TMR Editors’ Prize
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Current Issue: Summer 2015
Current issue: Summer 2015
For the next few weeks, we will be featuring narrative accounts “from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak—the 2014 winners in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction of our Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. Today we hear from Alexandra Teague, last year’s winner in poetry. Here is what she has to say about her experience:
“Winning the Jeffrey E. Smith prize was really one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten as a poet. At the end of the spring semester of 2014, with my second book accepted and waiting for publication at Persea, I was working on poems toward a new manuscript—one of which had become the start of a multi-part epistolary poem addressed to the 4th-century B.C. Greek courtesan Phryne. With more tonal swings that my usual work (and a really unusual premise even by my standards), I was excited about the poem but also very aware that my reservoir of ideas and experience was running low after years of pushing on the last book and at a new tenure-track job. I needed to back away from words and focus on just being human, which led me to do something I’d dreamed about for years: walk the pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago through Spain—500 miles with no cell phone, no laptop, no writing except the occasional journal entry. When I got home, I went back to ‘Letters to Phryne’ (with some trepidation—unsure how I’d reenter a project I’d abandoned for months, and if I’d changed in ways that would make that difficult) and started drafting the last five sections: the first time I’ve ever taken such a sustained break between parts of a single poem (and certainly the farthest I’ve walked!).
I love TMR and have been really honored to be published in it a couple of times before, and though I don’t usually enter many contests, I decided to try my luck with this poem and another new one I’d written since the Camino. When I found out months later that I was a finalist, I was overjoyed, and when I won. . . well, it was an incredible, incredible honor and gift: to know that this work that to me represented some substantial shifts but also continuities as a writer and a person, and which felt central to my next project, had spoken to readers who I trust as much as the TMR editors. If I’d been concerned the year before that I was writing at the expense of feeling fully human, meeting the TMR editors and staff was an additional perfect antidote. I don’t think I’ve ever met nicer, more generous, more unassuming people involved in the publishing/writing world than the staff who greeted me in Columbia. From the first get-together pizza party at the TMR office; to attempting to bound around the track on Speer Morgan’s Kangoo Jumps; to conversations with Speer and Kris and Chun; to the beautiful evening of the reading; to meeting my fantastically warm and smart fellow prize winners, Rachel and Andrew, and discovering the interests and ideas about writing we have in common, the weekend was so affirming of why I write, and how fortunate I am that ancient stories of courtesans, present living, ancient pilgrimage routes, and a celebratory trip to part of the country where I used to live and seldom get to return to, can all become part of one path.”
You can learn more about Teague’s poetry and projects here: http://www.alexandrateague.com.
Want to join her as one of our prize winners? You can submit to our 2015 Editors’ Prize Contest here. The deadline is October 1st. We can’t wait to read your submissions!
From my odd little perch at the Missouri Review, year after year I’ve observed a number of back-to-school rituals. First and perhaps most significant to us is that we get a surge of submissions. Manuscripts pop up on-line by the minute and daily our postal delivery person brings in a hefty bundle of mail. During the summer “the physicals,” as we call them, come in at a slow trickle while on-line submissions dip enough to allow us to take vacations. The steady infusion of submissions is one of the benefits of being a magazine that reads year-round.
Of course Facebook reveals a lot about how students and teachers get ready for school. There are plenty of pictures of new faculty: before and after shots of their offices, snaps of their faculty IDs, happy-hour gatherings with colleagues and stories about first-day jitters. Then there are the children: for several weeks I’ve been “liking” photos posted by proud parents of chipper grade-school kids posed under a tree and outfitted in weighted-down backpacks, blinding neon tennis shoes, and retro lunch boxes. Of course high schoolers put up their own photos, mostly selfies of new best friends, trendy outfits and haircuts, and last minutes trips to the lake. My favorite photos are of parents dropping off their kids at college, their Subaru Outbacks packed with the accoutrements of dorm life— images that always evoke the opening scene of Delillos’ White Noise.
Around here we’ve been tidying up our offices that get overrun with books, manuscripts, and, in my case, bowls of candy. I use back-to-school as an excuse to add to my already sufficient teaching wardrobe, my reward for having my syllabi and assignments ready on-time. In fact, this semester I am going back to school both as a teacher and a student. In preparation for a future class that I am teaching that blends fashion, film and literature, I am taking a fashion history course. Sitting in the classroom as a student is like going out to eat rather than preparing dinner at home; how things come out is not your problem. By the way, if anyone has any favorite novels in which “dress” plays an important part please let me know.
I asked my colleagues around the office about their back-to-school rituals. Our editor Speer Morgan got a haircut and is styling new jeans, our assistant managing editor Dedra Earl stocked her office with healthy snacks for her work-study students, our new office assistants Phoebe Rogers and Mysti-Ané Pearce re-trained themselves to go to bed early. Web-editor Christina Bramon’s daughter assembled and photographed a week’s worth of outfits (a girl after my heart). And someone who would like to remain anonymous takes sleeping pills and listens to relaxation tapes.
For us, the best part of back-to-school is welcoming new interns and graduate students. We are fortunate every semester to have a group of devotees of literature who are ready to take on all the tasks we throw at them, big or small. So after a fairly quiet summer, the offices of TMR become once again a buzzing hive of activity. Let school begin.
What’s you back to school ritual? We’d love to hear about it.
Shameless plug: Make submitting to Editors’ Prize part of your back-to-school ritual. Winning $5,000 will make next year’s semester send-off even snazzier.
In announcing The Missouri Review’s 25th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Fiction, Essay, and Poetry—where each genre winner earns a feature in our Spring 2016 issue, a fancy reading in Columbia, and a cool five grand—I thought I would bring us back to 1990, the year that the Editors’ Prize began. Here are 25 things that went down 25 years ago:
- The most complete skeleton of a T-Rex was found in South Dakota.
- The Simpsons aired on Fox for the first time.
- Nelson Mandella was released from prison in South Africa after 28 years.
- The destruction of the Berlin Wall began in June.
- Entertainment Weekly hit newsstands.
- Seinfeld premiered on NBC.
- West Germany won the World Cup.
- Industrialized countries agreed to stop dumping garbage into the oceans.
- Margaret Thatcher announced her resignation.
- The first web page was written.
- The Space Shuttle Discovery places the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit.
- Microsoft released Windows 3.0.
- Wilson Phillips’ song “Hold On” debuted on the radio.
- The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series (as a Reds fan, I have no memory of this, which makes me sad).
- Twin Peaks premiered on ABC.
- George H.W. Bush was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.
- Milli Vanilli’s producer revealed they were lip-synching on their Grammy award-winning album.
- The first Home Alone film came out in theaters.
- The poll tax took effect in the UK.
- The cost of a Super Bowl ad was $700,000.
- Parachute pants were all the rage, as shown in MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”
- Dances with Wolves won the Oscar.
- Sinead O’Connor topped the charts with “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa closed due to safety.
- The Cold War came to an end.
We’ve certainly come a long way since 1990, and here at TMR, we’ve come a long way, too. Submit to our Editors’ Prize before October 1st, 2015 for your chance to be a part of history—and, you know, to win $5,000.
We can’t wait to read your submissions!
Editors’ Prize Guidelines
25th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Fiction, Essay, and Poetry
Not Just Any Contest!
Select winning entries in the past have been reprinted in the Best American series.
$5,000 Fiction | $5,000 Poetry | $5,000 Essay
DEADLINE: October 1, 2015
Submit online now or download the entry form (PDF) for print submissions.
Interested in reading a past Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize winner? Check out the essays “Big Jim,” “Letters to David,” and “My Thai Girlfriends” on textBOX, The Missouri Review‘s free online anthology: www.missourireview.com/anthology
- Page restrictions: Please include no more than 25 typed, double-spaced pages for fiction and nonfiction. Poetry entries can include any number of poems up to 10 pages in total. Each story, essay, or group of poems constitutes one entry.
- Entry fee: $20 for each entry (make checks payable to The Missouri Review). Each fee entitles the entrant to a one-year subscription to TMR in print or digital format (for a free sample of a digital issue, go here!), an extension of a current subscription, or a gift subscription. Please enclose a complete address for subscriptions.
- Entry instructions (for mailed entries): Include the printable contest entry form. On the first page of each submission, include author’s name, address, e-mail and telephone number. Entries must be previously unpublished and will not be returned. We accept simultaneous submissions but ask for immediate notification if the piece is accepted for publication elsewhere. Mark the outside of the envelope “Fiction,” “Essay,” or “Poetry.” Each entry in a separate category must be mailed in a separate envelope. Enclose a #10 SASE or e-mail address for an announcement of winners. Entries will not be returned.
- Eligibility: Previous winners of the Editors’ Prize and previous employees of TMR are ineligible. Previous finalists, however, may enter again.
- Mailing address: Missouri Review Editors’ Prize 357 McReynolds Hall University of Missouri Columbia, MO 65211
- What Are You Waiting For? Enter Online Now!
Download the entry form for print submissions.
The winners will be announced in January 2016.
If you have any questions regarding the Editors’ Prize Contest, please feel free to e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I noticed about five years ago that among college-age students there’s a great divide between reading for pleasure and reading for class. Today when I walk into a creative writing workshop, students are sitting around the conference table with their noses stuck in books I’ve never heard of. They whisper about these works among themselves. To me they are speaking in code, kind of like fans of Games of Thrones. I just don’t get it, and I suspect they prefer it that way.
Current English majors are die-hard young adult fans, and they are not getting over it any time soon. They are seldom interested in required reading lists of canonical authors or the differences between literary and genre fiction.
In 2012 a research firm found that 55% of YA readers are actually adults. Twenty-eight percent of those buyers are between the ages of 30 and 44. It’s a phenomenon that’s difficult for both publishers and critics to explain. Some point to YA’s escapist appeal. Perhaps adult life has become so mundane that one wants to hang out on the page with vampires, witches and zombies. Others think it’s a form of nostalgia, a longing for their vanished youth. The most critical see it as indicative of a decline in literacy. Or perhaps parents just want to know what their kids are reading and then get hooked; after all, some of these novels are supposed to be pretty good.
Last year I asked my fiction writing class about the trend. Their response was largely one of disdain. In essence they felt their parents should “get a life.” Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, and Mortal Instruments belonged to them, though they thought it was okay if their parents saw the film adaptations (many of these books seem to be written with future movie franchises in mind).
My reading habits were different as a 12- to 17-year old, the age group for which these books are generally written. Rather than selecting from the teen-oriented books that took off in the 1960s and 1970s—novels by Judy Blume, Robert Cormier, S.E. Hinton, and Paul Zindel—I was reading the trashy bestsellers of the era, fat pulpy paperbacks full of the titillation of real sex rather than the virginal vampire kind.
Harold Robbins’ The Carpetbaggers was my favorite, a novel thought to be a thinly disguised portrayal of Howard Hughes though Robbins always denied it. No one thought it strange that I trucked around with a book by Robbins until I took The Lonely Lady to a slumber party and read out loud randy passages. My mother got a disapproving phone call the next day.
My steady reading diet also included Jacqueline Suzann’s Valley of the Dolls, Papillon, a memoir by convicted felon and fugitive Henri Charriére, unauthorized Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe biographies, and Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, a book that offered up Hollywood’s best kept and darkest secrets. I think I was the only kid in junior high who knew the story of Fatty Arbuckle’s demise or how Jane Mansfield met her end. The junk I was reading certainly prepared me for the future of reality TV since I was already fascinated by the tangled world of grown-ups in flashy places. The evolution of young reader of pure swill to English professor is hard to explain.
So my writing program has been bandying about the idea of teaching a YA workshop. I certainly won’t be the instructor. I completely lack the expertise or interest. But if they came up with a course on 1970s schlock such as Jaws, Carrie, Alive, and The Godfather –yes all movies—count me in.
What do you think? Is it okay that so many adults read YA? Or should the bookstores card them or at least require signed consent from their children?
Three of the people pictured in this group photo have worked together for more than twenty years—that’s over a thousand weeks, five thousand days, 45,000 hours, three presidents, eight Bond movies, nine versions of Windows, countless bad haircuts and fashion trends, and 80 issues of TMR.
Off hand, I have no idea how many manuscripts I’ve read, reviews and blogs I’ve written, events I’ve planned, AWPs I attended, archives I’ve visited, “found text” and visual art features I’ve written, cover artists I’ve found, and junk mail pieces I’ve sent. It has been one long seamless buzz of activity.
Like many careers in the arts, when you are away from the office, you are never really away from the office. You are always thinking about and looking for possible content. Art galleries and museums offer endless possibilities for visual features. I found Dadaist Hannah Hoch and Pop Art bad boy Martin Kippenberger in Berlin, artwork for our covers by Alex Colville, Jana Sterbak and Anthony Tremmaglia in Canada, and letters by Jelly Roll Morton, rare turn of the century Mardi Gras costume designs, and surrealist photographs by Clarence John Laughlin in New Orleans. And so on. When I travel, I dig, snoop, poke around, and consequently I find literary and artistic goodies.
So what can I say about twenty years in the business? I’ve gained a lot of practical experience. For one thing, I know how to deal with private collectors, curators, gallerists, and archivists. I am no longer too shy to call up and negotiate the cost of publishing a famous artist or writer. Students laugh when I say this, but dead artists are impossible. They are the hardest to work with unless they’ve been gone more than seventy years, which then makes them way easier than the living.
But like any profession in the arts there is no mastery. As a writer I am besieged with the usual questions and moments of self-doubt: Have I really been doing this for twenty years? Shouldn’t it be easier? Why isn’t the prose better? Inversely as a reader I am often struck with a sense of wonder. How did they do that? Where did that extraordinary idea come from? Wow, what a voice.
I never dread coming to work. Every day is different. Fiction, poetry, and nonfiction submissions roll in on-line and a smattering come through the mail. So there’s an ever replenishing source of new material to read. Each semester we have a group of interns, some new and some returning, to assist us with our various projects and offer up their youthful perspectives. The rhythm around the office is typically quite mornings and bustling afternoons.
These days the group photos are put up on-line rather than reproduced as an eight-by-ten glossy. The one posted here is a rare memento that proves we were once young. It also reveals that I have a terrible memory. Out of the other eleven people in the picture, I can only recall the names of three while our assistant managing editor Dedra Earl can identify all but two.
Hey, so if you are in this picture, email us. We’d love to know where you are and what you’re doing.
Everything Old is New Again: What the Publishing World Can Learn from the Rediscovered Love of Vinyl
“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”
I recalled the lyrics of Peter Allen’s song the other day when I was in Vinyl Renaissance looking for a few LPs for our up-coming summer launch party at the Vault, a downtown bar. In celebration of the issue’s theme, “Defy,” I decided to go with a rock ‘n’ roll theme and bought one of those all-in-one record players, inviting everyone to bring their favorite albums. At our editorial meeting I told our interns to bring a few LPS, too.
“You know what those are, don’t you?” I cracked.
The students looked at me crossly. Evidently many of them have extensive record collections. I was not aware of the extent of the renaissance in vinyl. The numbers are astounding. According to a recent Wall Street Journal Article, “The Biggest Comeback of 2014: Vinyl Records,” over 8 million vinyl records were sold in 2014. Fifteen factories in the country that still press records are struggling to keep up with the demand that promises to surge by 49% in 2015.
I chatted with the record store owner. “You really have your finger on the pulse,” I said, meaning it. I never would have guessed that young people would fall in love with the feel of placing the needle in the groove of a record and even notice the superior sound quality it delivers.
He told me how his wife had at first thought he was crazy. Now she recognizes his genius. The store is doing great. The real challenge is finding enough inventory.
While flipping through the bins of records I once owned and discarded, I pondered then and later over dinner with my husband whether the publishing industry could learn a thing or two from the resurgence of vinyl. We wondered whether some literary magazines were too quick to do away with the print version and become exclusively on-line. Have there been too many fierce and ferocious fights over the e-books rights? Have people packed up and dispensed with their books in favor of scrolling through the electronic pages on Kindle? It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to predict that eBooks will never make print books obsolete. According to Claire Fallon’s piece in the Huffington Post, print books outsold eBooks in the first half of 2014, with hardcovers and paperbacks making up 67% of book sales. So perhaps the tide is already turning. Like vinyl, hardbacks are making a comeback.
So I guess I would say, think before you toss. I left Vinyl Renaissance having spent $25 on records I used to own, though I felt rather hip walking down the street with the albums tucked in the crook of my arm.