s[r] Goodreads #FridayReads

This week on Goodreads.com, we shared a review from our Nonfiction Editor, Julie Matsen.

Organ PipeOrgan Pipe: Life on the Edge by Carol Ann Bassett

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument seems to be a forbidding place
for many, but Carol Ann Bassett invites readers to see the desert here as a
place of solitude and tranquil refuge. Here, Bassett introduces readers to the
monument’s rich history, from the centuries-old cacti to the prehistoric
Hohokam, from early twentieth century miners to post-9/11 Border Patrol agents.
Humans as characters are rare in this book; rather, the main soul we are
introduced to is the land itself, and the main action is a listless meditation
on finding self in the desert. She remarks in her final chapter, “We come
to the desert to understand things that are outside of ourselves, yet after a
while, we are forced to look inside, to find those precious sanctuaries that allow
us to be truly alive while truly alone.” Life in an environment like
Arizona has the tendency to make native readers like me take this desert
landscape for granted. Bassett is able to transfigure familiar landscapes into
an entity that is at once foreign and wondrous.

You can read Carol Ann Bassett’s Walking with Giants in s[r] Issue 4.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Alec Hershman

Alec HershmanEach Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Alec Hershman.

Alec Hershman lives in St. Louis where he teaches at The Stevens Institute of Business and Arts. Other poems are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Burnside Review, The Journal, Yemassee, Lumina, and The Sycamore Review. His chapbook length sequence Jollyboats can be viewed for free online at The White Whale Review.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Hayden’s Ferry Review Releases 53rd Issue

Got words? Hayden’s Ferry Review is an internationally distributed literary magazine that has featured the likes of Joseph Heller, Rita Dove, Haruki Murakami, Aimee Bender, George Saunders, Jim Shepherd, Pam Houston and Denise Duhamel. In its 27th year, HFR is set to release its 53rd issue in November, which is Departure themed and features work from J. A. Tyler, Chelsea Biondolillo, Lucas Southworth,Maria Alekhina of Pussy Riot and more. Come to the release party at Changing Hands on Dec. 2! Currently, editors are reading submissions for the spring issue, which will include a special translation section on indigenous languages of North America. Find full guidelines for prose, poetry, translations and art at hfr.submittable.com. Purchase issues and subscriptions at http://hfr.clas.asu.edu/store.

s[r] Goodreads #FridayReads

Here are a couple of reviews by April Hanks, a member of s[r]’s advertising staff.

This Is Not Your CityThis Is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks

From the woman who is able to recall her past lives to the couple on a cruise that is overtaken by pirates, Caitlin Horrocks’ debut collection of short stories takes the reader around the world and into the lives of eleven unique women. In This is Not Your City, Horrocks is able to accurately and realistically present people and situations that are extremely different while still creating an engaging and cohesive collection.

Although Horrocks deals with difficult topics such as death, a ticking biological clock, and a severe disability, the stories do not feel forced or cheesy. Instead, the emotion is powerful and realistic. Most of Horrocks’ stories do not have a happy, satisfying conclusion. But like life, they are left open ended. She explores both the lives of people who have been victimized and those who have been the victimizers. Because of this, it is difficult to read at times; several of the stories, such as “Steal Small”, will make you feel uncomfortable, but in the best way possible.

The last two stories, “This is Not Your City” and “In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui”, particularly stood out. However, the two stories are vastly different. The first of these, about a Russian mail-order bride, explores what it means to find identity in an environment you are not used to. The story is engaging but still manages to convey complex emotions. The second of these stories, “In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui”, is the story of a couple who go on a cruise as a vacation away from their severely disabled son. However, the cruise ship is overtaken by pirates. During the wait for a settlement with the pirates, the reader learns about the intricacy of the couple’s life. Despite their differences, both stories use plot to reveal deeper complexities.

Overall, Horrocks has crafted a beautiful collection that accurately reflects life and the emotions that stem from it. The powerful and descriptive writing highlights her abilities as a writer. She is able to draw you into the stories and make you care about the characters in them. This is Not Your City is not collection you will soon forget.

You can read the s[r] interview with Caitlin Horrocks in Issue 9, where we talk with her about This Is Not Your City.

 

Anything GoesAnything Goes by Madison Smartt Bell

Madison Smartt Bell’s thirteenth novel, Anything Goes, follows a year in the life of protagonist Jesse Melungeon. Jesse is the bass player for a cover band called Anything Goes. While the novel deals with the struggles of the band to stay afloat it also reveals Jesse’s complicated family history. Throughout its plot, the novel deals with complex issues such as race, abuse, and addiction.

Bell ingeniously develops Jesse’s character throughout the novel. Over time, Jesse becomes a more dynamic and round character. Although you learn Jesse’s history fairly early, his feelings about it are revealed slowly throughout the book. Not only does his characterization develop, but so do his relationships. Those that seem relatively simple at first are shown to be much more complex. Both the characters and relationships in the novel are complicated and realistic, greatly adding to its overall impact.

As Jesse says in Anything Goes, “there would always be people who actually were drawn to your wounds more than to you.” The characters in the novel are wounded in different ways. They deal with complicated family drama, brushes with the law, conflicts of interest, and various other problems. Although these issues are nothing new to literature, they do not seem cliché in the book. Bell is able to write wounded characters and explain them in a way that is meaningful.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the music theory that is incorporated throughout. The musical aspects of Anything Goes only add to the novel. Whether or not you know music theory, it feels like you can almost hear the songs playing in your head.

Bell displays extensive research in this novel. Overall, Anything Goes is a well-written and engaging novel that uses plot to explore emotion. The characters and relationships are realistic and interesting. You won’t want to put this book down.

s[r] interviewed Madison Smartt Bell in Issue 8, you can read that interview here.

Check out more s[r] Goodreads.com reviews on our Goodreads page.

 

 

Guest Post, Bianca Peterson: The Ins-and-Outs of the Content Coordinator

Content CoordinatorWhen I first received the position of content coordinator for Superstition Review for the fall 2013 semester, I only knew the basics of the position: that I’d be logging content submissions and that I was chosen for it because I have good attention to detail. Only when the semester began did I come to understand the full scope of the position and the various skills I would need to acquire. Along with logging the incoming submissions into spreadsheets, I would likewise be required to send proofs to contributors and build the web pages for each new issue. A considerable number of hours in those first few weeks as a full-fledged intern were spent learning the ins-and-outs of programs like Google Spreadsheets, Submittable, and Drupal. However, the biggest scare for me was that a content coordinator must possess a working knowledge of basic HTML—a skill I knew absolutely nothing about.

Fortunately, a friend came to my rescue with a two-inch thick book providing descriptive, step-by-step guides on how to write and read HTML coding. He bookmarked which chapters I would need to study and, after a few weeks of work, I found myself growing in comfort with the idea of coding. Despite the initial scare it provided, it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the position. While scanning lines of code looking for errors and the causes of weird spacing or character issues is certainly long and grueling work, there was something satisfying about knowing I contributed to making the magazine look professional and clean.

As a whole, the role of a content coordinator does involve much detail work. Logging submissions requires a close eye with tracking changes in the editors’ votes on submissions, catching duplicated submissions, and watching for withdrawn ones. Building the content pages by far requires the most detail work, especially with longer submissions of fiction and nonfiction—my particular responsibilities include fiction, art, and interviews. Imagine reading a block of text consisting of a single long paragraph with no page breaks or indents in search of a particular set of words or characters—this roughly describes the process.

I also want to stress the responsibility and amount of trust between the content coordinators, the editors, and our founder that comes with the position. As content coordinators, we are trusted to log submissions on a consistent basis in order to keep up with the votes and decisions of the editing interns. Likewise, we are trusted with the responsibility of making sure the submitted content is spaced and formatted properly and that the building of the issue itself is completed before the launch date.

The year I’ve spent interning for Superstition Review has been a experience I will never forget. It has provided me with the opportunity to hone skills I possessed prior to the internship and obtain a substantial list of new ones, including a working knowledge of basic HTML. Furthermore, the skills I obtained through interning with Superstition Review will assist in future career endeavors, as I hope to find work at a publishing company or literary magazine after completing my degree. Tedious as some of the work might feel—especially after spending a few hours double checking editor votes or correcting code—it is very rewarding work and I’m delighted to have been chosen for the position.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Amanda Auchter

Amanda AuchterEach Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Amanda Auchter.

Amanda Auchter is the founding editor of Pebble Lake Review and the author of The Wishing Tomb, winner of the 2012 Perugia Press Award and the 2013 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry, and The Glass Crib, winner of the 2010 Zone 3 Press First Book Award.  She holds an MFA from Bennington College and teaches creative writing and literature at Lone Star College.  She is currently at work on a lyric memoir about adoption and the foster care system, What Took You So Long.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Sneak Preview: Arcadia Magazine, Issue 7

For the upcoming fall issue, the editors at Arcadia decided to do two things that were completely new for us: run a themed issue and bring on a guest editor.  Although many of us were apprehensive about surrendering our editorial control, ultimately we caved, and allowed someone to completely hijack the issue.  The terrifying but ultimately rewarding result was this: Arcadia #7: The Post-Traumatic Issue, guest edited by Benjamin Reed, which will be out November 15.  Superstition Review has been kind enough to allow us to sample Reed’s introduction here, and we hope it will give you a small taste of the sorts of things that Reed and his stable of writers are considering: trauma and the way it shapes our stories, stories and the way they shape our trauma. To get your hands on the poems, stories, essays, photojournalism, and art itself, though, you’ll have to pre-order a copy of Arcadia #7, which we’re currently offering at a 15% discount.  Find out more here: http://www.arcadiamagazine.org/subscribe.html.

Dear Reader,

It can still startle me, when I meet an amicable stranger in a waiting room, at a bar, or in line at the grocery store: the speed and apparent ease with which he or she can submit an incredibly detailed sketch of their biography. I encourage you to test this. The next time some unknown quantity gives you that unmistakable expression of wanting to chat—it’s mostly in the eyes—let them approach, and see if she doesn’t give you a half-dozen facts about herself, arranged in a taut narrative arc, within the first forty-five seconds. Everything she wants you to know about herself comes condensed, coded, and braided, like DNA, inside of a remarkably small package. Bartenders, police officers, and people who pick up hitchhikers will know exactly what I’m talking about. In any case, if you find yourself assessing the veracity of or motives behind the brief narrative submitted for your consideration, you’re essentially grappling with questions of literary criticism, such as whether or not it is necessary to gauge the reliability of the narrator, to define the tension between author and persona, to determine if the climax is too clichéd to be acceptable, etc.

As social creatures, we offer these practiced, miniature autobiographies in order to control how others see us, but we also repeat these stories to ourselves as we think, rehearse, and declare them, until they merge with and then obscure what an objective third party might deem a more accurate representation of “the truth.” Note, for example, how often men over thirty who played high school football “could have” played at this or that major university—indeed, who surely would have gone pro—were it not for: the knee injury/unexpected pregnancy/lost scholarship/. . . whatever. The question isn’t if we conspire with strangers to reshape our personal history, but how, and to what end.

We revise and reformat our past tragedies, losses, and shocks in order to render them into a comprehensible narrative, not just for the sake of how we seem to others, but for our own sanity.

Patients who undergo prolonged talk therapy, who tell and re-tell their “stories”—in a frank and more nuanced way than the conveniently abridged versions we typically deploy with strangers—can physically and quantitatively change how their brains work. Neural pathways, in effect, are simply patterns of response. By telling a fuller and more considered truth, old thoughts are changed by being guided into new pathways. The patients remake themselves. It is my belief, as I stated in this issue’s call for submussions, that healthy, normative compartmentalization of the psyche through the cognitive ordering of our personal experience parallels how we organize the structures of our fictive narratives and poetics, especially when shadows of ourselves appear in these texts. “Narrative re-compartmentalization,” as it were, is the regeneration of a personal identity, one that is paradoxically both as real and yet more real than its precursor. We tell stories about ourselves in order to become these stories.

The enormous human brain is blessed with language yet cursed by the innate conflict of memory. All humans, in describing our lives, turn fiction into fact. The practice that distinguishes writers and poets from others is that we voluntarily flip this circuit and toil to consciously turn fact into fiction. I would argue that both practices employ the same cognitive functions, and that the products of each mechanism are at least arguably equal in the quality of the truth they offer.

I didn’t choose “The Post-Traumatic” as the theme for this issue of Arcadia in order to navigate the reader to some topical tropic, some tangential island just off the known continent of literature. I did not ask writers to submit stories of aftermath, loss, and recovery in order to explore the cognitive and literary backwaters of how life becomes art, or vice versa, but rather to draw the reader even closer to the art of defragmentation, which is always at the very center of the many means and motives at play when we sit down to write. As David Mamet writes in Three Uses of the Knife,

Artists don’t wonder, “What is it good for?” They aren’t driven to “create art,” or to “help people,” or to “make money.” They are driven to lessen the burden of the unbearable disparity between their conscious and unconscious minds, and so to achieve peace.

It has been an honor to serve as Arcadia’s first guest editor. Many thanks to Chase, Noah, Roy, Corey, Ross, Angela, Alysha, and the rest of the staff of this very excellent publication. Obviously, this issue never would have come to fruition without their insight and unflagging effort.

Thank you for reading this volume. I am exceedingly proud of every entry, and I feel grateful to have made the acquaintance of the writers herein. If this text brings you even a fraction of the joy and excitement it brought me as editor, I think you will be satisfied.

Yours sincerely,
Benjamin Reed

Austin, Texas
September 2013

Benjamin Reed lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and family. His fiction has most recently appeared in [PANK], West Branch, and Arcadia. He won this year’s Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest, as well as the last Avery Anthology Small Spaces Prize. He has served as web editor for the online journal Front Porch, and as an associate editor for the annual Unstuck.

 

Guest Blog Post, Martin Ott: Submission Season

Martin Ott‘Tis the Season

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.

Value Rejection

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.

Tools for Submissions

I have used many tools over the years to manage my submissions. Currently, I use a combination of Duotrope, New Pages, and the CRWROPPS email list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CRWROPPS-B/.

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.

 

Scapegoat Review

Scapegoat Review is interested in poems that challenge the norm. We have an exciting group of poems from an interesting group of poets. This month we come to you with our biggest issue yet. It is an eclectic issue with poetry, art, a cinepoem, and a book review on Froth, by Polish poet Jaroslaw Mikolajewski, translated by Piotr Florczyk (published by Calypso Editions).

The Bird Maiden, oil on canvas, 16" x 20" (by Emily Lisker)Scapegoat Review strives to give you an expansive range of craft that challenges the norm. The result is an assorted collection of work we love and hope you will enjoy. The collection is a potpourri including the grounded, the surreal, ethereal, and work we think pushes the envelope so that you may to consider beyond the words on the page or the image in front of you.

Craft is objective, of course, but solid work is something most can agree upon. Froth, by Jaroslaw Mikolajewski, is such a work. It is poetry at its finest. While he has 10 volumes of poetry that have been translated into several languages, this is the first work to be translated into English. His writing brings to mind various Polish poets such as Wisława Szymborska, Anna Swir, and Czesław Miłosz, yet his voice is all his own.

Here are a few excerpts from the book review written by Jillian Mukavetz:

In this exposing blueprint we whisper in quotidian terms, in transcendence, and intimacy the masculine as it embodies the complexities of father, of lover, and husband. The love between the husband and wife stays complicit regardless of the transformation. How is immortality here outside of earth placed into family? It is in the exigency that we celebrate in the seconds of everyday life; in humor, in times of grandeur and the destitute grappling of placing a ponytail into a hair tie…

Self-alienation occurs when the speaker jumps into linear yet nonlinear juxtaposition. The place of self is disembodied if not only for a number, or letter, eluding, “my step – does it let you sleep and this letter.” When we begin the speaker can only physically internalize his dead father who is cast as hero; inhaling his captured breath in the plastic ribs of a regularly used air mattress.

For more on Froth, go to: http://scapegoatreview.com and to http://www.calypsoeditions.org/froth

Here are a few lines from some of the poets in this issue:

Dream
Anthony Cappo

I had my own Frankenstein monster he’d been
dormant I unwrapped him expecting him to lie
still but I went away for a minute and he slid under my bed
I coaxed him out I’d been reading this book
about how preemies are massaged by nurses’ aides…

To Watch Her Lips
Yvonne Strumecki

She prefers reds,
both in wine and lips,
the cherried variations
staining my thoughts, …

Night Blossom
Alexandra Smyth

In the backseat of the car I bloom into witness.
Part of me knows this is slaughter. I watched
smoke emit from my skin as I fixed my hair in
the mirror while I waited in the foyer for you to
pick me up.

We’ve got monsters, desire, sex, and regret. All the things, which make for absorbing reading. We have a wealth of work to share with you and hope you enjoy as much as we have.