TMR Editors’ Prize
Our Generous Supporter
Our new, enhanced online anthology
Current Issue: Fall 2014
TMR on Twitter
Last week, I was invited down to Missouri State University by my friend Mike Czyzniewjewski to visit with his graduate and undergraduate students for the day. Between his classes and his colleague, writer Jen Murvin, I visited three creative writing classes to talk about writing and publishing. There was also a well-attended late afternoon Q&A, dinner with graduate students, and finally, a reading at 7 pm, for which I was only ten minutes late.
The reading was held in the Robert W. Plaster Student Union Theatre, a gorgeous and gigantic room with rows of seats that rose high above where I was, down far below, in front of a podium, off to the left of an otherwise empty stage. High above, there was a set of glass windows where the electronics for the room were controlled, and directly next to it was a clock, with the time displayed in sharp red LED light that I could see with just a glance up from my pages.
The microphone stem was flexible, so I adjusted it closer so I could mostly keep my eyes down, but look up on occasion for emphasis. More than once, I inadvertently did this on “P” sounds but I don’t think it was awful. Also, I had the microphone a bit too close to my face, so I nudged it with my nose more than once, which made no news but which I definitely felt. Perhaps no listener noticed. I had water, which I only sipped from once, and read for a little under thirty minutes, just enough time to read the first chapter of my recently completed novel.
(and, no, do not ask about my novel…)
To my knowledge, never before have I repeatedly bumped a microphone with my nose. Most of the readings that I’ve given were performed with my teacher voice, a learned ability to project loud (enough) into a good-sized room so that everyone can hear just fine. There were one or two words I stumbled upon, which is normal for me too, but I think all and all it went well. Or at least, people said so afterwards. Not that anyone comes up to you after a reading and says “You were terrible!” but you know what I mean.
Reading in front of a crowd can be a nerve-wracking experience; to this day, despite giving probably two dozen readings, I’m always nervous beforehand, a feeling of dread that what I’m about to read will embarrass me and bore the audience. Yet, giving a reading is nice. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, I hate reading but I like having read.
I’ve long believe that reading your work aloud is the only way to know if it is finished, if it is any good at all. I read scenes aloud, then rework them; I read the whole story, then rework it from there too. It’s a bit stunning what tics I rediscover about my own writing, just from using my voice. No matter that I’ve been writing for years: I still find repetitive phrases, unnecessary verbiage, my own quirks and “tricks” that I use time and time again, clunky transitions, phrases that twist my tongue (“rusted wheel wells” was one, at the end of a complex-compound sentence, and I could not say that for the life of me), and other errors of logic, syntax, and grammar.
It’s a little weird to read your work aloud. But I’m getting used to it. Obviously, if you write in a cafe, you should get used to reading at home. I’d rather not read to nobody, so I read to my dog, who usually just wags her tail and then chews her paw and stares at me expectantly.
(obligatory photo of my puppy? yes!)
Reading in public is a skill. It’s a performance in a similar way that great teaching is a performance; just knowing the material is not enough to keep your students engaged. When reading, it’s a matter of how and what and when you emphasis just the right thing to keep people listening. There’s nothing wrong with bumping your nose on the microphone. Perhaps it’s just part of showing the audience that you are, in fact, an imperfect person, just like the people you write about in your stories.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
“And then we came to the end.”
Here it is, writers: your very last chance to enter the 24th annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. We award a winner in three categories–fiction, nonfiction, and poetry–with each winner receiving $5,000 and publication in our spring 2015 issue. Also, winners are flown into lovely Columbia, Missouri, for a reading and reception during the spring semester, usually in March or April, an event that is free and open to the public. All entrants receive a one-year subscription to The Missouri Review (and our new fall issue has just arrived!), and all entries are considered for publication (meaning that, usually, a few of our finalists are also published in the spring or summer issue).
By now, you’ve seen this announcement many times and you’ve done all you can to make your work the best it possibly can be. So, here are those answers to those very last minute questions you might have.
October 15th? Really? Yes, really! Today is it! The extended deadline! Today! After all, we only have about ten to twelve weeks to read through all this good work and choose a winner, so we have to get cracking.
Postmark Deadline? Yes, postmark! If you decide to mail your entry to us, do NOT spend a bazillion dollars to overnight or express mail us your work. Postmark date is all we need. If you mail it today, and it arrives next Thursday, that’s cool.
