Tag Archives: literary journals

Write Short First

So you want to be a writer? Are you planning on working on the book-length manuscript for as long as it takes? And then market it to agents for as long as it takes?

How about being published in the meantime? Nothing is better experience for the novelist or memoirist than writing and publishing short stories or personal essays along the way. If you don’t have what it takes to go through the process successfully with short pieces, what makes you think you can do it with a longer story? Additionally, earning bylines along the way may help get your first book published.

Windy Lynn Harris has written the definitive book to help you get started. Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published provides valuable guidance for crafting and fine-tuning those shorter pieces, as well as providing a step-by-step plan for getting published. This system includes finding markets, preparing your manuscript, and how to submit those pieces to magazines. She even gives pointers for how to deal with rejection, an inevitable part of every writer’s life.

After you follow the advice in this book, I suspect you will have acceptances, too, as Harris’ information is practical and grounded in the realities of the publishing industry. I suggest purchasing a paperback copy and keep it at hand and well-notated on your desk.

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I posted the above review for Windy‘s book on Amazon and Goodreads. But I’d like to expand on the idea of going short before going long. I know I’m going to step on some toes here. A huge number of writers go straight to writing book-length manuscripts. That’s great. They often self-publish and tend to learn from the experience and the books improve with practice. I’ve greatly enjoyed many books that developed from these origins.

But my philosophy is that the best way to learn craft is to start by writing short stories or essays and revising them until they shine. Then send them out and get some publications under your belt. While you are doing this read like crazy. Revise like crazy. Find experienced beta readers who aren’t crazy. I think this is what takes good stories and turns them into literature.

Don’t throw things at me now!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Literary Journals, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

Talkin’ Poetry

Talkin’ trash here is more like it. So. You know how I’ve been working on poems and flash prose based on my research into my family history? Well, I have been. I’m working toward a chapbook–maybe 25 pieces.

One of my favorites was taken by a new magazine that looked great. They had one issue out with some excellent and even well-known poets, and I loved what I read, so I was excited for the 2nd issue with my poem in it. It was due out in December.

It’s now April and has not yet been published. And they don’t respond to my emails or my tweets.

If they had to fold, I feel bad for them, but it’s so unprofessional to accept work for an issue that will never be and not to notify the writers. I did send an email accepting their acceptance, so am I stuck now with a poem I can’t send out elsewhere?

I say NOT THE CASE. They seem to have broken any possibly contract that could have existed. But I was happy to have half my already-written pieces accepted and now this sets me back. I need another acceptance to catch up to that halfway point ;).

If I’m not going to name the offending journal, I guess I’m not even talkin’ trash, right? I’m just talkin’ poetry.

 ***

In 2004 I wrote a poem that took honorable mention in a competition that had an interesting reading venue. The poems that placed or were awarded honorable mentions netted their poets invitations to read at Carnegie Hall.  That impressed me. I always wanted to play Carnegie Hall, but I thought you had to be a musician! I was not able to attend, sadly, and that meant that somebody else read this poem on my behalf.

Super Nova

 

After the fires came mudstorms

Bulldozing bodies into the mix.

Weeks spent crumpling like dying stars,

Families’ children into science,

Into candlelit commiseration.

Pressure builds in a cauldron

With boiling tar, the three virtues tied

To a wheel and beaten with rods.

Small skulls of infants and bonobos

Commix in the pasteurized fields.

These offerings burst into flame

Larger than Santorini.

Rebuilding over brick, concrete, bones.

And the moon moves farther from us.

The event that inspired the poem was a horrific mudslide in San Bernardino County on Christmas 2003. Nine children and five adults were killed as they ate their holiday luncheon.

***

Weirdly, although it’s National Poetry Month, I picked my memoir manuscript back up last week. I feel a little split down the middle . . . .

Handsome (and mild-mannered) Rex dreams of a loving home in Arizona

@ Home Fur Good

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Filed under #AmWriting, Flash Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry reading, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk

Poetry Potpourri

the museum of americana is a literary magazine with a mission close to my heart:

the museum of americana is an online literary review dedicated to fiction, poetry, nonfiction, photography, and artwork that revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten, or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana. It is published purely out of fascination with the big, weird, wildly contradictory collage that is our nation’s cultural history.

They’ve published two of the poems I intend for my chapbook of poems based on my family history. You can read them here.

Two poems by Luanne Castle

I love how my interest in family history and genealogy and research connects with my partnership with poetry in these poems.

On another note, if you bought a copy of Doll Godsend me your address and I will mail you a sticker to complete your book cover.

If you haven’t bought a copy, please consider it if your finances allow–either for yourself or if you think you’ll hate it (gotta allow for that) as a gift for someone you think will enjoy it. Amazon says it will arrive before Christmas.

Have I ever told you what book existed before Doll God? It’s a scrapbook my daughter made for me two years ago. In it, she hand wrote many of my poems and she included posts from the adoption blog, Don’t We Look Alike, that we worked on together.

In the slideshow you can see a sample of the scrapbook. Note the subtle cat-themed touches. And if you see a pic of a high school couple just remember that it’s easy to find stock pix online (big winky face).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Filed under Book Award, Book contest, Book promotion, Books, Doll God, Family history, Literary Journals, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing

The Dual Life of a Creative Woman

Barnstorm Journal published my poem “Portrait” today in both text and audio formats. You can read it or listen to it here. The poem is from my forthcoming book Doll God.

