Gift Ideas for the Selfish Writer in Your Life (Even if That’s Just You)

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Alright, so maybe the writer in your life isn’t selfish. But it’s almost certain that they feel that way from time to time, so don’t feel too bad if the thought has also crossed your mind. Writing is an emotionally demanding task, and I mean truly demanding in the sense that it subjects you to a clamorous nagging of infinite possibilities and word choice, the churning of emotions that have to be relived and closely examined to be rendered on the page, constantly seeking a choice writing environment, solitude, and infinite time. It’s a sad reality that when we writers give our energy and spend our time with others, there isn’t always much left for writing, so when we dedicate ourselves to our craft we are effectively giving the people we love less attention. While we are empaths at heart, sometimes we put the inner lives of our characters before our own and the people we care most about. And it seems we always need more time, more space to work on our goals. We won’t text or call back for hours because we are lost in imaginary worlds. I know some writers who even embrace being selfish, celebrate it insidiously. Their IG handle is “Author. Blogger. Selfish BUT I’M OK WITH THAT AT THIS POINT IN MY WRITING CAREER SO NO NEGATIVE VIBES PLZ.” And sure, there are writers who castigate their selfishness, but sometimes they can’t help but still be selfish. It’s as if they’re compelled. I happen to think George Orwell said it best when he wrote,

“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

A writer’s craft is demanding of them, and at times maybe even demanding of you. It can feel like they’re wasting your time. On vacations, they insist on retreating in solitude to write. They always beg you to come to one reading after another. In all honesty, we probably just wrote you another poem for your birthday, but if you still want to get us a gift, here are seven failproof suggestions.

1. Time. We writers spend a large portion of our life inhabiting other worlds, asking for more “me time,” and we spend more time looking at our screens than a dozen millennials combined.  That’s because so much of writing is not finishing the novel, just getting started on another new project, or simply not being able to dedicate more time to our craft because of work, school, kids, relationships, or numerous other real-world demands. In other words, so much of writing is just wishing you had more time to write.

Unfortunately, having a relationship, romantic or otherwise, with a writer can often feel very isolating. Maybe you don’t see them as much as you’d like, or when you are together they have their nose in a book or their fingers on the keyboard. Maybe you’ll be in the middle of a conversation and they suddenly open their notebook and start scribbling away because what you said would be perfect for the dialogue they’ve been working on in chapter five. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a (perhaps well deserved) side eye for delaying plans because “I’m just in the writing zone right now, please don’t be mad.” It’s almost inevitable that at some point in time the writer in your life is going to flake. And when they do, if you can, give them the gift of time. Get a couple of movie passes and go with someone else. When I’m writing, the sound of people I love breathing is like Taylor Swift’s nails on a chalkboard. There is nothing so sweet as those seven words, “I’ll let you get back to writing” followed by the sound of silence. It is a generous and darling gift, we know. Sorry if we are too selfish to say, thank you.

3. The gift of hype. Does the writer in your life have a blog, an upcoming show, a dope Instagram account? Share their accomplishments and general self on your social media. Post their writing and tag literary journals and art magazines that share similar work. If there is one thing every writer I know wants more of, it’s readership.

4. A website. A lot of websites have super cheap plans, and a lot of freelance web designers work for reasonable rates. If your writer has a blog or a podcast or has expressed interest in having one, pay for the first year of their website. It will help them advertise their reading schedule, organize their projects and promote their work. I feel so many writers are in a constant struggle for legitimacy, and a professional website will definitely help to establish their brand.

5. Art. Artists love art. It’s not rocket science. Does your writer follow an artist that sells prints of their work? Easy peasy. It’s a known fact that the more art a person has, the more they feel like a sophisticated sonnofabitch. Writers are arrogant, and so is art. Did you ever see a movie where the most arrogant bastard’s home wasn’t filled with expensive art? I didn’t think so. Whatever. Just buy art. Give art. Buy some more art. Repeat. Or turn into Donald Trump, whatever. It’s your life.

