Join the #LitMagPartyline on Twitter!

More than anything, it has been Superstition Review’s mission to bring gorgeous literature into the world, spectacular art from all over the planet, poetry that sings to you, and essays that speak their personal truth. We’ve been doing this since 2008 and will continue to do so well into the future.

We are, much like a lot of literary magazines, in a position to publish, but we’re also given the opportunity to be a lot of ASU students’ introduction to the world of literature. We’ve been thinking lately about what it means to cultivate this community with our interns and trainees. How do we set them on a path to go out into the world with vigor and ferocious kindness? The answer has always been there, lurking in the very heart of what we do: connection. It is through connection with the people writing and the people behind the scenes working tirelessly, often for little or no pay, to produce magazines because they love what they do.

Then, we must ask how to we lead our interns to connect with other people. Social media has its problems, but it’s also an unprecedented means to interact with a global community, with people who share interests and passions, the people who breathe the very life into the the thriving literary organism it is today. And in the spirit of this connection, we want to dedicate a week to showing our interns and trainees the beauty of kindness and connection.

Starting on Sept. 30th and ending on Oct. 7th we’ll be introducing the hashtag #LitMagPartyline. This is in celebration of the way technology has continually advanced with the very goal of connecting us to one another. We want to make a party line on Twitter, which our interns and trainees will use to amplify work that speaks to them and share a line, a phrase, an image from a poem or essay or story or a work of art. We’ll ask that they tag the magazine and share what it means to them. We want our interns and trainees to relish in the joy of telling these hard-working writers, poets, essayists, editors, readers, and artists that their work is valuable, that what they do reaches far and wide.

But there’s more! We want everyone to join in. Please, please, please join in! When you see the @SuperstitionRev thread, share with us and our students a piece of something special to you. And remember to use #LitMagPartyline. Let’s all take this week to and come together to bring unfettered joy into the world. Let’s show everyone that positivity wins.

Contributor Update: Roy Guzman

Good afternoon, everybody! Today brings exciting developments from the field: past contributor Roy Guzman, featured in the Poetry section of our 18th issue, has been selected to have his poetry included in the brand new anthology from Tia Chucha Press, titled The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States. The anthology is scheduled for release this month, and was edited by Leticia Hernández Linares, Rubén Martínez, and Héctor Tobar, with a foreword by Juan José Dalton. Go pre-order this brilliant collection of work here, and do yourself a favor (if you haven’t already) and go read Guzman’s poem in our 18th issue here. Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

Pre-order now!
The cover for The Wandering Song, featuring the work of past contributor Roy Guzman.

 

Book Spine Poetry Contest

Superstition Review is pleased to resurrect our Book Spine Poetry contest, running Monday Sep 19-Sunday Sep 25.

How it Works:

All submissions must come through Superstition Review‘s Twitter. Please send a picture of your Book Spine Poem in a tweet that includes @SuperstitionRev #BookSpinePoetry

What You Win:

Judges will pick the top Book Spine Poem, and the winner will receive a Superstition Review mug.

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Past Entries:

Visit our Book Spine Poetry Board on Pinterest to see past poems.

Book Spine Poetry

Getting Ready for @AWP2014

AWP BookfairIn a few weeks, thousands of writers and editors will flock to Seattle for the annual AWP conference, and for the first time, I’ll be among them. As a newcomer, I’m overwhelmed by the thought of more than 12,000 writers rubbing shoulders at a massive bookfair and cutting loose at a nightly dance party. (AWP veterans and bloggers have already warned me about the dizzying amount of stargazing, badge-scoping, and bright tights I’ll see.) In addition to emotionally readying myself for the apparent madness that is AWP, I’ve been making these preparations.

1. Planning my schedule

I love how easy it is to create a schedule on the AWP website. It was so user-friendly and easy, in fact, that I just kept adding. The next step was narrowing down my selections from four or five panels per session to one or two. After spending a few hours staring at “delete from my schedule” buttons and agonizing over which panel to choose, I realized that once I get to Seattle, my meticulous schedule might be for naught. For now, it’s a helpful way to see who will be presenting, decide who I absolutely must see, and envision how I’ll spend the conference. And my conclusion? It looks like I’ll be running from one panel to the next

2. Doing my research

I realize that it’s impossible to research everyone on every panel I’m attending. However, I am trying to do some preliminary research so that if someone asks me whose panel I’m seeing next or what I thought of Richard Nash’s discussion on small press readership, I’ll have something to say. I’m also trying to bulk up on Superstition Review material, as I’ll be manning our table at the bookfair for an hour each day. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of past contributors there as well, and I’m hoping to be able to pick some out of the swarming crowd of writers.

