Monthly Archives: September 2014

What Happens to Your Published Work When the Lit Mag Goes Out of Business?

“When a literary magazine dies,” Christie Taylor asked at Poets & Writers, “what happens to the poems, stories, essays, and artwork that have been published in its pages over the years?” Taylor’s piece profiles The Rookery, “a new digital archive that will house previously published content from defunct print and digital magazines—an ever-growing collection of work that would otherwise be lost.” The enterprise, that launched on June 30th, “will host shuttered magazines in as close to their original form as possible.”

Wow! What an incredible project. Have you ever published a story or poem in a lit mag that subsequently went out of business? What happens to your work? Not much. It’s already been published, so most places won’t take it again. Unless you publish it in a book-length collection or chapbook, the life of your work is over. It’s as if you never wrote it, except for that line on your list of publications.

Check it out for yourself here. Here is the explanation of how it will work to keep old work online:


The Rookery
[digital archive for dying magazines launching 7/30/14]

Dear reader,
This note is regarding a new project we have embarked on: a library on our site for digital journals that are in danger of e-death.

It isn’t cheap to maintain a webspace–and it’s depressing watching year after year as the readership dwindles. We at Literary Orphans know personally the incredible work that goes into each issue. We are wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and suitors–and we are often artists. To sacrifice years devoted to getting exposure for other people, and have it die in the night, doesn’t seem right to us. We at Literary Orphans cannot offer much, but we can offer The Rookery. A place in which we preserve the archives of digital magazines that have been closed to submissions.

If you are a reader that knows of a favorite journal that might lose/has lost it’s archives, click the link below.
If you are an Editor that can’t afford the webspace to maintain your digital archive, click the link below.


How it works is like this–you submit a tip, information on a magazine that has ceased publication and is struggling to keep it’s archives open, and we try and work with the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of that magazine to get the archives loaded to The Rookery,a library hosted here at Literary Orphans. This is NOT just transferring the stories onto LO, this is transferring the entire journal to our webspace. You click on the link to the journal, and bam, you are looking at the journal as you would have on it’s old server. But we want to do more than that. After a careful talk with the EIC of the magazine, we will work to keep the writing within it alive. This may be done in numerous ways–for instance, Literary Orphans Press would love to help the EIC or their deputy design and print a “Best Of Anthology,” to memorialize their writers in print. Or, if you are interested in someone taking up the mantle, we can offer a call-out and help advertise–be the stone that keeps the site in safekeeping until Arthur comes by. Hell, this could mean reprinting pieces of the magazine in LO to draw attention to the archives, so that even though it’s out of publication, readers still get to read the writing. There are literally so many avenues we can go down, but it’s all up to what we work out with the EIC of the magazine.

While we don’t expect to be flooded with submissions, we do need to offer a disclaimer. Transferring the look and feel of a site over to LO takes time, lots of time. The kind of time we all hate to devote weeks to, but do what needs to be done. As a result of this, we cannot accept all applicants, we will need to talk with the EIC to determine if the process is feasible, and that the look and feel of the magazine can be maintained.

In solidarity,
Mike Joyce
Executive Director, Literary Orphans Press
Editor-in-Chief, Literary Orphans Journal


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Publishing, Writing

In Mary Gordon’s Shadow

A year or so ago, I read Mary Gordon’s memoir The Shadow Man. I felt an immediate kinship with Mary because her book is about searching for her father’s past.

The Shadow Man

Before I’d read Gordon’s book, Bernard Cooper’s memoir about his father exploded what I had been told about memoir structure, showing me it is possible to deviate from chronology, to use flashbacks, and to merge the past with the present. Gordon’s story struck me as similar to my own because we share a similar problem: that our story is really about the process we went through to learn about the pasts of our families. When I finished The Shadow Man, I realized that now I had another memoir to add to Cooper’s memoir and Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club to serve as models for me.

Mary Gordon actually spends a fair amount of time detailing her research in the library and in contacting strangers. The reader gets to participate in the research process. This is like following Nancy Drew’s progress in solving a mystery–albeit without the imprisonment in the cistern, tarantula/black widow spider, etc.