6. Music streaming. Buy your writer a subscription to their favorite music streaming site so they can write ad-free and can stay in the zone. Nothing breaks the flow of creativity like a Geico ad.

7. A robe. Ok this one is a little more universal as far as gifts go, but if you only knew how many writing days I have spent like a cavewoman- never getting out of the clothes that I slept in (I start writing as soon as the caffeine kicks in and try to stay as present as possible for as long as I can), never leaving my house, not brushing my hair, hell, or even my teeth. When you get into the writing groove you can start to feel a little un-evolved. Help the writer in your life look stylish during their cabin fever with the gift of a refined robe. Because nothing says “I’m a writer,” than waiting till evening to finally put on your clothes.

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Austin Motel Shorty Robe, $115

 

(Cover image by Camila Mormandi)

10 Hesitant Tips for the Anxious Writer

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Fun fact about writing: it can be used as a calming, meditative tool. Not so fun fact about writers: they are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses, particularly anxiety disorders. And since we tend to treat writing like our job, sometimes writers start to see writing as a stressful, rather than meditative practice.

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When it comes to mental health issues, we anxious darlings are often given the advice to be present, to not overthink, to not lose ourselves in our overactive imaginations. As someone who has struggled with her mental health (generalized anxiety disorder, in particular) I am for all forms of self-care, and my general advice in life, regardless of circumstance is, “do what you gotta do.” Sometimes, however, as both an anxious person and a writer, I need to be able to nurture both my desire to not be in a state of constant heightened panic and my overthinking, overimaginative, creative nature. To try to explore that tension, I did what we all do. I got creative. I used what I’ve learned about anxiety, meditation, and writing exercises over the years and began cataloging the things that worked for me.

Below are 10 tips for trying to cope with anxious feelings during the writing process. First and foremost, however, please remember to take care of yourself. Writing is like any other job in the sense that your health and well-being are more important than deadlines and word counts. Since we are often our own bosses as well as our harshest critics, writing can quickly turn into a toxic job. If you feel productivity is low, try being a better boss. Get creative. And remember that taking time away from work when we need to nurture our mental health is sometimes necessary. And that’s okay!

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1. Time your writing. Whether you are working with limited or unstructured time, sometimes the freedom of writing can be paralytically daunting. We end up wasting so much precious time that could be spent on writing worrying about how to start the perfect sentence. We’ve all been there. We get excited about a project, have grand visions about the big picture, and then when it’s time to write that first sentence, we freeze in apprehension. We feel unable, or even unworthy to start writing. So we sit and stare, walk our dogs, clean, or watch an entire series on Netflix and try not to feel like s*** about not writing a damn thing all day.

When I have trouble starting organically, I use the timer on my oven to set aside a certain amount of time in which I must be present with my work to free write. Freewriting helps reduce my anxiety by removing the layer of censoring everything I write. I give that judicious, s***-stirring part of my brain a timeout so I can keep writing.

Set a timer for how long you’ll write without a break (no bathroom, refilling coffee/water, phone, internet). Start small, 5 or 10 minutes. Write down literally anything that comes to mind, and resist making edits as you do. Pretend the delete button is broken. Rip off your eraser if you need to. When the timer goes off, verbally congratulate or pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment. If you can, set the timer for longer, working up to 30 minutes or an hour. When you feel you are in the groove, turn the timer off and allow yourself the luxury of working on whatever writing you need to. Practice the art of saving work for the sake of the work that went into it rather than deleting everything because you don’t think it’s perfect.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you get distracted or if it seems that time is dragging on. Remember that just as important as setting time aside for an MFA, a writing workshop, or a residency is making sure that we set aside time to honor our process when no one is watching. Keep a log of the time you spend in full writing mode if it helps to have a visual cue. If you spend even just a little bit of measurable time writing you’ll feel less anxious about how much you’re not writing or how much you still need to write.

