Join us in congratulating SR interview contributor Elissa Washuta. She recently worked with fellow editor Theresa Warburton to publish Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays By Contemporary Writers this summer.
The collection features both established and emerging Native writers including Stephen Graham Jones, Deborah Miranda, Terese Marie Mailhot, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Eden Robinson, and Kim TallBear. Taken together, the essays examine materiality, orality, spatiality, and temporality in Native literary traditions.
This upcoming Monday, July 22, both Elissa and Theresa will discuss their work on this project from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at the Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Avenue. The discussion will be recorded for a podcast.
To read more about Elissa’s workshop, click here. You can find her interview from Issue 17 here.
Hayden’s Ferry Review is hosting their first “Southwest Editor’s Forum” on Saturday, February 10, located at the Piper Writer’s House at ASU’s Tempe campus.
Their announcement states: “We will explore process, share resources, network, and even feed you. It’s so easy as editors to sit in our offices and lose sight of our community. We focus on writers and discuss their efforts, but as editors, we have different needs and unique challenges to surmount. At this inaugural event, we would like to convene the editors of our region for an afternoon of discussion, camaraderie, and sharing. We hope you will join us and register for this free event right away.”
Presenters include Matt Bell, a founding editor at The Collagist; Rosemarie Dombrowski the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix; as well as Sally Ball, the associate director at Four Way Books.
This weekend Superstition Review has a table at the AWP Writers’ conference in Washington DC. We have some really cool swag, including mugs, t-shirts, and notebooks we are raffling to convention-goers. If you’re at AWP this weekend and want to win, follow us on twitter @Superstitionrev and send us a tweet saying “Hello @superstitionrev from AWP.” Winners will be announced on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 4PM. Swing by the Superstition Review booth (501-T) to claim your prizes.
It’s September again, the time of year when thousands of hopeful writers hunch over keyboards with coffee breath and some nervousness, preparing their babies to go out into the world. Some of them will find good homes, but the vast majority will make their way back for some attention and TLC.
For more than twenty years, I have submitted fiction and poetry to magazines, anthologies, and online journals. In that time, I have published more than two dozen short stories and two hundred poems, received valuable feedback, and developed relationships with editors. I have also been rejected time and time again. I’d like to share some advice that might help prepare you for submission season.
By my best estimate, I have had a submissions acceptance rate of approximately 2% over the past two decades. This means that I have also had more than 10,000 rejections. In my early days of submitting, the rejections filled more than one recycling bin. I used to save handwritten rejections, until even these became too numerous to keep in a drawer.
Success comes with rejection, and writers who take submissions personally are missing the point: readers and tastes evolve constantly at each and every magazine. I have placed work at magazines that have rejected me ten times or more.
Do Your Homework
Even if submitting is a number’s game, there are still things you can do to increase your odds. In any given year, I read twenty or so literary magazines to get an idea of what my peers are doing and to gauge the creative tastes of publications. I read submission guidelines carefully, and look at work on the magazine’s website that the editors have selected as representative work. Then and only then do I submit.
Now for Some Controversial Advice
There’s only one rule I break, something that other writers I know do as well. I occasionally submit work to magazines that don’t accept simultaneous submissions while I am submitting the same work to other places.
At writers’ conferences, I make it a point to talk with literary magazine editors that don’t accept simultaneous submissions. Many of them acknowledge that they know that most writers aren’t following this guideline, and many even privately agree with a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy.
You should still be careful if you take this approach. I place all publications into roughly five tiers. I only send out work a handful at a time to the top tier, and this is the only place I break the rule and send simultaneous submissions to (a few) magazines that have a non-simultaneous submission policy.
Has this approach ever backfired? Yes. One time I missed out on publishing a poem in a top magazine and had to explain that I didn’t follow guidelines. When I weigh this against the high-quality publications I’ve placed my work in by accelerating the submission process, I consider it an acceptable risk. I’m certain that there are writers and editors who will disagree with me on this point.
I also strongly believe that every magazine and publisher should accept simultaneous submissions, particularly from those of us not submitting through our agents or emailing to a friend on staff. Since magazines work in an open marketplace, why not show the same respect to writers?
Define Your Submission Strategy
I tend to be patient with my submissions. I wait for my work to make its rounds from tier to tier, before submitting them more widely to lower tiers. One fiction writer friend has told me that she submits to eleven places at a time. Another poet friend confided that he once sent more than a thousand poetry submissions in a year.
At any given time, my work is in circulation from three to ten places, depending on the tier. In recent years I have stopped submitting to my lowest tier, as the quality of publications is now more important to me than the quantity.
Be Nice to the Editors
When you receive a rejection, don’t freak out and write back to an editor to explain why she or he is wrong. This is doubly true for feedback. Unfortunately, this is a rule that I have broken. It cost me placing a poem once in an anthology, when I didn’t like the edits I was getting, and I shot back a late night discourteous email.