3. Getting my social-networking feet wet

The S[R] team will be doing a lot of live reporting from the conference, which means learning the art of tweeting on-the-go. I’m not very Twitter savvy, but thankfully we have a few social-networking wizards representing the magazine this year – I hope to pick up a few things from them before the conference begins. We’ll be using an app called Everypost this year, which allows us to post content to all of our social networks at once. This will make live tweeting from panels and readings so much faster, though I’m sure we’ll still be seen occasionally hunched over our phones, trying to type a fantastic quote. We’re also hosting a few contests over social networks with daily prizes at stake, so be sure to stop by #TableC40. Of course, we’ll be on the lookout for #SRalum and continuing the ever-entertaining #overheardatAWP.

4. Finding eateries near the conference

I’ve heard about AWP’s classic $16 water bottles, so I’m not planning to buy much food onsite. At the same time, I don’t want to spend hours away from the conference in search of a decent restaurant or grocery store. Luckily, there’s a Trader Joe’s about a mile from the conference hotel and a host of good restaurants downtown. To save on time and money, I’m planning to stock up on snacks that I can break out in between sessions. I also know that I will need to escape the madness of the convention center at some point. Might as well leave to find food! Being in downtown Seattle, it will be really tempting to visit Pike Place Market. I could spend the entire afternoon at the market though, so if I venture there, I’ll have to do so with a purpose (i.e. Beecher’s cheese and Le Panier’s croissants).

5. Setting a budget

I am planning to spend some money at the bookfair – I know I won’t be able to resist buying a few books and signing up for the occasional subscription. And I want to. We are at AWP because we understand the love and devotion that goes into literary publishing and want to support each other’s craft. However, I am a poor, starving college student. Ok, maybe not quite starving, but I might be after I spend all my money on croissants and literary magazines in Seattle.

We’ll be lighting up all our social networks while at the conference, and I will be back with two more blog posts – one while in the trenches and another after we return to Arizona to see how effective all of these well-intentioned preparations were. See you at AWP! And on our networks:

                  

Guest Blog Post, Vanessa Blakeslee: Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Vanessa Blakeslee1. Take care of yourself. Much like the announcements before flights regarding the placing of oxygen masks, you can’t expect to render your characters fully if you’re out of shape and eating poorly. Exercise regularly and eat fresh foods. Caffeinate moderately. Get eight hours of sleep every night. To underestimate the power of the subconscious, the breakthroughs that undoubtedly come from the dream-state and walks in the park, is foolish and undermining of the imagination at work. Never mind that your ability to contribute to the literary canon is severely compromised if you’re sick or dead.

2. Become aware of the effects of environment on your process—and change it up if need be. If you can’t settle in at your desk today, try the couch. If the sun is shining during your writing hours and you can’t stand being inside your apartment one more second, find a park bench or an outdoor café. If you’re in public and one-sided phone conversations keep intruding on your characters’ dialogue, seek out someplace quiet. Go wherever you need to be to enter the fictional dream as completely as you can.

3. Write first drafts in longhand whenever possible. My initial drafts almost always turn out truer to my vision when I’m connected to the physical page through a pen or pencil, thus saving time later during revision. I think there might be scientific data to back this up, but regardless, one obvious benefit is that you are much more apt to cross-out and play with alternative phrasing in the margins and between sentences, etc., sometimes literally question what you may be attempting to say on the page. Whereas in word-processing software, you don’t like a phrase, Delete-delete-delete, and not only is it gone forever, but so is your record of what you were aiming for, even if your initial attempts at grasping for an image or line fell short. When you type up the handwritten pages, you’re composing your second draft—added bonus.

4. Keep questioning the stakes of your premise. Often, at the beginning of a new story or before a revision, I’ll write, “Is this a great story of love and death?” across the top. If the answer is no, then consider how you might approach the premise differently to make it more gripping. If it is a novel, trace the narrative backwards to see where you may have gotten off-track, or strayed from the tension. You may be surprised in going over your drafts at how much of what you may have considered essential is in effect tangential.