2. Practice reading your work out loud. Ideally, at some point in your writing career, you’ll have the opportunity to read your work aloud to an audience. And while it’s not ideal, I know, you might be anxious the first few times you do. It sounds odd, but my favorite time to practice reading my work out loud is in the middle of an anxiety attack, because then if I’m anxious on stage, I’m more prepared to cope with the symptoms. Also, focusing on your breathing, your volume, and your posture while you’re reading helps you relax. As a bonus, I usually find a few things to edit or revise on the second or third read through so it helps me get the ball rolling for editing, too.

3. Make a list of places to submit your work. If you need some time to get into the less-anxious mindset to write, make a short list of places to submit to. Read the latest stories and poems on your favorite zine’s website. Look at the pretty art. Feel the creative energy in you rising up, and know that you are an artist. Feel it in your bones, the strength of it, and remember that strength is always there, even when you feel your weakest.

4. Stretch if you can. Imagine your left side as one thing you’d like to write about and the right side as something you’ve written and are proud of. Slowly alternate stretching between them, spending at least 30 seconds on each muscle if you can, without straining yourself or pushing to the point of discomfort. Let your mind alternate between the rush of possibility and the anchor of reality. Gently sit up straight and roll your neck if you can, keeping your tongue pushed against the roof of your mouth. Come to a comfortable seated position and let everything relax. Appreciate movement for movement’s sake. Appreciate the movement of your creative energy for your creative energy’s sake. If it is part of your process, it is productive. Take that, anxiety.

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5. Get off your computer. Writing by hand can help you visibly see your progress and remember what you’ve written, while encourages free writing. Alternatively, if you already have what you’re working on typed, print out all the pages you have. Edit it by hand, with any ink but red (it gives you bad vibes). Use scissors and tape to literally cut and paste any sentences or paragraphs you want to move.

When you can visually see how much work you do, it makes you feel like you’ve actually done something, which makes your anxiety be like, oh, I guess I am a worthwhile person and maybe I should back off on all these thoughts of impending, ceaseless suck? Cool.

6. Curl up with a good book. Pull a dozen or so books that you love off the shelf and sit with them. Lie on your stomach if you can and just spend a moment flipping through them, smelling them, appreciating the colors on the cover. Find a dog ear and read some words on the page. Turn over on your back and gently lay one on your face (not too heavy, though!) Breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think of ways to describe the smell to someone who has never smelled a book before with concrete descriptive language, opening up each word. What do you mean by musty? What do you mean by sweet?

7. Create a ceremony that makes your writing space feel sacred. Every now and then, it helps me to remember that I don’t just write because it’s the business I’m in, but because it’s my higher calling, my art, my purpose. When I give it my utmost respect by treating it as such, I am also practicing some good self-love by saying, hey, I’m here, Muse, I’m ready, and I’m worthy. It helps me get into the flow faster, my ego falls away quicker, and I focus on what’s in front of me in my sanctuary rather than the modern terrors that await me outside like so much Claude Frollo.

If you have trouble thinking of a ceremony for yourself, try a variation on one of mine. Light a candle and think of a loved one who has encouraged you. Imagine them telling you how proud they are of you for following your passion, for expressing something so sacred as your truth with your creative gift. Then write. Keep the candle next to you lit as a reminder that what you’re doing is supreme, and that no one else but you can do what you’re doing. There are people who want you to succeed, and there are words inside of you that want you to write them down, and you are doing just what you need to to make it happen. When you’ve reached a stopping point, allow yourself gratitude for your dedication to your craft, and blow out the candle.

 

8. Make a list of things you are trying to avoid in your writing. Nothing makes me feel so anxious when I’m writing as a writing block. Not just because my writing stalls and that alone can cause overwhelming feelings, but because those blocks are usually tied to the subject matter being traumatic for me, and I know I will have to confront those traumas to write through it. And that is so much emotional work!