I have received valuable feedback on my work, including on a short story The Policy that I published at Superstition Review. Some of the best comments on the story came from student editors, and their feedback made it better.
It might also not be the smartest idea to harass editors about why they haven’t taken a look at your work yet. Here is a great set of guidelines from Mixer Publishing that made me laugh:
Please wait at least one year before querying about your submission. If you need to withdraw your submission before that, our submission system will notify us of the withdrawal. We no longer respond to queries regularly due to the large amount of submissions we have and due to time restrictions. If we receive multiple queries from you or antagonistic emails, we will put you on an industry blacklist that we share on a secret database with the most powerful writers and editors in the world, who are all usually in a bad mood or hungover.
One of my friends has built a “secret’ weapon that he calls the Database of Doom. It contains a custom-made spreadsheet of publications by tiers and submission windows. He lets me use the Database of Doom, as long as I am mindful of its powers. Talk to your writer friends about submissions and share tips.
When in Doubt, Submit
Many writers disagree about the right time to submit. I think that a writer should wait until the piece no longer feels like a draft. However, when in doubt, my advice is to submit and submit some more. You may be surprised by the results (publication, feedback) and even rejection may tell you something about the quality of your work.
Submission Bombers, a new group founded by Weave editor Laura Davis, has organized a bunch of writers who all feel marginalized in some way, encouraging them all to submit to the same market at once. The idea of Submission Bombers is to give editors what they claim they do not get: submissions from “the marginalized.”
Our Issue 9 Fiction Editor Sarah Murray shared these thoughts about the editorial process.
What was your favorite piece?
“The Ruins” by Elizabeth Rollins. The details in her story were so vivid and poetic. I saw a vast humanity in her desert imagery.
Where there any submissions that you would have liked to include but you weren’t able to?
There were several. There was one about a little girl, set in India, that really left an impression on me. I think it was her agency that attracted me.
How do the editors choose which submissions to publish?
Submissions were honed through a voting process, and after we had figured out which ones got the most responses from our editorial staff (Fiction had 4), we would have a round-table discussion about each one. We really do pay a lot of attention to each submission.
Were there times that you just knew that a piece was perfect for SR?
Yes. Those are the pieces that, when you read, you can’t shake them for days afterwards.
What were some of the common pitfalls of the submissions that were not selected?
That’s actually a really hard question to answer, because a lot of the submissions we received were very different from each other. We did receive quite a few pieces that we did not feel were fully developed yet, and at that point it’s really easy to decide that it’s not the right time to publish, both for Superstition Review and the author.
What was the strangest submission you read/reviewed?
In the realm of fiction, there isn’t really a lot that I would consider strange, because it’s an arena where anything goes. Otherwise, it’s not art.
Please sum up what you’ve gained from your internship this semester. Do you feel like you have a better grasp on editing? Literary magazines? Why?
This internship was my first experience with literary magazines from the inside. I know what it’s like to submit to one, but it’s comforting to now know what goes on behind the scenes. You learn how to navigate your audience better, working for one. It was definitely a great experience.
How has editing impacted your own writing?
Reading always affects writing, and I’ve read more literary fiction through this internship than I had before.
What were some of the obstacles you faced in preparing for Issue 9?
Mostly it was just the decisions on which stories to publish and which ones you had to say “no” to. Those were really, really difficult decisions.
Splash of Red is an international online literary arts magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, interviews, and graphic narratives. They have published interviews with many Pulitzer Prize winners, US Poet Laureates, and acclaimed writers as well as some of the top editors and publishers in the country for their Industry Interview Series. What sets these interviews apart from others is that they focus on the readers of the literary magazine, many of whom are writers themselves. The interviews delve into writing processes of the interviewess, editing techniques, and strategies for getting around writer’s block. And the Industry Series investigates the other side of the table that writers rarely get a glimpse into in order to better their odds at getting their work published. But the meat of the publication is the fantastic submissions that come from all over the world.
The name of the publication comes from three inspirations: 1) the infamous red ink in draft after draft to get the best quality writing, 2) the blood and passion that goes into only the most skillfully crafted art, and 3) great work stands out just like a splash of red.
In 2010, Splash of Red organized numerous live events where authors came to speak with audiences for live Q and As. Some of the authors included Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz, famed writer Eleanor Herman, and Daniel Wallace – author of Big Fish, who spoke with eager audience members following a showing of the film based on his novel at a local independent theater. Additionally, the online magazine involved local communities by spearheading a special public mural on the New Jersey boardwalk in Asbury Park. Three artists chose three poems published on the website and created pieces of art inspired by and including those poems which were then painted in multiple, large murals across the backdrop of the mid-Atlantic.
Interested fans can follow Splash of Red on Twitter, Facebook, or become a member and get email updates about newly published work and events. One of the things they pride themselves on is creating an online literary arts community where readers can post comments on anything published on the website, submit art inspired by splashes of red for their Red Gallery, and involving members in creative decisions and directions for the publication including suggestions for interviewees.
