available through the internet.

Our second “on the edge” story was from an undergraduate student at Utah State University. Since we tend to publish mid and late career authors, we get very excited when we find work from undergrads that make the top of the pile (we don’t publish any ASU undergrads since we have a non-compete agreement with the ASU undergraduate literary magazine LUX).The editors involved in the selection process saw the potential of Kendall Pack’s story, “Make Your Own Lawn Darts (and Rediscover Happiness) in 8 Easy Steps.” It was equally clear that, as submitted, Pack’s piece was not quite where it needed to be in order to be published. There were rough spots and inconsistencies and neither the author nor the publication benefits from bringing a story to the public which is not really finished. This could have easily led to a rejection letter for Pack as well, but the freedom of Superstition Review’s setup allowed us to contact Pack and offer him publication contingent on his willingness to revise his submission. What could have easily been just another homeless story became Pack’s first publication which can only be seen as a great success story.

This ability to become an entity which can work hand in hand with an author to get a piece to publication level is one of Superstition Review’s greatest strengths. As a writer, I am well aware of the distance that often exists between the writer and the publisher, an expanse that is so large that agents are sometimes required as go-betweens. But the landscape of publishing is changing and no longer is an author required to mail out manuscripts and wait months to years before hearing back (at least this is becoming a near extinct process).

Technology has the capability to erase the gap of information between the publisher and writer, something that has not really existed on a wide scale until now. No longer is it a requirement that a publication send out a faceless rejection letter that tells the author only that they have not been selected for publication. Now, with the ability of submission programs to organize all submission along with the comments of the editors involved, it is easier to go back and see which submissions were on the cusp of publication. We can then look at these submissions and see why they were turned down and make that a part of our rejection letter. In an industry where so many variables can lead to a piece not being published it is an invaluable tool to be able to offer the writer at least a slight indication of why a piece was not selected. Or, even better, there is an opportunity to not only disclose these reasons but allow the author the chance to correct these mistakes if they so choose.

Obviously this cannot always be the case. Some large publications just do not have the time to look through all their submissions and tailor a specific response, but they at least have the option to tailor one for the submissions that are on the edge. It will also to take time for these technologies and the assets they offer to catch on. However long it takes, it does give me a great sense of hope for the future of publishing and I see a time where publishers and writers can work as closely as peers in other fields. I can see the benefit of writers and publishers establishing professional relationships that provide brief points of contact concerning the craft of writing.

Bonus opinion: without delving too deeply into an already cantankerous subject, I see these constantly evolving technological tools as a gateway to a future where biases can be circumvented by using submission programs to cloak the identity of submitting authors. This seems like an unbelievable boon to an industry which so recently suffered from a humiliating setback.

Past Intern Updates: Christina Arregoces

Christina Arregoces, Issue 7 Art Editor and Issue 8 Interview Coordinator, discusses her pursuit of literary outlets and plans for the future.

HeadshotAfter interning at Superstition Review my freshman and sophomore year, I went on to immerse myself in any (and every) literary outlet I could. From ASU’s State Press Magazine to Lux Undergraduate Creative Review, from the Barrett Chronicle to Every Day Fiction, I applied for, submitted to, reported for, and wrote for just about every publication that I was lucky enough to stumble upon.

And between papers, classes, and incredible mentors during the next year and a half, I then stumbled upon copywriting.

I now happily work as a part time copywriter at a marketing firm in Tempe, and I plan to continue there until I graduate in 2014.

Until then? I’ll be hard at work on my creative writing Honors Thesis, while continuing to write for the Washington D.C. based blog, Spike the Watercooler.

After then? Well, that’s a good question. Though I’m planning on taking the LSAT this June, I’m still considering applying to a handful of MFA programs, with the end goal of getting my PhD and teaching at a collegiate level (hopefully, somewhere in California) in mind.

Let’s just say I’ll be doing quite a bit of breath holding come next fall.

Past Intern Update: Rebekah Richgels

Rebekah Richgels, Fiction Editor of Issue 2 and Issue 3, reflects on life in the publishing world after Superstition Review.

Oh, how naïve I was.

Intern Update Rebekah RichgelsSuperstition Review was the beginning of living my dreams. I spent two semesters with SR as one of the Fiction Editors during my junior year. It was bliss. I spent my time talking with people who loved writing and reading and even editing. I contacted hundreds (if not literally, then very close) of already published authors like I was a peer of theirs and got a great response. I loved the community of the written word that I was thrown into. I got to interview T.C. Boyle, for crying out loud!

The next year I delved further, but also expanded. I was the head Fiction editor for Lux, Arizona State University’s

Undergraduate Creative Review. That was awesome because it dealt with undergraduates and truly sought to foster the artistic creativity in students, bring it to light, and then polish it. Great fun.

I graduated in 2010 with my B.A. in Creative Writing, minor in French, and defended thesis from Barrett, the Honors College. I spent the summer in Denver at the University of Denver Publishing Institute, and that was the best thing I had ever done in my life. Ever. I met people who not just loved reading and writing, but who wanted to spend their lives making sure the world can read great stuff. I was on top of the world, as you might imagine.

Then, as is always the case, reality struck.

Publishing jobs are in New York City, mainly, with another hub in Boston and one near San Francisco. My significant other was (and is) at medical school at Stanford, which is in Northern California, so I packed up my car and braved the new wilderness of California, believing that I would be hired right off and work my way up the ladder in the publishing world.

Ha.

I spent nine months working for Costco and applying for all manner of entry-level publishing jobs. The economy being what it was, there weren’t many. The other aspect of California publishing is that the publishers who aren’t small independents are academics, and turnover is small in both those fields. Not to mention, the larger companies were buying up independents to use as imprints. Even Random House and Penguin were merging. All in all, my dreams were hard to make reality.

Costco wasn’t cutting it for me, so we parted ways. I began working as a nanny, independently for a freelance editor, hoping that her connections could extend to me, and I took on a transcription project that lasted two months. Then, last summer, I noticed that the Superstition Review Facebook page had posted an intern position for Weave Magazine, which was conveniently located in San Francisco. I applied. They rejoiced! Apparently I’m far more qualified, thanks to SR, than many of their applicants.

Let me just tell you all, I love it. It’s like Superstition Review in so many ways, but with even more fun interacting. I don’t get to do the solicitation, but the group conversations about the submissions are wonderful, and I love the exposure to writers.

I’m still searching for my break-in publishing job, but in the meantime I’m busying myself with office admin work at a property management company. I’ve also landed a 12-week internship with Bleacher Report, the online sports website, where I do 15 hours of copyediting a week. Since the content is mostly submitted by unpaid authors, my work is sorely needed, let me tell you.

So life hasn’t turned out like I imagined it would, but I’ve been able to adjust my expectations along the way (with some pouting moments, I’ll admit), and things are going well now. I’m not an SR success story yet, but I’ll get there. You’ll read about it, I promise.

Intern Highlight: Jake Adler

Art Editor Jake Adler is a sophomore at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University pursuing a degree in Creative Writing. He has published poetry in both Lux and Marooned, two undergraduate creative reviews, and writes for The State Press as a bi-weekly opinion columnist. After graduating, Jake looks forward to traveling abroad and continuing to hone his writing craft before attending graduate school. This is his first semester at Superstition Review.

Click on the following link to listen to Jake share an excerpt from one of his short stories.

Jake Adler

Meet the Interns: Terrah Hancock

Nonfiction Editor Terrah Hancock is an English Literature major at Arizona State University. One of her nonfiction essays, Snobbery Tower is being published in the upcoming edition of Lux Literary Magazine. She has also finished a working draft of her memoir entitled Singing Myself To Sleep and is in the editorial phase of publication. She aspires to attend graduate school at Vermont College of Fine Arts where her Creative Writing Thesis Project will be the tangled biography of a 26º Freemason’s son.

1.  What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?
This is my first semester with Superstition Review. As the Nonfiction Editor my responsibilities are to review submissions from authors. I correspond with the authors and then submit my vote on which submissions I think should be featured.

2.  Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?
I am usually on the submitting end of the publication process. I was curious to experience the other side, so I applied. I want to gain exposure to things like: the always dreaded and nerve wracking Query Letter and to witness how fellow writers develop and sustain relationships with literary magazines.

3.  Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?
I have a set of detailed and lofty academic and professional goals, so a great deal of my time is spent studying or writing in the basement of Hayden Library. Beyond striving to achieve my childhood dream of being a writer, I am the happy and playful mother of two beautiful sons.  We spend much of our time riding bikes, playing football or taking our three dogs to the dog park.

4.  What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?
I could see myself trying the Superstition Review Blog Editor only if it doesn’t exclude me from being able to read all the incoming submissions!

5.  Describe one of your favorite literary works.
I get asked this all the time and I contend that one favorite is impossible! I have a strong three way tie for my favorite work: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Each of these books left me feeling immensely connected to humanity and with a deep compassion for all the things I’ll never know about other people’s lives.

6.  What are you currently reading?
After semesters full of close, analytic readings I yearn for a story that I don’t have to dissect and appraise. My very favorite story to get lost in is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Like the gunslinger’s repeated journey, I read this entire series once a year. I love that I don’t study the sentence structure or even acknowledge that structure exists. Right now I’m reading The Art of Time in Memoir by Sven Birkerts.

7.  Creatively, what are you currently working on?
I am working on polishing the working draft of my first book right now. I completed my first draft over a year ago and have been following a detailed plan to achieve my eventual goal.  My manuscript is with my editor now and when we are finished with this lengthy editorial process, I’ll move along to the stage of acquiring publication and literary prestige!