Entry Fee? Twenty dollars. You receive a one-year subscription to TMR, which is four issues. Our normal one-year subscription rate is thirty dollars, so this is a stupendous discount. Again, you are out of excuses to not enter the contest!
Previously Unpublished? Yes, only previously unpublished work. Meaning: “Our definition of “published” is material distributed in any manner to the public, print or web, so work posted on your blog should not be submitted to us for consideration.”
So, that’s it! You can enter the contest with the click of a button on our Submission Manager, located right here.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
Stumbling across Girl Canon has been a revelation. One of the potentials that is often lost on the medium is the internet is the possibility for those who are silenced to have a space to voice that which is often locked inside. When we hear about the canon we think the white, male, cis writers who have dominated the scene and, by virtue of their visibility, the history of the art and its future. Yet, here are the secret canons from female-identified, non-binary and genderqueer people: what they read, what they have internalized, and what has inspired them. Instead of handing one another books or poems in our secret spaces, Girl Canon seeks to document and create a conversation about what we read out in the open.
I sat down with Katie Schmid, the founder of Girl Canon, to discuss the inspiration and mission of Girl Canon. If you have your own canon to submit to the project, e-mail them to email@example.com.
AAB: What was the inspiration for Girl Canon?
KS: Girl Canon is a direct consequence of my reading n+1′s No Regrets–a book of women writers and thinkers discussing their reading life. Carla Blumenkranz, in conversation with moderator Dayna Tortorici and writers Emily Gould and Emily Witt, introduces the idea of the “secret canon”–basically, the idea is that within the culture of a particular group of people there’s a secret list of books that everyone is referring to. Blumenkranz calls it a “reference point” that gives the outsider access, in some ways, to the “microculture” of that particular group, but it’s also a way that a group or culture might signal to each other and outsiders their own literary merit, their smarts. Blumenkranz seems to be referring to the nervous way canons can sometimes be used as markers for intelligence. As a reader, girl, and academic, this really struck me as true. I have seen many friends struggle with the weight of the canon. I have a friend who sends me his reading “plan” every few months, you know, like–”I’m going to read all of Rousseau!” or “The entire Bible!” and that works for him, but for me, it’s always felt suffocating. Portlandia has a sketch about it, too.
I think, also, that because the canon I was introduced to in school was largely white, male, and heteronormative that I and many of the people I know who are not those things, or are interested in reading about other kinds of experiences, have had to struggle with being required to read works of literature that are in some ways are overtly hostile to, or erasing of their experiences. For better or worse, what you read informs your impressions of what types of writing and experiences are considered “good literature.”
What No Regrets does, and what Girl Canon hopes to do, is to highlight the secret canons of women. When I read No Regrets I felt an immense relief just reading about women talking openly about how they dealt with the problem of how to read outside of school; how to read around or through the Western Canon in a way that created space for themselves. I am interested in curating those female ways of reading, of expanding upon and questioning what women consider to be “good literature.”
Sady Doyle says it better in her article on No Regrets, “The Perils of Reading While Female”: “The power of a personal canon, secret or not, lies in the authority one needs to create it. Women need to trust that they know what’s good, what’s bad, and what serves them intellectually in order to reject or reclaim the books in their lives.” This was exactly what I lacked when I destroyed Herzog. I wasn’t stupid, and I wasn’t a bad reader. But decades of socialization had taught me otherwise. There were the disastrous conversations with men about Eminem, the Beats, Judd Apatow; there were the condescending male classmates in college, such as the guy who made a point of sitting behind me and pulling faces whenever I talked because I’d once complained too forcefully about “whiny white guys”; there was the lit professor who made me rewrite a paper three times because it focused too exclusively on sexism and who told me that the purpose of his class was “appreciation” of the assigned readings, not critique. All of this had given me the implicit belief that I was simply not qualified to decide which books were good for me, that I would be seen as anti-intellectual if I decided that a sexist book was not worth my time.
What No Regrets argues for most powerfully is the right of women to reject that line of thinking and to believe that they are qualified to decide what literature should be. It argues for the public claiming of formerly secret canons: the right to create your own vision of what is best in the culture and to have that vision influence what books other people read and value.”
The public claiming of formerly secret canons is our motto at GIRL CANON.
AAB: A few of the texts that women are choosing for their canon is not so radically different from the current ideal of “good literature” – I doubt anyone would question Salinger or Rushdie or Nabokov – but the reasons that women are choosing these books, and many others from authors that don’t traditionally make it into Norton Anthologies, is varied. Some of the contributors write a lot, and some very little, and others pick quotes from the books to stand as the argument for why they are their own personal canons. Have there been any choices that surprised you?