If and when you feel ready to do so, try to pinpoint your blocks. Do you know what you’re avoiding? Is it one scene in particular? Describing a character’s emotions because confronting those emotions makes you uncomfortable? Are you writing about something so close to home that you feel anxious every time you confront it and end up avoiding it all together, or relying on vague or cliche writing? If you need to, give what you’re avoiding a fictitious name and write it down on a piece of paper. What do you need to do to keep yourself safe when you approach writing about it? Reach out before to friends if you need to, plan a talk with your therapist or best friend afterward, or just make time for your self-care routine. Write about it in an environment that makes you feel safe in small spurts. Take breaks and eat something. Whenever you need to not think about it, put the piece of paper with its name in a box. If it tries to get out, put something heavy on top of the box. Insist that it stay in there until you’re ready to deal with it again.

Avoiding things can add anxiety on top of anxiety, and not writing what we need to write about can be the rusty nail that gets stuck in the giant snowball barreling towards us. Recognizing the things you’re avoiding can help you be more productive in the long run, though it is never easy. Find a support community if you need to, and be patient with yourself.

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9. Recognize that you’re anxious. Sometimes just saying, “I’m feeling anxious today but I’m going to do my best to work on this project,” is enough to bring a bit of peace of mind. Remember that you’ve survived your anxiety before, and you will again. You’ve written bad ass things before, and you will again.

10. Reach out. Studies have shown that writers, especially those working on longer projects, do better when they share work with even one other writer, and the same thing goes for talking about our anxiety. Find someone you can talk to about any anxiety you experience towards your writing or during your work. They might be going through the exact same thing. Remember to share and celebrate each other’s successes, whether it’s starting a new poem or submitting a work to a journal or getting a piece accepted.

The practice of respecting someone else’s time by making sure you have work to exchange and thoughtful comments on their writing will translate to how you relate to your own work as well. Sometimes the difference between an anxious feeling and a panic attack while I’m writing is having something good to say about my work to counter all the bad things bubbling up from the despair-generating pit of self-loathing.

Whatever helps you celebrate your whole, complex, creative self,  take time to practice it. And if you have more tips for coping with anxiety while writing, please feel free them here.

Where to Submit: Black History Month

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Whether you’re submitting now or focusing on reading, check out these awesome publications that promote artists of color. And, of course, happy Black History Month!

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Smooth Operator” Josh Byer 2017

Aaduna seeks emerging writers and visual artists whose work gravitates towards the experimental and innovative. At the core of their publication is a mission to provide a publication venue for artists of color, giving preference to those traditionally denied access to publication (though they are open to receiving all work that addresses multicultural issues with dignity and thoughtfulness). They have subscribers in over 60 countries, so if you’re accepted, people in over 60 countries will have access to your work. Pretty cool. Read about how to submit to Aaduna here by March 14th for their Summer issue.

polychrome

Polychrome Ink is a biannual literary magazine that celebrates diversity in literature by seeking under-represented voices and narratives, focusing on authors and poets who do not embody the majority of the publishing industry (White-Cis-Neurotypical-Abled-Heterosexuals). Oh, and they pay! But more than that, what I appreciate about this magazine is their mission, their aesthetic, and the spectrum of the work published. I don’t know, it’s like if you try and normalize diversity, you end up with really interesting and beautiful work, rather than the same old tired cliche writing. Send them your poems, short stories, short non-fiction, and essays here.

Layout 1The African American Review is a scholarly journal of poetry, fiction, book reviews, essays on African American literature, theater, film, the visual arts, and culture. AAR has featured renowned writers Trudier Harris, Arnold Rampersad, Hortense Spillers, Amiri Baraka, Rita Dove, Charles Johnson, and Toni Morrison. They have serious editors, so send them your pore polished work. Submit here.

obsidian

Founded in 1975, Obsidian supports contemporary poetry, fiction, drama, performance, and visual and media art of Africans globally. The journal has been recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts as one of the premier journals dedicated to Africa and African Diaspora Literatures. Obsidian is published biannually in print and online. Submissions re-open September 15th, so if you need a minute to polish up some things, this would be a good thing to mark on your calendar.

callalooCallaloo is devoted to publishing work, both creative and critical, of African Americans and peoples throughout the diaspora. They publish an issue five times a year (and if that’s not impressive enough, check out this amazing 2015 cover art by Amy Sherald, the artist who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait). Submit all manuscripts of poetry, fiction, scholarly articles, book reviews, interviews, nonfiction essays, and visual art.