5. If you’re stuck or between scenes or sections and uncertain where your protagonist goes next, take a short nap. Again, sometimes a quick dip into the subconscious is just the trick for stirring up new ideas/images. Although you’ll have to wait until you get home if you’re at a coffee shop.

6. That said, sometimes you have to just power through. This is tricky advice to give, when to step away (or nap!) and when to power through, and largely instinctive. But powering-through happens for me after I do a good bit of questioning and jotting down of potential ideas in my notebook regarding where the story needs to go next. There follows the sort of heavy feeling of anticipation, excitement, and despair regarding how I am going to accomplish what is to take place—but all that remains is doing it. That’s when it’s time to log out of Facebook, brew a fresh caffeinated favorite, push ahead, and trust.

7. The Internet/Facebook/Twitter/Etc. Figure out your relationship to it. I love nothing more than perusing for articles on strange happenings and the idiosyncrasies of my friends’ lives; as such, I’m a self-proclaimed Facebook addict. I’ve never been a big procrastinator, either, but when I arrive at my desk I tend to scroll the Facebook newsfeed until I have an overwhelming feeling that I’ve been pummeled enough by everyone’s happenings and achievements, and am then happily driven to the page and my inner world. In between scenes or sections and when I take a snack break, I will often log back on. Sometimes I go to coffee shops because although I have a smart phone, I am much less likely to be distracted by the Internet when I have actually driven somewhere and purchased menu items with precious dollars. Only you can figure out how to balance the work/Internet pull.

8. Learn to trust and develop your gut instincts regarding your work, and others’ critique of it. True, you’ll always be too close to it, because you’re the creator. And there will always be some voices ringing out in workshop that are way off for your vision of the story, your aesthetic, etc. But then there will be some who are right on, whose searing feedback or advice matches the quiver in your middle when you hold the draft up before your eyes. Better to have a handful—even one—of these voices in your corner than none. Cherish such readers, yet also keep in mind that someone who may have resonated deeply with a previous project of yours may not have the same relationship with the next one. Have the courage to seek out fresh eyes.

9. Realize the value of your work—because if you don’t value it, why should others? Delegate as many nonessential, non-writing tasks to whatever degree you can—to agents, interns, teenage children/siblings, eager grad students, etc. If you’ve got a $50,000 a year teaching gig, hire a maid service to clean your house once or twice a month so you can invest in those precious days off to write. Figure out which holidays you prefer to celebrate with family and which ones you can skip to attend a writers’ colony, or borrow a friend’s cabin in the woods for a couple of weeks.

10. Meditate on your death every day. This meditation will usually be fleeting and hardly morbid—but certain, yes. You are going to die. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or six months down the road. Then again, maybe today. All that will be left of your essence in this life will be what you’ve left behind, written down. Is what you have to say essential? If not, how to make it so? Most everything pertaining to the craft of writing can be boiled down to those two questions.

Guest Blog Post, Renée K. Nicholson; DIY Arts Entrepreneurship

Renée K. NicholsonIn January of this year, I received an email from the professional social media site LinkedIn telling me my profile was in the top 10% of all viewed profiles in 2012. What surprised me most about this email is that I really had no idea how that happened, or what it really meant. As a writer, book critic, dance critic, ballet teacher (retired dancer), literary podcaster, journal founder, former marketing professional, and rheumatoid arthritis advocate—among other things—I felt like my profile was a jumble of stuff. But what a friend explained to me was that my profile told a story. She went on to say that my story, as told by LinkedIn, defied the one-dimensional logic of the resume, and that my on-again off-again participation in a few very focused professional groups on the site continued a narrative that located me in a community.

But what community?

Before we get to that, there are a few things you need to know.

1. First, as I was growing up, my father worked for IBM. He was a top salesperson, and then recruited into the highly selective Executive Education program, established by IBM’s founder, Tom Watson. But while working in Executive Education, a new project was developing in the Entry Systems Division, and my father was one of the first 40 people to join this project. People told him it would be his “career ender.” The project he’d been recruited for was called the Personal Computer.

2. As a young person, I trained to be a ballet dancer. Although my career was cut short by the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of performing in what’s called “the corps de ballet” or a ballet company. A ballet company is like a family, and although in popular depictions, the rivalries are often the point of focus, it’s the community of artists coming together that truly defines the dancing experience. In that way, it’s unlike writing, a solitary art, one that I’d find only after my short dancing career passed.