8.  What inspires you?
I am inspired by the people who never gave up on their dreams. In 1888, Mona Caird wrote “Every good thing that we enjoy today was once the dream of a ‘crazy enthusiast’ mad enough to believe in the power of ideas and in the power of man to have things as he wills.” Also — one of my goals is to someday be an answer to one of The Writer’s Chronicle crossword puzzle questions!

9.  What are you most proud of?
I make sure to cherish every accomplishment in my life. Every semester, every essay, every test, every publication. I’m proud of my life collectively. Most recently, I’m very proud of my first publication. A short story of mine entitled, Snobbery Tower, was published just this month in a local literary journal.

10.  Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I wrote my first book at age six, entitled The Heart and The Ant. Ten years from now, I will still be on the path that began with that book. I will still be writing and possibly in school; hopefully on the other side of the podium by then. I’ll still be happy and proud. I’ll know that I never gave up on my dreams — maybe got distracted a few times, but I never quit.

Meet the Interns: Christina Arregoces

Art Editor Christina Arregoces is a freshman studying English (Creative Writing) at Arizona State and is a student of Barrett, The Honors College. She is a writer for The State Press weekly podcast and recently had two of her short stories selected for publication in the 2011 spring edition of Lux literary magazine. Upon graduating in 2014, she hopes to attend law school and pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer, while continuing to cultivate her love of writing. This is her first semester at Superstition Review, and she is looking forward to every moment of it.

1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

My position with Superstition Review is Art Editor. As one of the Art Section Editors, I am responsible for reviewing pieces by various artists whose work will be featured in the seventh issue. My responsibilities include corresponding with contributors.

2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

I love to read and write creatively and I hope to one day have a career as a publisher. So as soon as I heard about Superstition Review, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to get a sense of what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I can’t wait to begin to delve into it.

3. How do you like to spend your free time?

I’m a huge reader; it’s a rare day that I don’t have my hands on a book for at least half an hour or so. I also love to spend time with my best friends and just relax with my roommate.

4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

I’d like to try out the Fiction Editor position. As a reader and a writer, I’d love to get the chance to read submissions and stumble upon stories that I’ve never come across before.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

I really can’t tell you how excited I was for this question. My all time favorite literary work (and it was difficult making my list, but this novel just tops all others) is The Book Thief, a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. Though I’ve read dozens of books about the Holocaust, I’ve never in my life come across a book like this. The story follows a little girl named Liesel, her adopted family, and her friendship with a Jewish man hiding from the Nazis in her family’s basement. But the story isn’t told through her eyes; Zusak’s narrator is none other than the surprisingly-human Death himself. The book is beautiful and heart breaking and the moment I picked it up, I fell in love with it. To this day, no other book has ever affected me so much.

6. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. I like to break up novels with short stories, so after I finished Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, I moved on to Salinger. I’m only on the fifth story but I’m already sad the end is so close.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I typically like writing short stories, so I’m currently working on a longer one that I’ve been writing for months now.

8. What inspires you?

My past mainly inspires me. People, places, moments that I remember, as well as stories I’ve heard from family and friends. I love the moments I see day to day; from interactions between people on the sidewalk to snippets of conversation that make no sense until the holes are filled in with words.

9. What are you most proud of?

Right now, I’m most proud of a writing contest I won for a short story that I submitted. As a newly published writer, every publication opportunity that comes along excites me like crazy.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself smiling and writing. Hopefully, I’ll be working as a publisher, surrounded by words and books, with several more stories on their way. I’d also love to buy a dog; I plan on getting a pug and naming him Doyle.

Meet The Interns: Mary Richardson

Mary Richardson is a sophomore at Arizona State University and is a student of the Barrett Honors College. She is pursuing a concurrent major in English Literature and European History. She is also a Fiction Reviewer for ASU’s Lux Literary Magazine. Her career aspirations are to work in editing/publishing or to be a professor.

1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

I am the Reading Series Coordinator for the magazine, which means I organize readings events that display the works and talents of selected writers/poets.

2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

I’m really interested in publishing as a career possibility. Also, literature and poetry are very enriching for me, and I appreciate that this internship is centered around these subjects.

3. Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

I spend a majority of my time running, doing yoga, reading, or writing. It’s also very important to be with my close friends and family.

4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

I would be very interested in the Content Coordinator position once I have more experience.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

Wuthering Heights has long been my favorite novel. I’m very intrigued by Emily Brontë’s use of language to present and develop the characters. I’m also interested in how she delves into the concepts of time, memory, and human nature.

6. What are you currently reading?

I recently began One Hundred Years of Solitude.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I really enjoy writing short stories. Right now I’m in the process of brainstorming a new one.

8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself continuing my current hobbies and interests, while also pursuing new ones. I hope to be part of a community that appreciates the same aspects of life as I do.