KS: That’s a lovely question. I think the musing in the first part of your question partially gets to the heart of what a few contributors, Kristen Gunther & Tasha LeClair, have discussed amongst themselves: what is a personal canon meant to be? Is it supposed to be the good medicine you take to better yourself, or is it meant to be the books you come back to again and again because you can’t help yourself? I don’t have the answers, but my conception of what the project is and can be changes, as the contributors to GIRL CANON all have different definitions of what their personal canons “mean.”
The commonalities between the canons continue to surprise me, and there are definitely patron saints (Western canonical and non-Western canonical) who crop up again and again: The Bronte sisters, Lorrie Moore, Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nancy Drew (and girl detectives in general…Harriet the Spy recurs), Judith Butler, Kate Chopin, Mary Karr, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Flowers in the Attic shows up a lot (!!!), Harry Potter & Sylvia Plath. I never thought I’d join Harry Potter and Sylvia Plath together in a sentence. It’s an unholy union and it delights me–and I think the friction created at the meeting of “good” literature and the books loved-so-feverishly-that-they-make-up-a-part-of-your-DNA is what makes the project compelling.
The way the canons speak to each other or know each other is really pleasurable, for me, as blog curator, and I hope for readers of GIRL CANON.
AAB: Getting back to what Sady Doyle talked about in “The Perils of Reading While Female”, do you think that women are made to doubt their own intuitions regarding what is good or bad while reading these works is because of our somewhat poor representation, or is it part of the socialization process for young girls, that they should not have an opinion about the things that men create and are lauded by other men?
KS: The idea of the canon is a scholarly construction, and I do think that many who traditionally have been considered outsiders to the academy face decades of discourse and scholarship surroundings these works and may feel less able to enter the conversation to push back against scholarly consensus. Of course, scholars have created new theoretical language and new ways of reading in order to expand the canon and complicate our notions of what “good” literature looks like, and who it’s written by. These modes of reading (I’m thinking of postcolonial studies, feminist theory, queer theory) also go back into The Greats and reread them, which creates space that can queer and complicate accepted notions of what these works of literature mean. It’s lovely to read this way: to search for complication. I read Jane Eyre when I was in 8th grade and loved it, and my love was further intensified by my reading of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, in a Postcolonial Literature class I took in college, which brilliantly imagines the madwoman in the attic, names her, gives her a life. I first read Henry James in a Queer Theory class. These modes of reading create a conversation surrounding literature that challenges stereotype and our own ways of being in the world: Is Rochester a romantic hero, trapped into an unsuccessful marriage or is he an unreliable self-mythologizer? What does it mean to call a woman mad? How have we traditionally used the word madness to dismiss women for their difference, their sexuality, their race?
Inside and outside of the academy, there’s still a sharp, snobby divide between serious literature and YA, between serious literature and chick lit, and I know that the reason some of my friends still haven’t submitted to GIRL CANON is because they have anxiety about whether the lit on their list is good enough. I am a hedonist at heart and read widely and voraciously for pleasure, so though I feel the divide, and am not incapable of feeling shamed for reading The Hunger Games, I tend to ignore it and read what I want. The whole argument about whether The Goldfinch ‘counts’ as serious literature because it contains what can be commonly thought of as YA tropes seems ridiculous to me. GIRL CANON’S position on literary snobbery: If the book feeds you and enriches your life, it was worth it. Period. No need for continued hand-wringing over whether or not you should have read it. There’s room for Madame Bovary and Harry Potter on your list. The list can be long and weird.
AAB: Where do you think this anxiety about our reading choices comes from?
KS: We get a lot of messages about what we should and should not read. Culture is a machine that constantly looks at itself and tells itself what it should be doing–we have critics doing the important work of thinking about art, and we have pop culture critics observing trends, and we have teachers and family members influencing our reading habits as well. Recently, there’s been some worry about whether or not adults should be reading YA novels, and what it signifies that they do. Culture creates anxiety about any kind of consumption just by observing that consumption.
Here’s how I read before I knew I was supposed to read “well”: I remember going on a Wally Lamb kick when I was a teenager and my dad and stepmom were into him. I probably wouldn’t mention to anyone that I go to school with now that I was really into “She’s Come Undone” when I was 16 or that I read Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours,” multiple times before I loved “Mrs. Dalloway.” But I love that kind of hand-to-hand exchange of books. I remember marathoning to finish books I really loved–Sharon Creech novels and “Jane Eyre” and things like that–and handing them off to my mom to read next. That exchange of texts out of love and excitement really speaks to how voracious readers learn to read in a way that feeds them.