If you take any one thing away from this blog post, take this: check it out. The website is www.SplashOfRed.net and feel free to peruse, read, comment, and investigate at your own leisure. Make it your own and enjoy!
We would like to thank all of our staff, interns, contributors, readers, Art Intersection, Mind Over Batter, and Pomegranate Cafe for making the launch of Issue 9 a success. On launch day alone, we had over 460 visitors, half of which were new to Superstition Review. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Check out some of the photos from our Issue 9 launch party.
I’m terrible at sitting through speeches. I can sit in a lecture hall and watch a PowerPoint, participate in productive class discussions, and I take great chemistry notes. But when it comes to listening to a single speaker stand on a podium without any sort of interactive media, I usually end up thinking about the ceiling or dinner or Words With Friends or something equally not speech-related. The speaker’s well-prepared words waste away right outside my eardrums. It’s pretty embarrassing, the sad state of my attention span.
Thankfully though, this was very much not the case with Margaret Atwood’s keynote speech at this year’s AWP conference in Chicago. Maybe it was the opulent theater, or that I had already eaten, or that her stories are some of the most influential works in my personal reading and writing career…but I was absolutely rapt during the entire event. Her words were well-chosen, hilarious, and put together in a speech just long enough to make it worth the windy walk, short enough to keep me out of Lala-land. Here, then, for all the folks who couldn’t make it, or those who did but were on their phones (tsk tsk), are the main points I took from her time on the podium.
MARGARET ATWOOD on THE CRAFT OF WRITING
Reading is just as important as writing. Writers who don’t read don’t actually want to write, they just want someone to listen to them talk about their life.
Spelling is the least of your worries as a writer. Leave those sorts of details to editors and that bouncing paperclip in the corner of Microsoft Word.
Part of studying the craft of writing is ripping things up and starting again.
“Artsy-fartsy” vs. “Craftsy-waftsy”: There is a difference between the art and the craft of writing. “Art” implies an elitist state of being, while “craft” is the proletarian act of doing. Even if you are a gifted artist, you will not develop without getting down and dirty with the crafting of your skill.
Writing is a tool, and so can be used to make, fix, or destroy things. Make sure that you are always using the right tool for the right job. That is, your voice, style, and tone should fit the content and emotion of your work.
Keep your literary “key signature” and “tempo” in mind while writing. Is your piece in a “major” or a “minor” key? How fast should it go; where should your story speed up and slow down?
What is your voice? Who is speaking to whom? How much does your reader get to know?
When faced with writer’s block, try some of the following:
Change the tense or narrator.
Alter your first scene.
Go to the movies.
Some words from Charles Dickens to keep in mind: “Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.”
There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work. That doesn’t mean that there are any fewer people who do.
Here’s what Superstition Review interns are currently reading.
Corinne Randall, Poetry Editor: Right now I am currently reading my FAVORITE Shakespeare plays, Othello. Like all good Shakespeare tragedies it has a sad ending but it’s powerful through and through.
Samantha Allen, Art Editor: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It’s a blend of literary fiction and sci-fi, a character-driven story about “Snowman” — formerly Jimmy — who appears to be the last man on Earth. Through Snowman’s flashbacks, the reader sees a near-future image of a North American city segregated into the slummy ‘pleeblands’ and the enclosed communities owned by corporations engaged in research on genetic modification. Though Atwood includes some seemingly-fantastical elements in her novel, her research is so thorough and impeccable that through her narrator’s detailed explanations, the outlandish feels entirely realistic. Her emotionally intense prose and air of scientific authority make Oryx and Crake a very compelling read.
Ljubo Popovich, Poetry Editor: I just got into Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. I recommend his long novels: The Savage Detectives and 2666. Also his collections of short stories are excellent. The one I read was Last Evenings on Earth. He writes about lives of writers in South America and Europe. He founded the poetry movement InfraRealism in South America and is considered the heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s literary triumphs. I also read Masuji Ibuse’s collection of short stories, Salamander and other stories. This Japanese writer is [rather] unknown in the United States. But his historical novel Black Rain, about the events leading up to and following the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is considered one of the greatest novels to come out of Post-War Japan. His prose is very easy to read and very beautifully rendered, even in translation.
Jake Adler, Art Editor: Guyland by Michael Kimmel. It’s a sociological study about how today’s boys in college are failing to grow up, thrusting themselves deep in frat life and “guy code.”
Tana Ingram, Fiction Editor: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. It’s about a day laborer, Robert Grainier, in the American West at the start of the twentieth century. The book follows Robert through difficult trials of his own set against the changes taking place in the country as “progress” sweeps the nation. Johnson does a good job of transporting the reader back to this turbulent time and place in America’s history.
Marie Lazaro, Interview Editor: Just Kids by Patti Smith. So far the way it is written is beautiful and the story is easily captivating. It explores a new side of Patti Smith, gives insight to the personal relationships she had with her family during her childhood and gives a look into her bond with Robert Mapplethorpe.