The poem examines the dual lives many creative women experience: one is the imaginative worlds of our art and the other the practical lives of family and (survival) work. Of laundry and tax forms.

Recently, I’ve been pulled so hard in both directions it’s surprising I haven’t split right down the middle.  Just when writing projects heated up, so did work for the business.

I hope you like my poem–and maybe some of you can relate to it. If not, at least you might like the ocean imagery–unless you’re expecting palm trees and surf boards.

beach

 

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Filed under Doll God, Literary Journals, Poetry, Poetry book, Publishing, Writing

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.
THE ROOKERY

 

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

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

Searching for The Holy Grail for Writers

I thought that there was a Holy Grail for writers: a list of all the “good” lit journals.  Once I found that list I could just cross off each journal as I sent them a manuscript.

You can find out if that list exists in my article, “From Creation to Publication: Finding the Submission Strategy That Works for You, published by The Review Review. In this piece, I describe how I changed my approach to submitting to magazines and journals.

Photo by Marisha

Photo by Marisha

I realized that I had forgotten to tell you about The Review Review. You can check out my article and the other helpful advice in the “tips” section, and you can read reviews of lit magazines and interviews.  You can also sign up to have the newsletter with links to articles sent to your email. I’ve been reading the newsletter for a while and have found a lot of magazines that interest me. Sometimes I print out the articles so I can read them later, when I’m less inclined to want to sit at the computer.

When I discovered The Review Review, I added the link to the toolbar on my computer!

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

Lit Journals Again

Last week I posted a poll on Does Short Form Memoir Count?

Although the results are limited by the few numbers taking the poll, I was heartened to see that the highest percentage was for people who subscribe to at least one journal. But when you add rarely and never together, you get the same score.

So why don’t more of us read lit mags? And I put myself in that category because I haven’t been consistent. More often than not, I would skim a new magazine and end up not reading it because I turned to a book instead.

Now that I’ve been reading literary journals again, I feel so energized, enthused, and educated. I think my writing will be better for reading them. So I plan to continue.

How about you?

 

Photo by Marisha

Photo by Marisha

Next Thursday: I (sort of) review an iconic memoir.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Does Short Form Memoir Count?

Lately I’ve been reading shorter memoir pieces in back issues of literary journals, rather than book-length memoirs. I’ve noticed a few things by reading stories in journals:

  1. I don’t know what I’m going to get ahead of time. These pieces are usually listed until the category of “nonfiction.” A story might be a memoir, but it also might be a political essay or a lyrical essay. I’m more likely to find an experimental piece than if I read a book. Whether that matters or not is another issue. But I have long suspected that the reason we have “genres” is that we know how to “take” something when we read it.
  2. The piece is more likely to have some contemporary slant to it than if it were part of a book. These essays tend to be more “timely,” but sometimes that feels like a magazine trying to be trendy.
  3. I don’t become as obsessed with any of these short stories as I do when I read a book. I am less invested. Are the writers less invested, too? Nevertheless, some of the short pieces are thrilling in their brilliance.
  4. I am exposed to a wider range of thoughts and emotions by reading a variety of essays by a variety of writers.
  5. By reading many writing styles, I learn more about writing at the sentence and paragraph level. By reading books, I learn more about structure.
  6. I can read one short piece at each sitting, so I feel as if I’ve accomplished something.
  7. BUT I am not drawn back to the story as I am when I have to take a reading break during a book.
  8. I can learn a lot about where to submit stories by reading the journals.

 

Click on this link to order back issues of Plougshares

How often do you read literary journals?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Literary Journals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Why Wait to Publish?

We have a lot of book writers on WordPress–all in various stages of book writin’: thinking about writing a book, actually writing one, talking about writing one, with several finished manuscripts, publishing a first book, many published books on the shelf.

What I hear very little about on WordPress is publishing smaller pieces before the book is finished. Maybe because I started as a poet, this has always been my route.

Poems are arguably the smallest genre of writing, so it made sense to send a few out into the world and see how they fare. Eventually, I had enough poems written and published to pull them together into a manuscript, but it didn’t occur to me that it was time for a book. I had to be reminded about it by a mentor.

When I branched out into writing creative nonfiction, my goal from the beginning was to produce a book. The writers on WordPress and the writers in the memoir-writing classes I’ve taken have been as focused on The Book as I have been.

But my opinion is that it’s just as important to write smaller pieces or to take chapters or smaller portions of the book-in-progress and revise into stand-alones. These pieces can be submitted to magazines and journals. Maybe you are thinking, “Well, I am writing a novel, so there is no way to send out part of this baby!”  I searched Duotrope (search site for writing submissions) for “novel excerpts” and over 100 places are accepting submissions of novel excerpts currently. Once you weed through them, you might find only a dozen are a good fit, but hey, maybe that’s 12 more than you realized were out there!

What I am trying to do is figure out what kind of market is best for each short piece and then revise each one until it sparkles before sending it out to editors of the “right fits.”

I try to think of my short works as canaries in the coal mine of the literary world. Either they make it or they don’t.

Here is some great advice given by the character Christmas Eve in the Tony award-winning musical Avenue Q:

from a wonderful Tumblr site called “Things Musicals Taught Me”

 

Do you submit your writing in less-than-book-length form?

 

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Filed under Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, WordPress, Writing