Katie Schmid has been published in “Best New Poets 2009,” Quarterly West, & The Rumpus among others. She is a PhD student at The University of Nebraska Lincoln. Her work can be found at katieschmid.net and she tweets at twitter.com/kt_schmid.
You know this by now: Tao Lin, Stephen Tully Dierks, Ed Champion, and Kirk Nesset have made headlines for abusing women, for running misogynistic campaigns to silence their voices, or collecting images of abused children numbering the obscene on their hard drive. It is shocking, devastating, an acknowledgement of madness. Worse, perhaps, because we mau know the person who committed these acts. They were one of us and, even if we didn’t know them personally, they were names within our insular community.
Judging from the reaction of my friends and colleagues on Facebook, this revelation has caused an instant revulsion and disquiet. As one person in my feed expressed with all dismay: “Apparently, I know a lot of rapists and child pornographers.”
However, it’s not only that you and I know rapists and those who perpetuate the victimization of children, though that does engender that painful reminder that we don’t always know the people we interact with, not intimately, not with a full picture of the depth of their personalities. What we often forget, when these stories break, is that we also know too many men and women who have been the victims of rape, the victims of abuse, and the victims of exploitation. RAINN’s statistics cite 1 in every 6 women, and 1 in every 33 men, of being subject to an attempted or completed rape in the United States. This is a reality of numbers, a depressing addition of faulty reporting (the actual number, we must assume, is much larger).
But still: disbelief.
Once, I had a student write an essay in my composition class about abortion, as they often do. She was very adamantly pro-life, and the assignment was to explore the other side of the issue. She met with me one on one, eighteen years old and flustered, because what she had researched dealt with women seeking that procedure because they had been raped. This was not, she told me, something she thought happened in real life. That was an Event for books or movies or art, but not something that happened in reality, and, in turn, it was something she was safe from, like monsters under the bed or Jabberwocky’s or talking animals, all make believe.
She stared at me in a way that made me think she wanted nothing more than for me to tell her it was a nightmare that couldn’t touch her outside of her unconsciousness, and the narratives she read were just words on a page, not the lives of women, and men, who experience. It was kinder to not lie to her, and though I wanted to comfort her, I nodded and said yes, this happens. To a lot of us.
When these stories break, there’s a little bit of our collective protective shield that gets cracked apart, and we have to re-evaluate our relationships with people we thought we knew. We think of people as having a cohesive identity: Man or Woman. Writer or Reader. Consumer or Consumed. Monster or Victim. Yet those identities blur, morph, shift, or fade away, and no matter how many descriptors we come up with, it is not always readily apparent who it is that we are looking at, who we are talking to, whose words we enjoy or are terrorized by when we read them. Our identities are deeply complex, and to the multitude of victims or survivors of these monstrous acts, it is almost impossible to tell them apart from anyone else. That identity gets carved on your bone, hidden away, but hurts every so often, like the elderly feel before it storms.
This is what the wreckage of this storm will look like: a frenzy of distancing ourselves from the men who committed these acts, a re-evaluation of our complacency in allowing, that which we did allow, these acts to go on for far too long, the unfortunate call for compassion for those who perpetuate, with little compassion for those who experience and, with all hope, that it is addressed at AWP out in the open, and not just in whispers in corners of the hallway or in digital spaces. But the frenzy often forgets the people who are hurt by this: the narrative is always dedicated to and driven by those who harm, the final act of ownership and control. And those who carry it in their bones become numbers or boogeyvictims of their own.
Please don’t forget that you know them, too.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @AABalaskovits
We’re all writers, too. So we know how it goes. Despite your best intentions of getting your work done on time, sure enough, deadlines slip by. Whether it’s a grant, paying the electric bill, grocery shopping (“We’re out of milk AGAIN?!”), or submitting to the finest literary magazine contest in the history of literary magazine contests, well, hey, we all miss deadlines. C’est la vie.
So, we’ve decided to extend our deadline for two weeks! Entries may now be postmarked or submitted electronically through Sunday, October 14th. Hopefully, this extension will give all those writers who thought to themselves maybe next year or just…one…more…revision, a chance to submit.
