TMR’s Audio Contest
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Current Issue: Winter 2013
Featuring work by Jennifer Atkinson, Michelle Boisseau, Jonathan Fink, Seth Fried, John Fulton, Jane Gillette, Andrew Mulvania, Nick Neely, Sarah T. Schwab, Kristine Somerville, Daniel Talbott, Alexander Teague and Hal Walling.
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Author Archives: Claire
We’re excited to share the news about a stellar group of winners for this year’s Audio Competition! Winners were chosen in collaboration with guest judge Julie Shapiro of the Third Coast Audio Festival. Stay tuned in the coming months for these pieces to be released as featured podcasts on TMR’s website.
First Place: Chloe Honum “Spring”
Runner Up: Elijah Burrell “RC and Little Faye” and “Change of Song”
First Place: Beth Morgan “Sanderstown Testimonials”
Runner Up: Daniel DiStefano “The New Neighbor in Barnum and Bailey Retirement City”
First Place: Emma Weatherill “Nuns on Trial”
Honorable mention*: Rachel Coonce “A Brief Investigation into the Origins of a Cookie Memory”
Special thanks to Julie Shapiro, our many talented entrants, and to the TMR staff (especially our contest team and contest assistant Hannah Baxter) who made this year’s contest a success! Every year our contest grows, and the overall quality of the entries gets stronger, which makes choosing our winners very difficult. If you didn’t place this year, we hope you will consider submitting to the 2013 competition.
I was able to spend a fair portion of the recent AWP Conference camped out at The Missouri Review’s book fair table. It’s always fun meeting former TMR contributors and past contest winners face-to-face—and I get especially get excited, as the contest editor, when people take an interest in our upcoming contests. This year we gave away quite a few flyers announcing our Audio Competition, but I also noticed faces falling when people took note of our deadline. “That’s not a lot of time,” a number of people said. And it’s true; March 15 is now less than a week away.
For this reason—because so many folks learned about our contest for the first time at AWP—we’ve decided to extend the contest deadline by an extra week. Additionally, our online entry format and our pay-by-donation fee structure are completely new this year, and it’s taken us a while to adjust the website to accommodate those improvements. We thought a deadline extension was the best option all-around. Entries are now due (emailed or postmarked) by March 22nd.
I also wanted to address any concerns about the re-defining of our contest categories. In the past, we’ve had separate categories for professionally-recorded and home-recorded documentaries, but we did away with that this year. In the end, we found that there was little qualitative difference between entries submitted in the two categories. Many home-recorded pieces were just as strong, if not stronger, than those recorded by “professionals.”
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and emails, home recording is fairly straightforward with the help of a computer, a microphone, and free recording software like GarageBand or Audacity. I’ll share a link here for a website that offers some helpful tips on ways to improve the quality of home recordings. While the focus of the site is Audio Documentaries, most of the suggestions would be just as helpful for recording other kinds of content too.
This year, for TMR’s 5th annual Audio Competition, we’ve decided to try an experiment. Ok, so it’s a little crazy, and we don’t really know what to expect: we’ve decided to leave the contest entry fee up to the entrants; if you decide to submit work to our Audio Contest, you choose what you feel is a fair reading fee. Your entry fee, regardless of what you pay, still gets you a one-year digital subscription to The Missouri Review.
In the past, we have always charged a $20 entry fee—an entry fee that’s fairly standard for literary-journal-run competitions these days. And while we feel that this fee is reasonable (it includes a one-year subscription to The Missouri Review, for which we normally charge $23), we also understand that the cost may be prohibitive for some very talented people—particularly in this difficult economy.
Before I give the false impression that our contest is now free to enter, however, let me be up-front about the fees associated with a literary competition and why they exist in the first place. Literary journals as big as The Missouri Review are quite expensive to run: among other things, we pay the salaries for our full- and part-time editorial staff; the salaries for the office staff; the costs of equipment, technology, and supplies; expenses for advertising and promotional events; the printing and distribution of the journal; and contributor payments (we are one of the few lit journals that pays its contributors). Some of this money comes from grants and some from generous donors, but subscription fees and contest entry fees are another important source that we rely on to meet our costs. When writers pay to enter a journal’s contest, they are acting as patrons of the literary arts, providing the journal with some of the important funding it needs to continue to exist–and ultimately supporting themselves and others in the field.