3. During my married life, I’ve owned, with my husband, two houses, both of which have been improved through fairly extensive DYI home upgrades. The cost savings of doing the work ourselves (and by ourselves, I really have to say that my husband did almost all of it himself), we not only increased the value of our home, but we had complete control (for better or worse) of the process of making our home a better, more beautiful dwelling in the way we wanted it to be.

All three of these things come together, for me, as an artist looking to make my way through the world. The artist’s path is not easy. As Jim Hart, Director of Southern Methodist University’s Arts Entrepreneurship program said at a conference that posted a YouTube video of his speech, most artists find themselves on the over-saturated path where there are a few traditional, commercially-viable opportunities for which there exists a large audience competition for these resources. This rings true—there are only so many books the big New York publishers take a gamble on compared to the number of novel manuscripts; in the dance world, there were only so many people the ballet companies could absorb, and many dancers talented enough to fill those spots. Rejection is high and even the lucky breaks don’t always amount to making a living, Hart reminds us.

So, what to do?

Shaped by my experience, I believe a few very specific things. Like my father, sometimes you have to take risks to earn rewards—to think off the beaten path to success. I also believe that there is value in community, which was forged in the corps de ballet. And finally, I believe that some things can be done without the aid of (so-called) experts and professionals, in the DYI fashion, giving us an alternative to the modern consumer culture.

The professor and retired entrepreneur Greg Watson defined entrepreneurship as “the creation of value often through the identification of unmet needs or through the identification of opportunities for change.” What, more than art, provides value and opportunities for change?

We often consider value in monetary terms. Of course, we all need to cover our expenses for our survival and comfort. But can artistic value be measured in other ways? I think yes, and I think one of the best ways is through community building.

In the summer of 2012, I started a fledging project with another writer—a book podcast. We chose a book, read it independently, and then recorded our discussion and posted it on the Internet and through iTunes. SummerBooks has grown from a handful of listeners to thousands of hits in less than a year. I don’t even think it has hit its full potential yet. Marketing has been low-budget—via social media, like that LinkedIn profile I started with, and Twitter. The feedback I’ve received on the podcast, however, suggests that writers and readers were, in fact, looking for community. Presses and authors approach us about reading their newest books; listeners often contact us when they hear us discuss a book and then decide to purchase and read it, too. More than anything, SummerBooks has challenged me to be in dialogue with the community I care about: writers and readers.

At its essence, SummerBooks is fueled by a passion for books. It’s two women in West Virginia who are either brave or stupid enough to share in that conversation.

Late last year, a former student from teaching English 101 in my graduate school days approached me about starting a literary journal. A recent graduate in poetry from the prestigious MFA at Columbia, this student had spent a few years after the program figuring out what was next. Of course, I agreed to help, not only because I have a terrible time saying “no” to such projects, but because I saw it as an opportunity. Souvenir emerged as a result, a journal not only serving writers, but opening up to other art forms and informed criticism. Nascent as still is, the response by both contributors and readers far exceeds, already, our hopes for the publication.

It would be fair to criticize these efforts as not being financially viable; at this point, both ventures create value in ways other than monetary. But the frugal DYI approach makes them both cost effective and alternative to consumer culture. And there are some more established examples to point to: Brad Listi’s Other People podcast or the online literary community The Rumpus, which includes two different book clubs. Of course, others too. I’m not privy to what these endeavors do commercially, but their ability to coalesce communities of writers can be easily seen and joined. By engaging in these, one can be “in company” with other literary artists.

With the developments presented by e-books, the changing perception of self-publishing, the rise of hybrid publishing and ability for more people to engage in small press publishing, the opportunities for arts entrepreneurship for writers has never, perhaps, been greater. The work is hard, but it’s there to be done. And I’m not sure we’ve even begun to see and understand all the ways new technologies will manifest opportunities for literary artists. It’s all scary, as change can be, but also exciting.

My interests, above all others, is to invest in the building of community. I’ve figured out the ways in which to earn (eek out?) my living, and so my passion resides in finding ways to connect. Because if social media has taught us anything, it’s that we yearn for connection. Bringing people together through the arts seems to me one of the best ways for that yearning towards connection to become the catalyst for community.