Winners in each genre will receive a $5,000 prize, a featured publication in TMR, and a paid trip out to our winners’ reading and reception. Non-winning finalists will also be considered for publication in the journal. Past winners have been selected for the Best American Series, O. Henry Awards, and Pushcart Prizes. Your entry fee also gets you a year’s subscription to The Missouri Review in print or in our snazzy electronic format–which includes the audio recordings of every piece in the magazine.
Our full Editors’ Prize submission guidelines are here. So, please, don’t worry about the calendar and send us your best for our contest!
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
The literary magazine submission system is in full swing. While a few magazines open for submissions on August 1st or October 1st, the majority of magazines open up their submissions on September 1st. Many read until April or May of the following year, though a few will shut it down in December or January because it only takes four months to receive enough submissions to fill the forthcoming issues. By now, of course, you very likely know that The Missouri Review reads submissions all year round and currently our big focus is the Editors’ Prize, which has an October 1st deadline.
(hint: enter our Editors’ Prize!)
As with many literary magazines, our senior staff is comprised of writers, too. We also send out our stories, poems, and essays in the hope of finding a readership for our work. Fortunately for me, I’ve spent my last few months writing a novel, so the only thing that I have that is “short” is a novella that is over 20K. I think there are, I dunno, ten journals that would even consider a novella of that length.
But, I am working on a new story that I’m moderately happy with, which means, when I’m finished with it in the forthcoming weeks, I’ll need to look at the literary magazine scene and determine which magazine is the best for my work. Fire up the cover letter, hop on their Submission Manager, and send my story out into the world. How do I decide which journals to send my work to for publication?
There are a variety of factors that go into my decision. I think about the journals whose work I admire and whose work I read. I think about if my story fits their aesthetic, as this particular story I’m working on is a little bit different for me. I look up their reading period, their response time, limits on word count, and make sure everything is a good fit. Every writer has two or three journals that she/he would love to publish in, and those personal goals and aspirations are always a factor, too.
River Styx is an international, award-winning journal of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and art. A triannual publication with no university affiliation, the magazine is slim and elegantly designed, and has featured writers such as Yusef Komunyakaa, Ted Kooser, Lawrence Raab, and many others in its thirty plus years of publication. Natural Bridge, a journal of contemporary literature, is published twice per year at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, and each issue is curated by a guest editor. Selections are made by the editorial assistants, who are comprised of graduate students at the university. The magazine is, like River Styx, a true miscellany, publishing fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and translations. Basically, both are excellent, and any writer would be proud to have work published in either journal.
So why won’t I send them work? Because I used to work there.
My first experience working on a literary journal was as a graduate student making selections for Natural Bridge. Naturally, the current editorial assistants do not know who I am (and vice versa), so it really doesn’t matter if I send them work: my name means nothing to them. And, my first job as a managing editor was at River Styx, where I worked for almost five years. Richard Newman, the long time editor-in-chief, probably doesn’t care if I submit work either; I’ve been in the office when he’s turned down poems from poets whose work he really likes, poets he’s good friends with, and poets he respects. Neither magazine has guidelines on their website indicating they won’t consider work from previous editors, which is, of course, the prerogative of the current editorial staff. If I didn’t bring it up, they probably don’t think about it one way or the other.
Nonetheless, I think it’s inappropriate for me to send my work to those magazines. This is my choice. I don’t want to put those staffs in the position of having to consider work from someone they know worked there in the recent past. My position on this might be a bit over the top. It might then logically follow that I shouldn’t send work to any magazine where I was friends of, or friendly with, the editors. This would eliminate most magazines from my list. I know many literary magazine editors … and many of them have turned down my stories. And vice versa. It isn’t personal. That’s just how it goes.
In the grand scheme of things, this stance of mine probably doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot. That’s okay. The literary magazine world, and the large publishing world, has bigger fish to fry than whether or not we should send our writing to a place where we used to work (which is a cliché, but I’m hungry, and fish sounds tasty right now, so Imma leave it in…).
The reason I bring this up is to emphasis that as a writer and an editor, I have to have ethical standards for my work. All writers and editors do: take a spin around the web about quoting sources or “anonymous sources” and all that related material and you’ll find a wide spectrum of what is ethical, what is acceptable, in the world of journalism. Whatever your standards might be, you have to stick with them. No one else is going to police you. And it does matter: when you aim to publish your writing, you’re acting as a professional, and need to be one regardless of which side of the publishing wall you’re on.
Small stuff? Of course! But it’s all small stuff. The small stuff is what separates your work—whether it’s your writing or your magazine—from all the rest.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye