What Lit Mags SHOULD You Be Reading?

HuffPo list of lit mags

This morning, Buzzfeed put out a list of 29 literary magazines you need to be reading.  What I love about this list is the fact that, in addition to some extremely well known lit mags (Poetry, McSweeney’s, Oxford American, Guernica), there is a nice compilation of journals you may not have yet encountered (but totally should).  I admit to being a bit annoyed to see a few of my favorites conspicuously absent from this list (Hello?  Where is Mid-American Review?), but as with all lists of this sort, some things must fall off.  Alas.  I’ll save you the click and list Buzzfeed’s suggestions here.  Happy reading! Continue reading

Ashford Humanities Review (at last!)


As some of you know, a small group of faculty and I have worked for nearly two years to build a student journal for critical essays in the humanities.  Why it took two years to accomplish this is a long tale fraught with red tape, missing people (I almost filed a missing person’s report for one member of the marketing team), legal woes and not one, not two, but three different web developers.

Those of you who know me also know that I am not easily deterred.   Continue reading

Self-Publishing for Poets & Literary Fiction Writers?

You may have heard the news. New York Times bestseller, Barry Eisler, has turned down a $500,000 publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press to self-publish his next book. The blogosphere is all abuzz with the news. And I suppose this marks the moment when we start to have this conversation for real.

And by “we,” I mean those of us writing poetry and literary fiction.

Eisler, Konrath, Hocking and the numerous other e-novelists making money hand-over-fist through Kindle sales are genre writers. They write thrillers and YA vampire novels and the like. Genre fiction, let’s face it, is much more likely to have a following than authors of more high-brow literary stuff. After all, we don’t have characters who live through three novels to conquer the aliens, defeat the terrorists, catch the bad guys and…you get the idea. I’m not knocking it – I enjoy a good, quick read as much as the next girl. I’m addicted to John Grisham novels. But there is a difference in readership. The question is: does that difference make self-publishing a good deal for us or not?

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Are Publishers “Off Limits”?

I can be a pretty tough critic. I know this about myself, and anyone who has read my reviews is likely to know it too. I make no apology. When we live in an era that sees each new batch of college freshman arrive to their composition courses without the ability to construct a complete sentence, I say: the time for high standards is now. I say, if you can’t do it well, keep trying. But don’t get all fired up because someone called you on it. And just to be clear: I hold myself to these same high standards as well. Doesn’t mean I don’t fail. I fail all the time. I fail most of the time. And when I fail in print? Someone will tell me about it. Probably also in print. That’s the way the game’s played, folks. But a friend recently questioned my decision to essentially slam a small press publisher for doing what I think is a bad job on the copyediting of a book I recently reviewed. And that conversation has me wondering, are publishers “off limits?”

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The Line

Kathryn Stockett is being sued for her portrayal of a real-life person in her award-winning novel The Help. The suit, according the Times article, was encouraged by none other than Stockett’s brother and sister-in-law for whom Ablene Cooper, the maid portrayed in the novel, works. What is most distressing is the fact that Stockett’s family are the impetus for the legal action. The question is: why?

I was talking the other day with a friend about this case, and she told me a story about a woman she knows who wrote a book and was threatened with legal action if she published it. The threat was made by her father. And the truth is, these stories are more plentiful than we’d like to believe.

It seems that family members can be a writer’s worst enemy. This is not news. Anyone who has been seriously in the writing game for any length of time has heard these stories. Stories of families being torn apart, mothers refusing to speak to daughters, estranged children and siblings. All because someone felt compelled to write it down and publish it. More often than not, these rifts are created by the writing of memoir – the real-life story of an event as told through one person’s perspective, though it happens in fiction and even poetry as well. The question is: where’s the line?

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Are We Really That Vain?

I’ve been teaching creative writing off and on for about ten years now. Inevitably, we get to the point where students need guidance on the revision process. What I have historically done when we reach this place is to bring in the 47 or so versions of a poem I’ve been working on for, oh, I don’t know…12 years? It’s not even a poem anymore. It’s more a standing joke in my household. “Hey, how’s ‘Memphis Blues’ coming along?” some snarky friend or family member might ask. To which I reply, “Version 168 coming up soon!”  Still, I’ve found “Memphis Blues” to be a fantastic teaching tool. Nothing explains how we go about revising poems better than seeing the mind of the poet on the page – seeing the lines cut, the words changed, the form drastically revised. This poem has been a villanelle, a ghazal, a sonnet and a free verse poem. It’s been three pages long and three tercets long. It’s had a rough life. Poor thing.

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Some Thoughts on Small Press Publications

Apparently there was a purse, an open water bottle, and a freshly-line-edited manuscript over at Doubleday. This is what happens when the three meet.

I have to say, I’m impressed with the dedication of those folks who apparently spread the entire manuscript out, page by page, to dry in their offices a few days ago. I’m impressed and heartened. It’s nice to know that big house publishers take such care of the work that writers send them (the purse & water bottle mishap aside). And little moments like this remind me of the care I’ve witnessed first-hand in working for several journals and magazines – those with very little resources and certainly offices not large enough to spread out an entire manuscript. Continue reading