Of course, there are also costs associated with running a contest: advertising, prize money, staff hours, etc. After receiving as many as several hundred entries, a contest like our Audio Competition might just barely break even; there are years, in fact, when TMR hasn’t broken even on the Audio Contest. Which is why making the entry fee “pay-by-donation” is a bit of a risk. But it’s a risk that we feel is one worth taking: We would like you to be able to enter our Audio Contest regardless of your ability to pay. If you feel that you can afford the standard $20 or even a little beyond that, know that we very much appreciate your support. But if $5 or $10 is all that you can pay at this point in time, we will still be grateful for your donation and happy to consider your work. And rest assured that the entries are blind; the amount that each entrant pays will not be recorded anywhere in connection with his/her payment.
Please spread the word and help make our experiment a success!
We’re excited about many of the new developments with our audio content here at The Missouri Review. We’re excited, for instance, that the opening of our 2012 audio competition follows closely on the heals of the addition of our (free) podcast feed to iTunes. If you’d like to have our weekly podcasts delivered to you, please sign up. And please, if you enjoy what you hear, give us a good rating on the iTunes site. Our podcast feed is so new that it hasn’t yet been rated.
As I already shared in a recent post, Julie Shapiro of the Third Coast International Audio Festival has agreed to serve as a guest consultant for our 2012 Audio Competition, joining TMR’s editors in the final judging round. This year, we’ve also streamlined the competition to three, simple categories–prose, poetry, and audio documentary—in an attempt to eliminate any confusion entrants experienced last year. And, we’ve improved the contest entry process. For your convenience, we now take MP3 recordings by email and accept online payments. (Submissions by mail are still acceptable as well). This should make the competition more economical to enter, especially for those submitting entries from overseas.
We wanted the renaming of our categories to convey that they are fairly open: in each we accept entries with multiple voice tracks, or with other tracks of sound or music, or simply good, clean recordings of entrants’ pieces. Any of these things are acceptable. The “prose” category includes any prose piece: fiction or nonfiction. “Audio documentary” is now open to professionally and non-professionally recorded pieces. Please see our audio contest site for full guidelines.
If you would like to check out previous contest winners and get a sense of the range of work our judges responded to favorably, you can find them in our recent podcasts. We’ve posted our four first-place winners from last year’s competition and plan to post entries from our first-runners up in the coming weeks. (So check back)!
Great news! We’re excited to announce that our 5th annual Audio Competition will be judged in collaboration with Julie Shapiro of the Third Coast International Audio Festival. Ms. Shapiro, whose bio you can read below, will lend us her expertise in documentary and audio production for the final selection of winners.
Julie Shapiro is Artistic Director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival, and has been with the project since its inception in 2000. Previous to that, she spent years behind record store counters across the country before ending up in North Carolina, where she worked at the the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, helped launch an experimental music/film festival, Transmissions, and produced Storylines Southeast – a survey of seminal literature from the region. These days, Shapiro teaches radio documentary in Chicago and beyond, keeps a blog about sound, and occasionally finds the time to produce stories for the public radio airwaves, including APM’s The Story and the BBC.
TMR will begin accepting submissions for the Audio Competition in December. The postmark deadline is March 15, 2012. For guidelines, categories, and more, see our Audio Competition page.
Before joining the editorial staff here at The Missouri Review, I spent three years in Tempe, AZ, as an editor at Hayden’s Ferry Review. Like The Missouri Review, Hayden’s Ferry (HFR) is committed to publishing work by both established and emerging writers. It features sections of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, stunning artwork and photography—and, more recently, an international section that houses literary works in translation.
I spent my last year on staff at HFR as co-editor of the international section. At the time, the section—launched in 2004 by two Arizona State graduated students–had only been around for two years. And part of the challenge of editing the section was its newness: the fact that there was little precedent at HFR for what we were doing and that, as my co-editor and I made editorial decisions, we were constantly having to articulate for ourselves what our vision was for our section and how the works we were considering for publication might or might not fit into that vision.
I’ve been thinking about this again recently, about the role works in translation can have in a literary journal–what dimension they add, how they fit into a journal’s vision. I decided to reconnect with folks at Hayden’s Ferry to see how the International section has evolved since I left in 2008. I spoke with Adrienne Celt, who, along with Eman Hassan, currently edits the international section.
Claire: When I was working at Hayden’s Ferry, I remember that the international editors had to track down and solicit most of our submissions because the section was such a new addition to the journal, and many translators weren’t yet aware of its presence. Is that still the case? Where do the majority of your submissions come from these days?
Adrienne: I’d say we’ve come a long way in terms of submissions – in the last issue I edited (#49, which is in the last stages of being ordered & made into proofs), two out of three pieces I accepted were not solicited. The numbers are still nowhere near what the regular fiction and poetry section editors see – I get maybe 20 submissions throughout the entire reading period. But a lot of those submissions are pretty high-quality. Basically there’s not a lot of middle ground – either a submission is not in a place (in terms of revision, level of English fluency, etc.) where I can really consider it, or it’s good enough that my decision comes down to a matter of taste. When I see a piece with English fluency issues that’s otherwise showing a lot of promise (usually this happens when an author – who probably has decent conversational English skills – submits a translation of their own work) it always hurts my heart a little, because my first inclination is to edit the hell out of it and see if we can make it work. But unfortunately, a lack of time and a conflict of interest (I can’t really be the translator for pieces I’m selecting) makes that impossible.
Of course, I do still put a lot of effort into soliciting pieces – I’d say it makes up at least 50% of my workload. But I think people are starting to get the idea that we’re genuinely interested in translated work, and provide a unique home for it.
C: You mentioned that issue 49 is in its final stages. Could you tell me a little about current or upcoming pieces you’re featuring in the International section? What are you excited about? Is there anything that’s been particularly well-received by your readers of late?
A: I’m still very much in the throes of reading/soliciting submissions for issue #50, but for #49 I’m especially excited about a piece by the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. I’ve been a fan of Olga’s ever since reading her novel House of Day, House of Night, and was reminded how much I enjoy her work when I saw her piece in the Best European Fiction 2010 put out by Dalkey Archive Press. I reached out to her translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones (who’s pretty remarkable in her own right – she’s won several international prizes for her work), and was delighted that Antonia managed to fit us into her schedule and prepare a story. Anyone who’s done translation work knows that translating and polishing a story is no small job, so we were quite appreciative. The piece is called “Ariadne auf Naxos” and it’s gorgeous – it was the first thing the editors remarked on when we got together to order the issue.
In terms of public reaction, we’ve heard some great feedback on the novella we published by the Icelandic author Steinar Bragi (translated by Salka Gudmundsdottir), entitled “The Rafflesia Flower.” It was published in two parts, in issues #46 and #47, and is bleakly beautiful – no less than one should expect from Bragi. I can’t take any credit for that publication though – it was solicited by a past International Editor, Mark Armstrong.
C: What special challenges have you faced as an international editor that might be different than the challenges faced by other kinds of editors? Do you find that you approach a work of translation differently when considering it for publication than you would approach a “regular” submission to HFR?
A: I can’t say that my approach differs too much when reading translations vs. Anglophone text (and I do read regular prose submissions as well) – in either case, I’m looking for a story that moves me, an interesting relationship with language, some kind of beautiful hook. Of course, a translated work, by its very nature, has a different resonance with language – its essential relationship with its source language has been disrupted, and only hopefully reproduced in English. So there’s always a layer of strangeness or “otherness” to a translation that comes from the knowledge that it has been wrested from its original form. I don’t think you can help but be aware of that when you’re reading translations, nor should you.
I suppose, also, I’m especially excited to find new voices when I read translated work. English-reading audiences don’t have, by and large, any idea how much work they’re missing out on from the non-Anglophone world, and if I can connect readers to a writer they might not have encountered otherwise, that’s pretty gratifying.
C: Yes, I find that exciting too. Regarding what you refer to as the “otherness” of a translated work, one challenge I remember facing as international editor was knowing how and when to revise my expectations–when to suspend that critical editorial impulse. I found that there were certain tropes that might seem cliché or be otherwise off-putting in a piece by an American writer that wouldn’t necessarily be so in the literature of another culture/language. For instance, we received one submission of a collection of folktales that was beautifully translated but that would have no doubt been criticized in the average writing workshop for certain “overly sentimental” scenes and images. My co-editor and I were fairly divided over the submission. We had to recognize that this particular submission represented a double translation–both of an oral tradition to a written one, as well as the language translation–so the culture it belonged to was quite a bit removed from that of the American literary journal. But we also had to consider what HFR’s readers would respond to. I’m wondering if you’ve had any similar experiences with the work you’ve considered? That is, how do you decide when something you’re reacting to in a work is an issue of cultural difference or of translation or literary merit?
A: The phrase “double translation” is a lovely way to phrase this sentiment. I certainly find that I’ll occasionally need to step outside my expectations as someone raised in the American school of fiction, but I guess I don’t find the mental leap (“translating” my expectations into the needs of the story) are actually all that different from the leap needed to read fiction written in the U.S. that isn’t quite my style. Literature is always playing this tricky game of being deeply personal and inherently communicative – stories want to interact with readers/listeners, but they’re born of the tastes and impulses of their teller.
That said, I do think that some of the “otherness” in a translated piece of writing comes from a sort of subconscious apprehension (on the reader’s part) that this writing is making different assumptions than those you’re used to. And not just in terms of slang or other cultural shorthand, but in terms of a writer’s relationship to language, and how that’s formed in the environment they grew up in. Not to be too much of a theory nerd, but it’s kind of like différance on steroids - différance assumes (in part, to totally bastardize Derrida) that there’s always a gap between a word and the concept or object it signifies. Translators have to deal with that gap, but also the gap between how readers in different cultures intuitively relate to signs and signifiers: for instance, in English writing, there is no sense of gender for everyday objects like tables and chairs, whereas in many languages those are subject to notions of gender (i.e. “table” in English vs. “la table” in French).
So short answer, yes. Sure. But that’s part of what interests me about translation, so I see it as a positive challenge.
C: You mentioned earlier that you find it gratifying to be able to connect readers with writers they might not otherwise encounter. Overall, how do you see the International section fitting into HFR’s creative vision? Why, in your mind, is this section an important addition to the journal? What might readers gain from exposure to international literature?
A: I think the international section helps move HFR into a wider literary community. When you only read or write within a single national cannon, you lose sight of the fact that literature hasn’t just been evolving linearly – what interests American readers and writers isn’t necessarily the dominant preoccupation in France or Japan.
When you sit (intellectually, I mean) for too long within a single framework, it can become stifling – it’s hard to see a way out, hard to know where to go next. Reading literature that comes out of a different framework than your own can be like opening a door. Suddenly you realize that everything is much bigger than you thought, and stranger.
C: What do you like best about your job as international editor?
A: Working with translations keeps a very specific part of my brain active. It reminds me of the basic pleasure of reading, actually: deep engagement between human beings and words. Translations remind me that no story or poem is ever really finished - one version of it may be complete, but it will inevitably change in the eyes of each reader, each interpreter. Translations are a very literal manifestation of that discourse between readers and writers.
I also really enjoy the balance between working with established and emerging authors. Finding a new writer or translator is exciting, because I can relate to them and want to see them succeed, and they tend to be very interested and open to suggestions about how to give their work a final shape. That can result in a very satisfying author/editor relationship (from my perspective, anyway), where we can toss ideas back and forth, and work together to find the most balanced English articulation of a foreign concept.
C: Are there other journals you particularly admire that currently publish literary translation?
A: Oh, this is tricky, because a lot of journals do some translation here and there, with no consistent focus on it – but that doesn’t mean they don’t put out good work. As a result, I skim pretty widely in terms of journals, and also spend some time talking to small presses which focus on translation. So let me just say: I’m probably leaving very worthy publications out by accident, and in no way claim to be the final arbiter of quality!
Just off the top of my head, Cerise Press puts out a lovely journal with a serious focus on translated work, and I think Subtropics out of University of Florida has printed some pretty interesting translations, as has A Public Space. APS is also helping put out an English version of the Japanese journal Monkey Business – New Voices from Japan, which I’ve been turned on to but haven’t gotten to look at yet. That’s pretty exciting, I think.
In terms of presses I like and sometimes talk to: Dalkey Archives Press, Twisted Spoon, Clockroot Books, and Salonica World Lit, just to name a few. And like I said, this is not an encompassing list; people should explore what’s out there, because translated writing is a rich field to mine.
Adrienne Celt is in her final year in the MFA program at Arizona State University, where she’s also the Editor of International Prose for Hayden’s Ferry Review. She won first place in the 2010 Glendon & Kathryn Swarthout Prize for Fiction, and her novel-in-progress was shortlisted in the 2011 Faulkner Wisdom Competition. Recently she was selected as a finalist in the Esquire/Aspen Writers’ Foundation Short Short Fiction Contest. She lives with her husband and dog in Tempe, AZ, where she is adding to and refining a collection of stories, and continuing work on her first novel. You can see her comic art at loveamongthelampreys.com.