While Gordon’s book focuses on the actual research process, my research will be more of a framework with more stories from the past and present. However, this book was eye-opening to me because writing teachers say you have to put everything into action and that doing research, reading letters, etc. are not active enough–that these moments of small epiphanies have to be put into scene. It’s not always possible to put into scene because if the scene didn’t occur the writer can’t make it up as it’s not fiction!

The twist in Gordon’s book is that Mary Gordon was raised Catholic by her parents, although her father was born Jewish. But he had become a (IMO dangerous) anti-Semite and this made Gordon’s search for his past–and really the man himself as he had died while she was so young–a very complicated emotional ordeal.

Let me say that Mary Gordon’s book is gorgeously written. Maybe this heavy reliance on process wouldn’t work in the hands of a lesser writer, but it really works here. Will you enjoy the book? I’m not sure. It depends on the type of books you like. I think someone like me who is curious about family history, 20th century history, family relations, and beautiful, almost lyrical, writing will love it.


Maybe you’ve read one or more of Mary Gordon’s other books? Check out her website.



Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Writing with a Side of Music

The other day I tweeted a question:  When you write poetry do you listen to music? Or do you find it a distraction? #poetry #music #writing. And by poetry I was thinking “writing.”



Since I have soooooo many twitter followers (huge winky face) I got back exactly, um, one response. This person said he listens to Mozart and Vivaldi for poetry writing.

That made some sense to me because I remember when I wanted to stimulate my first child’s creativity, I sent him to Suzuki class to learn Bach, Mozart, and Vivaldi.

I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.

But, even with The Four Seasons (Vivaldi) going in the background, I couldn’t write with music playing. Not poetry. Not prose. Nuttin.

Go ahead and try it yourself. Can you write to this version of “Autumn”?

How do people do it? My mind is going off with the music and not going where the poem wants it to go. It’s like patting my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time. Or running a marathon while I’m sleeping (or ever).  It just can’t be done–not by me.

So I tried to figure out what my writing habits are. They have developed over time. I grab whatever 30 minute block of time I can find, a piece of chocolate, and a soda (and you thought it would be tea?), and I start typing on the computer keyboard. Is that a good habit? I don’t know. I feel it was born out of desperation.

What are your writing habits? Do you write to music?

You can make my day if you follow me on Twitter here, by the way.


Filed under Art and Music, Essay, Poetry, Writing, Writing Tips and Habits

Writing like Dancing

A memoir that entranced me for years was not written by a writer, per se, but by a celebrity, choreographer Agnes DeMille (1905-1993).

DeMille was a groundbreaking and significant reshaper of modern American dance and shaper of contemporary American dance.  DeMille’s influence is evident by listing just a few of the dozens of dances she choreographed:  the musical Oklahoma, both on Broadway and on film; the Broadway musicals Carousel and Brigadoon; the original and uniquely American ballet, Rodeo; Obeah, or Black Ritual, the first full-length ballet created exclusively for African-American dancers; Fall River Legend, a ballet representing the life of Lizzie Borden; and A Rose for Miss Emily, a ballet based on the William Faulkner short story.

In addition to developing choreography unique to the history of dance, DeMille also wrote exceptionally well.  She published memoirs and other non-fiction works, as well as a two-volume autobiography.  Dance to the Piper (1952) and And Promenade Home (1958) read like engaging novels, but are DeMille’s perspective of her childhood, young adult years, and initial Broadway successes.

My favorite of her books is Where the Wings Grow (1978), a memoir of childhood summers in the country.  DeMille’s memories are sometimes idyllic, sometimes shocking.  She observes racism and other bigotry with a relentless eye.Where the Wings Grow

The writing style is beautiful and evocative of those relaxing times. You can almost envision girls and women in white lawn dancing through the woods. DeMille’s voice is distinctive and “of her era.” For awhile after reading the book, I felt compelled to write poems based on various scenes.

In this video you can get a feel for her voice. Also, she talks about how her father kept standing in the way of her ambitions.

A couple of important issues come to mind when thinking about DeMille’s memoir.

The first is how close she was to her mother, even as an adult. Although DeMille’s father was a playwright and her uncle the famous filmmaker Cecile B. DeMille, DeMille’s creativity stemmed in large part to her mother’s artistry with a needle.

Anna George, DeMille’s mother, was a contemporary of Virginia Woolf.  Anna was born in 1877, Woolf in 1882–five years and an ocean apart.  Anna had no financial means independent from her husband.  Her own father was famous political philosopher Henry George.  Throughout her life, she tirelessly campaigned for her father’s Single Tax theory.  Yet, unlike her “scribbling” husband, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a writer, never tried to write herself.  She did not have 500 (pounds) a year or a room with a lock on the door, to paraphrase Woolf.  She ran the household in the days before refrigerators and vacuum cleaners.

Anna was regularly accessible to her children, her husband, and the other people who were temporarily or permanently a part of the household.  Yet Anna managed to produce art from the creativity welling within her, the product of which lasted beyond her husband’s mediocre plays–art which, when she was producing it, wasn’t considered art–merely a woman’s menial labor.

Another important portion of the memoir describes Anna’s aunt and how she and her family lived near DeMille’s family during the summer. The aunt married a Japanese diplomat. This intermarriage was quite unusual for that time period, as was their transracial family. DeMille’s family seems to have accepted the family without question.

Maybe this book will most appeal to nostalgia buffs and those who love women’s history. If you love costume dramas, you might be thrilled at this peek behind the scenes of an intellectual and artistic family in the 1910s.

Forget all that. The reason you will love this book is because of DeMille’s charismatic personality.


Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

The Motif of Origins

I’ve always been fascinated by origins. In college, I double majored in marketing (to make a living) and history (motivated by that fascination).

When I was a kid, my own origins seemed clear enough on my mother’s side since I grew up in the same town her people had lived for a few generations. On my father’s side, “far away” in Chicago,  there were so many gaps and distortions and puzzle pieces that didn’t fit together.

As I finished my undergraduate degree and entered grad school, I realized that I didn’t really know nearly as much about even my mother’s family as I had thought. I focused my study on local Kalamazoo history and, ultimately, on my family’s history.

More recently, I’ve been writing my family history blog and trying to find answers to the many questions that arise.

  • What branch of the family was made homeless by the fire mentioned in a newspaper clipping I found in my grandmother’s papers? (Answer: the George Paake family–and I’ve made an acquaintance of a shirttail relation and been given copies of many family photographs and documents)
  • What happened to my great-great-grandfather’s sister Jennie when she left Kalamazoo? (Answer: she moved to Seattle with her two adult daughters. A kind stranger’s father found their scrapbook at the nursing home he worked at 20 years ago. After reading my blog, she has now passed that scrapbook on to me so I have beautiful photographs of these women in Seattle)
  • How many Van Liere siblings were there?  (Answer: 8–see photo below)
  • How many DeSmit siblings? (Answer: I don’t know yet!)
A photograph of Jennie with her daughters from the discovered scrapbook

A photograph of Jennie with her daughters from the discovered scrapbook

The VanLiere boys

Surprisingly, people who have found my genealogy blog have shared many photos and enthralling stories of my family.

My very first blog post on Writer Site, “The Study of Faces,” was about my feelings of connection to my ancestors.

While the search for origins in my book has nothing to do with the genealogy I focus on in The Family Kalamazoo, it is also motivated by a curious nature and a search for identity. Issues of inheritance, genetics, and rights to our own stories are part of the subject of origins.

How is it with you? Are you ambivalent or uninterested? Do you care about your origins? Are you obsessed with them?




Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

How a Novel Can Be Like a Memoir: Guest Blogger SK Nicholls

I read the novel Red Clay and Roses by blogger S.K. Nicholls. In addition to its engaging, well-told story, the book intrigued me with its historic detail and accuracy.  When S.K. and I discussed the real life story behind the book, I saw that the line between a novel and a nonfiction genre, such as memoir, is not always that well-defined. In this case, thank goodness!

So I asked S.K. to talk about the historical nature of her book, without using any spoilers–and here she is!

By the way, you’re going to want to check out her book for yourself!


The lovely Luanne has invited me here to her very neat and pleasant blog to tell you a little bit about how writing a roman à clef relates to writing a memoir. I’m a little disorganized. I’ll try not to mess things up too much while I’m here.

A roman à clef is a fictionalized true story. Not quite a biography and not quite an autobiography.

French for novel with a key, it is a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. Historically, the original works had a key included that was often mailed out to people who followed a story. The key identified real life people whom the stories were written about so a select few who were privy would know the truth (as the author told it, which often amounted to gossip and was flavored with the author’s own ideas).

Why was that necessary?

The roman à clef (pronounced: romana clay) was written about stories that were considered scandalous. The reasons an author might choose the roman à clef format include satire; writing about controversial topics and/or reporting inside information on scandals without giving rise to charges of libel; the opportunity to turn the tale the way the author would like it to have gone; the opportunity to portray personal, autobiographical experiences without having to expose the author as the subject; avoiding self-incrimination or incrimination of others that could be used as evidence in civil, criminal, or disciplinary proceedings; and the settling of scores.

Where a memoir is more like a true story of the author’s life experiences, more like an autobiography, the roman à clef may be colored with more biographical facts and fiction about others.

  • Both recall facts.
  • Both involve real life experiences.
  • The memoir is a genre of its own.
  • The roman a clef is akin to historical fiction (only ordinary people become characters rather than famous people).

While most all fiction is inspired by real life situations, a roman à clef goes one step further and records actual history. The names and locations may be changed to protect the innocent (or the guilty) but the basic story actually and factually occurred. How is that possible? Then it would be nonfiction, right? Wrong.

I will use my book, “Red Clay and Roses” as example.

Part One was written in first person. The nurse interviews a couple of people who tell their stories and she relates those stories through development of the characters, as in fiction. Ms. Bea, the good doctor’s wife, and Moses, the good doctor’s handyman, were two individuals that I, in real life, had the pleasure of meeting. I valued their stories and wanted to retell them. How they were involved with the good doctor was very significant. The good doctor was a chiropractor who had an abortion clinic in the basement of his home back in the fifties when abortion in any form was criminal.

Through Ms. Bea and Moses (in 1992), I was introduced to people I had never met: Moses’ wife, Eula Mae, his son, Nathan, and his daughter, Althea, Swamp Witch Wilma…and of course, the good doctor. I developed their characters for the story through what I had learned about them through these other folk and told their stories. Names were changed, but the events actually occurred as best as could be recalled.

In 2012, I was reintroduced to an eighty year old cousin, Sybil, and learned so much more. She was a white woman deeply enmeshed with Nathan, the black handyman’s son in the 1950s-60s during the commencement of the Civil Rights Movement. Again, that was scandalous in the Deep South!

Part Two, written in third person, was born to tell their story.

While all of these stories were true, the ending was less than satisfying to me so I took the liberty of the roman à clef to create what I felt was a more satisfying ending. “The opportunity to turn the tale the way the author would like it to have gone.”

So, while a memoir and a roman à clef both tell a history, the memoir is a true to life experience of its author, while the roman à clef is more of an imaginatively creative endeavor that reads more like fiction than non-fiction.

“A novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction.” The events that prompted the writing of “Red Clay and Roses” actually occurred. They were true stories based on my own experiences, or were shared with me by those close to me. Some of the people I never had opportunity to meet were described to me and their personalities were developed from those descriptions. That being said, the characters were imaginatively created to tell their stories. Likewise, although I drew on my experiences as a nurse, Hannah is a fictional character.

The historical events in “Red Clay and Roses” were pulled together through exhaustive research from old newspaper articles (primarily the LaGrange Daily News in GA, the Troup and Meriwether County Archives), and online research. The character’s real life participation in these events was factual.

Have I thoroughly confused you?

Would you like to read more?

Thank you, Luanne, for allowing me to ramble about on your blog 🙂

 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00016]


Filed under Blogging, Book Review, Books, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing

The Motif of Curiosity

An important series in my book is curiosity. In fact, the 230,000+ words I’ve written (yes, I know it needs a lot  of cutting) and the dream of the book itself would not exist without curiosity–namely, my curiosity.

From the time I started reading Bobbsey Twin  books (like Nancy Drew but for younger kids) at age 5, I realized that curiosity was a constant flame inside me. If you aren’t familiar with these old books, the detectives are two sets of twins in one family–Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie. This series is so old that I grew up reading the books that belonged to my mother when she was a child.

My Bobbsey Twins collection

As a kid, I practically inhaled all the mystery series books I could get my hands on–mainly from the school and public libraries. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, the Khaki Girls.  On and on.

In my early twenties I read every single Agatha Christie mystery.

Today I still enjoy mysteries, but I also am working on genealogy and my family history blog. The great thing about genealogy is that when the past gives up some of its secrets, it presents the genealogist with many more! The genealogy bloggers I’ve met are incredibly curious people.

All of this has been preparing me for writing my memoir, of course. Only I didn’t know it until recently.

When faced with secrets and unknowns, my recourse is to–well, what else?–PRY.

Are you a curious person? How has your curious or incurious nature affected your life?


Filed under Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

I Contradict Myself

If you read my review of the Augusten Burroughs’ book Running With Scissors, you know I’m conflicted about it. I feel differently about the prequel A Wolf at the Table–the story of his frightening father.

a wwolf at the table

In this book Burroughs captures my attention up front by saying that for years he couldn’t remember much from his childhood about his father. When it all starts coming back, it’s almost too much to bear.

He also presents himself as a sympathetic character, one that I feel a deep empathy for. One of the ways he does this is by showing how his father treated one of their dogs–and how it bothered Augusten.

They had three dogs, and Burroughs loved them all. The two larger dogs were allowed inside the house by the father. The smallest, “a little black elkhound with a curlicue tail” named Grover, was not allowed in the house. The reason was that the father, for no apparent reason, considered him an “outdoor dog.” Grover “practically never left the deck where he slept, pressed against the sliding glass doors.” Burroughs writes: “Like there was a special breed of dog that might die if exposed to a sofa.” This upsets Burroughs (and me). The last two paragraphs in this passage are especially poignant:

Even on the coldest winter night when Grover was no more than a black, furry mound curled into himself and pressed up against the house, my father wouldn’t let him in.

Sometimes, I let bad thoughts linger. Like, if my father made Grover sleep outside in the cold, what stopped him from locking me out there, too? He had two sons; what if he decided to make the younger one the “outside” son?

And, in a way, that is exactly what does happen to Burroughs.

One of the strongest threads in this book is the secret that Burroughs’ father shared with him. The question is: did it happen or not? But it’s Burroughs asking the question this time, not the reader.

If you look up reviews you will see that some critics don’t like this book. They might miss the humor they found in Running with Scissors. But this book has real heart. Some readers say that Burroughs couldn’t possibly remember the mobile above his crib. I don’t know what they are talking about because I remember a vivid event from when I was still in a crib–less than two years old. I remember my room in detail, especially the shadows and lights and special objects like my music box.

In reading reviews of this book, I noticed that Burroughs’ brother, who has Asperger’s, says he has trouble reading behavior in other people and that he believes their father had some of his own “autistic traits.” This is a controversial subject because many of us love people who have Asperger’s or are autistic. Their condition doesn’t make them cruel to children or animals.

If you had a very difficult parent, this book might break your heart.



Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Remember My Poetry Manuscript?

Won’t you join me for some virtual champagne (or sparkling juice) today?

I know I’ve been chatting about my current project, the memoir I’m writing, a LOT lately. But this is about another project close to my heart: my poetry manuscript Doll God.

Well . . .

In 2015, my first book, Doll God, is being published by Aldrich Press.

Did I mention I’m so excited that I have a tummy ache? Or is that the champagne?

Next year looks like a good one!


Filed under Books, Doll God, Poetry, Poetry book, Writing, Writing goals