There’s always risk in entrepreneurial ventures. But also reward. When IBM’s entrepreneurial project, the PC, became such a success, the same people who had once chided my father about taking that risk later asked if he was hiring. How do we know if the risk is worth taking? I don’t know that I have any better advice on that than anyone else, but I think it has to do with hard work and faith and just a gut feeling. Learning, perhaps, to trust our instincts. That DYI credo of the success or failure squarely situated in ourselves, rather than listening to all those who gate-keep, who say, “no.”

If it weren’t for that top 10% LinkedIn email, I might never have thought about DYI Arts Entrepreneurship. But, thankfully I have. And perhaps some of you reading this will get the germ of your own idea, expanding and growing the ideas behind the proliferation of literary or other art. Because if the world is full of art and artistic community, it’s also full of possibility.

Guest Blog Post, Elane Johnson: So You Want to Be a Writer…

Elane JohnsonI was destined to write. My grandmother always told me I’d be a writer, and she had an uncanny ability to see the future. She said, “If you clown around in those roller skates and fall down on that rough pavement and scrape your knees, you’re getting no sympathy from me.” And it happened exactly the way she predicted. (I’d just like to know where she was with her front-porch-rocking-chair advice when I really needed it? Like, “If you marry that idiot you’ve only known two months, it will turn out bad.” Stuff like that, I could’ve used.)

After years and years of Mama’s reverberating prognostication, I tiptoed gingerly to the edge of the cliff of artists’ angst and submitted my first piece for publication. Of course, she proved to be an accurate soothsayer yet again when I was the first nine-year-old to have a poem published in The Daily Sun. Unfortunately, at forty-three, I’d yet to have my second piece accepted for print. So I decided to sail head-first and backwards off that damned cliff and get an MFA in Creative Writing. Since then, I’ve started my own irreverent blog, Blu-hoo, and I’ve had a few pieces published. Mostly for free.

Look. I’m the last one to burst your bubble, but let me tell you: Get a day job. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’ll have to have another source of income because writing doesn’t pay all that well. Yes, the enormous success of some first-time writers is enticing. But for every J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer or E L James, there’re thousands of writers toiling to get noticed. One thing I’ve discovered is that dreaming about writing doesn’t make it happen. It’s hard work unless you are a celebrity or a statesman. However, there are things you can do to improve your chances for success.

Write. A lot. While it may seem impossible to squeeze one more second out of your compacted day, sleep is really overrated. Write instead.

Bone up on your grammatical skills. As Stephen King posited in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, the most brilliant guide to the art of writing ever, “Grammar is not just a pain in the ass; it’s the pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking” (114). No one wants to read error-filled drivel. And for heaven’s sake, capitalize the personal pronoun I, or somebody’s going to get hurt.

Read. For example, since I write primarily creative non-fiction, I’ve read a slew of memoirs to determine things that work and things that don’t. I love Haven Kimmel’s memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, so much that if the state of Indiana allowed matrimony between people and inanimate objects, I’d marry it. (Since the state currently doesn’t recognize unions between people with identical 23rd chromosome pairs, I don’t hold out much hope.) Reading Haven is like listening to her talk. She creates metaphors so stunning you want to poke your eyes out with a hot fireplace tool, but her cadence is easy like an hour on a front-porch swing. Augusten Burroughs, master memoirist, also employs a believable conversational tone that makes you feel like you’re sitting right next to him—comparing hardships—in some wino-breath-scented dive while your own vomit chunks flake off your shirt. When you read exceptional writing, you learn to emulate your role-models.

Get followed. Unless you have a substantial Twitter/FaceBook/Tumblr/Pinterest following, it’s hard to pique a publisher’s interest anymore. If you already have a fan-base, you’ve got an advantage. But. You still have to be able to write. And write well. Be fresh. Exciting. Create magic.

It’s also helpful if you’re able to divine “the next big thing,” so that your writing will ride the wave of whatever is popular. Fortunately, topics tend to be cyclical, so by my calculations, it’ll be 63 billion years before vampires are hot again.

If all else fails, become a celebrity. Shoot. If Honey Boo Boo can do it, so can you.

Honey Boo Boo

Reference

King, S. (2000). On writing: A memoir of the craft. New York: Pocket Books.

 

You can read Elane Johnson’s word essay in issue 6 of SR.