Where to submit: February 2018

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Love is in the air, or so they say. I figure if people are going to have a little more love in their hearts this month, then it’s a good time as any to submit. Perhaps an editor who’s been looking for poetry in all the wrong places will fall in love with my work. Or maybe they hate Valentine’s day and the whole damn month surrounding it and they’ll be more open to what I’ve been writing lately, which err… is not exactly what you’d call mushy (blame it on petty Mercury or an even pettier political climate and then sue me). Either way, I’ve been bitten by the submitting bug. And since I’m saving up for an extra big box of chocolates for myself this month, I’ve gone out of my way to find journals that have no submission fees. So here’s my advice to you, Valentine. Have a cheap date with whatever you’ve been working on and treat yourself to some visions of grandeur. The stakes are low, and you can always ghost a piece if it doesn’t work out. Just be sure not to lead other journals on if you’re simultaneously submitting… if your writing finds a loving home somewhere else let the others know right away… it’s just good etiquette. Xoxo and happy writing.

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Ninth Letter is a collaborative arts and literary project from the Creative Writing Program and School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The writing is exceptional and is complemented by cutting-edge graphic design. The journal has published work selected for Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and the list goes on. I was immediately drawn to the curating success of some amazing 3-D art by Monique Marchwiany that seemed to perfectly compliment the words on the page, and the fact that they published one of my favorite fiction writers, Colin Winnette. Submit fiction, non-fiction, and poetry here by February 28th.

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MATINA L. STAMATAKIS
Lettuce Please you

Dream Pop Journal is a literary quarterly that publishes experimental, non-narrative writing with a penchant for the transcendental. They seek to make space for non-narrative, linguistically inventive writing. The kind of writer they want represented in their journal is a “lyric memoirist, a cross-genre experimenter, or a poet who dreams in made-up languages.” I know that includes at least a few of you, friends. Even though they’re a newer journal, when I read through the work they’d chosen for issue 3, there were definite gems. This is the kind of nice thing your writing deserves. Read about how to submit prose, poetry, and visual art here.

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The Wanderer was launched in April 2016 as the weekly poetry feature of Harlot Magazine. In addition to paying their writers ($25 upon publication), they invite their readers to further support artists through their Patreon campaign. While I was reading dozens of literary journal mission statements, I was always appalled to read that a magazine wasn’t “looking for political work.” Freak that. The Wanderer openly condemns fascists, racists, trolls, “and the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy in general.” Support them. Submit to them. Share them. And check out the beautiful work they have this month from one of my favorite poets, Fisayo Adeyeye.

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Pacifica Literary Review publishes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction from emerging and established writers. The writing is definitely high quality, and until recently I lacked the confidence to even think about submitting work here. But they claim sonnets and memes will receive equal consideration (finally), and so long as the heart is in the work, it stands a chance. Like most journals with a rep, they do not want cliche writing. They do not want to read about your penis. Other than that, if you have an interesting story that is ready, really ready, send it here (and if you are writing about your penis, please stop.) If you are thinking about sending the piece everyone in workshop struggled to comment on or stay awake through, probably don’t. If you have a piece that everyone keeps telling you to clean up and send off, get that word-Windex and scrub till it squeaks.

Whether you’re a lover or a fighter, happy Valentine’s Day, Writer.

OMISSIONS: the little darlings we kill

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As some of you may know, my first book, Life’s Too Short, is being released this month(!!!) So for this round of OMISSIONS, I thought it would be interesting to share with you one of the stories I ultimately cut from the series to make it a more cohesive collection. I’ve heard so many writers refer to this process as “killing our little darlings.” With writers, it’s always life or death.

We labored through sweat and tears to bring these words into the world, and now we’re supposed to erase them, delete them from existence, these little pieces of ourselves?  Don’t we writers suffer enough?

Oh hush, you know you love it. The suffering that is, not the editing. But any great piece of writing is always edited, always suffered over. I remember the first day in my MFA program, the professor made us write a two-page story, then cut one word from every sentence, and one sentence from every paragraph. It was incredibly difficult to do when I first started writing and still is. And though I don’t think you ever stop mourning for certain words, certain sentences, certain stories which are never published, the writing gets stronger, and eventually so do we.

 

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Photographs from the series, The Jersey Shore, by Bay Area photographer Christine Zona http://www.zonafoto.net/

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I even refer to the word document where I put all of the large cuts I make as “the graveyard.” I know I probably won’t end up using 99% of it (own that confidence, writer, you made those cuts for a reason), but it feels appropriate, safe, respectful to honor those feelings and emotions. What about you? What is your editing process like? Do you have your little darlings? How do you let them go? Is yoga involved?

And before I forget, please, join me for my book release on March 30th at Alley Cat Books in San Francisco. Endless thanks to Fourteen Hills Press and Small Press Distribution. Hope to see some of you there 🙂

The Memory of Your Mouth Slick with Mezcal

When we kissed, your breath knotted me temple to tail. I felt bound, yet unsaved. The memory of your mouth, slick with mezcal, is immortal. But time giveth and taketh, sands our fingerprints from the wall. Your scent (amnesiatic fluid, gasoline, semen) ignites fire behind walls of scars in my rug burned hands and knees. But your memory will not illuminate my jilted flesh, the landscape you forfeit each passing day the telephone never rings.

You wanted me to be good. I do not apologize I tasted your mouth, scarred the crossroads of my body with your teeth, slick with mezcal. Better to be wild than be paradise.

 

7 Journals You Should Submit to: January 2017

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Yes, we should all aspire to be writing, writing, writing, but sometimes in a rare moment, a piece is complete. Whether it has been polished to gleaning perfection, or you’re making the same cuts and uncuts, changing the color of the sunset/cat/noun from tangerine to cantaloupe back to tangerine, sometimes you gotta just be the mama bird and push your precious darling out of the nest. That’s when it’s time to submit.

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Remember: literary journals want to read your word bouquets. Send them while they’re fresh!

I’m discovering that I love submitting. I’m discovering new journals that are full of inspiring artists. Plus I love seeing my submittable submission list get longer and longer. It feels like I’m kicking those tiny little DECLINED boxes’ asses with all the new PENDING, IN PROGRESS, and ACCEPTED(!) boxes I’m adding. And some journals even pay you. Ka-ching.

My advice as a former fiction editor and everyday freelancer is to submit to at least five different journals at a time, as often as you can. When you get one rejection, it can give you a false feeling of how your piece reads. Rejected by two or three, you can get stuck in the I suck spiral, and throw in the towel. Which is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. Keep submitting. I often submit the same piece to up to a dozen places at a time (most journals are fine with simultaneous submissions, so long as you give them a heads up in your cover letter.) Finding a journal for your work is so often about whether the fit is just right. That’s it. Your job is to submit. The editor’s job is to see if it’s a good fit (though you should at least be somewhat familiar with the journal. Are they formal, experimental, etc.).

As far as the cover letter, I often find three sentences is plenty cool. It’s just obnoxious when you write anymore than that unless they specifically ask for it. Editors have hundreds of submissions to read ALL OF THE TIME. Say hello, mention what you’re submitting, thank them for their loveliness and support of the literary arts in your own words, and attach a bio if they ask for one (where you studied, where you’re published, if you really love your cat.)

Being January, plenty of journals are beginning to read for their Spring issues. Below are seven I’ve submitted to or really enjoyed perusing that you should totally submit to. Like now, girl. Good luck!

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Guernica Photograph by Emmett Race and Alejandro Santiago

Guernica is a magazine of global art and politics. With contributors from every continent and at every stage of their careers, it’s a home for singular voices, incisive ideas, and critical questions. Submit poetry and fiction aqui.

paperdarts

From Alina Vergano’s Puzzled Exhibit featured on Paper Darts.

Paper Darts Website is super simple yet colorful and funky. They keep it super fresh and simple: click on lit to read some new rad lit, click on art to look at some dope new art. Submit your own right here.

rattle

With an emphasis on work that moves the reader, Rattle is accessible, lovely, and intriguing. They publish big names like Dunn and Levine and emerging authors alike. Submit your prose, poetry, and art here.

hobart

Featured in Hobart (instagram.com/bryanbowie)

Hobart does print and web in such a stylish way that my eyes just feel good looking at it. Poetry, fiction, and non-fiction welcome. Submit here.

14hills

Nyarai by Paul Lewin

Fourteen Hills can be fairly experimental, so this is a great place to submit if you’ve got something beautiful and bizarre. You can submit poetry, prose, and experimental work twice a year, and right now you can enter their Stacy Doris Memorial Poetry Contest for free. Winner gets $500, and all other poetry is considered for publication in their Spring issue. Pretty cool. Check it out.

concis

untitled photo by Galen Lott

Concīs is an online and e-pub journal centered on brevity: “the succinct, pithy, condensed, laconic, crisp, compressed and compendious.” Submit poems, prose poems, flash fictions, micro-essays, reviews in miniature, sudden fictions, haiku, tanka, American Sentences, insights, and epigrams. What I really like is that the author can choose to donate their payment to charity and Concīs will match it.

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A Public Space is an independent magazine of literature and culture founded in 2006 by Brigid Hughes, former Executive Editor of The Paris Review. It is gorgeous and adored by big names in the writing world. They’ve published authors from all over the world, and submissions are free. Submit poetry, fiction and nonfiction here.

Good luck my fellow writers! I look forward to reading your work in print and online 🙂

How to Query

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So my 2016 new year’s resolutions were to 1) get some smaller stories published and 2) finish my novel, Abduction. Through all the damn nonsense that was 2016, I managed to keep my head above water enough to get some shit done. My story Dámelo o Te Lo Quito was published in Transfer, winning the Leo Litwak award, I published some stuff online, and my collection of short stories, Life’s Too Short, won the Michael Rubin Book Award, and will be published by Fourteen Hills Press in 2017. And I finished my novel, just in the nick of time. I guess having a couple of set resolutions works best for my focus, which at best is, oh look. My cup of coffee is empty. Guess I should make some more. Wait. Focus. Resolve yourself, self. Elf? I should totally watch Elf. Again. No. Okay, that was close. So. RESOLUTIONS>

  1. I want to sell my novel. My debut novel. And since, as Molly Antopol once emphasized to a terrifying degree at a reading for The UnAmericans, you only get one debut, I better get it right.
  2. Get 100 rejection letters. Because if I get 100 rejection letters, at least I’ll have tried 100 times. And since I’ll be simultaneously focusing on querying, 100 submissions seems like a totally appropriate without not being completely unambitious amount.

shift-key

My reasoning being that I spent most of 2016 doing readings and writing my ass off. The muse was truly with me, and I was fortunate enough to write 70,000 words of prose. Carolina de Robertis, my writing idol and desktop background, told me to just keep writing as long as the words were coming, and to worry about submitting later. Which I think was such great advice, because somehow submitting always depletes my creative energy. How am I supposed to feel inspired if I have to submit the same story under 30 different guidelines? Bah humbug. But now I have a novel that I have slowly and painstakingly been trying to edit without revising because I am done with that noise. As terrifying as it is to be in a state of flux, now is very much later. So I want to spend 2017 getting published, which means submitting, submitting, and querying. I’m familiar enough with submittable, stalking journals’ submission periods, and submitting to smaller literary websites, but I have never queried an agency before.

So now what? Like actually, what do I do? How do you organize your time when you’re querying? I once asked a well published novelist this question, and she told me to organize my work in terms of the paragraph of the query letter I’m writing. She broke it down like this:

Paragraph 1

The first paragraph of your query letter is about them, the publisher. What made you query them? Why do you admire their work and feel that their agency could be an incredible fit for your work? Contextualize your work in their agency – what is your novel like, who is it like. End the paragraph by giving them a 1-2 sentence elevator pitch.

Paragraph 2

The second paragraph is about your book. Describe your book as if you were writing it’s back cover (note* I never like to read the back cover so I’ve been reading them a lot lately trying to get a feel for them. I’ve noticed they never resolve the book, but give you some notion of what kind of flavor the book will have.) What are your hopes and ambitions for the book? How will this particular publisher help you achieve those goals?

Paragraph 3

The final paragraph is all about you. It’s your writing CV. Where have you been published, who have you studied under? Where have you read, who are your readers?

Since I like to start at the beginning, I’ve spent the morning working around paragraph one. I’ve been reading reviews of recent debut novels (I like Nylon Magazine’s taste in books, so I started there) and whenever it sounded like that novel and my novel could be friends, I made a note of the title and author. After my novel makes 100 or so friends, I plan on buying the agent information for those works from Publisher’s Marketplace. But until then, feel free to send me a message and let me know: how do you query? What new books are you loving right now? Where are you submitting? What are your writerly resolutions?

cactus-and-books

“Steam”

Prose

Last night I read for Write Club San Francisco, Chapter 50, Only Happy When it Rains, down the street at Make-Out Room. For those of you who are curious, Write Club is like Fight Club, but instead of a bunch of dudes beating the shit out of each other, it’s writers collabo-hating on a theme for seven minutes, each writer given a different word as a jumping off point. At the end of each round, the winner gets to pick a charity to give the door money to, so yeah, pretty cool. Chapter 50 was curated by Fourteen Hills Assistant Fiction Editor and EIC-to-be, Danielle Truppi, who is just the nicest person you will ever meet. Think tiny with powerhouse hand gestures and weird, kickass fiction. (Just don’t call her cute.) The topic she assigned me was “Steam.” Here’s the short story I read (even though I didn’t win, Roz Sternberg totally killed it and I ended up writing my own check to Planned Parenthood anyway.) In this story, I was playing around with the essay form and breath.

“Steam”

When you want something to be tender you steam it.

If you want momentum, you gather steam. The Ramones knew it, piling in the back seat, generating steam heat, Hey! Ho, Steam says, let’s fucking go.

When I finally answered my father’s interruptions during a conversation with my sister at the Thanksgiving table, telling him in Spanish the answer to his nagging question, que es un queef, or what is a queef? because my sister was worried a guy she had queefed, on, or rather next to, wouldn’t call her back, and she’d said, I was just sitting there afterwards in bed and he made me laugh and the air had just pushed out, poof! so I was asking her how much of an asshole the guy was, if he was the kind of guy that was afraid of a little snail trail, a little poof, and my father, a real Don Juannabe at the table of all women, trying as always to be a part of every conversation, kept asking, what are you girls talking about over here, que es un queef? and I finally said, Ay, Papa, es flatulencia vaginal, just before my mother yelled from the head of the table, “It’s a pussy fart, Rudy!” and my father turned more red than brown as the table erupted in thunderous feminine laughter, yelling, You girls are disgusting! before trailing off himself to some corner of the house he had marked with testosterone and John Wayne posters— after all this had happened, there was no other way to describe my father than steaming.

Steam can be hot, or sexy. Steamy people are a rare breed, steaming up a room simply by entering it. They have excellent skin, and never have to pay for spa steam treatments.

Who in here has ever stepped out of the shower only to lose yourself and the water you wasted by drying off on someone else’s skin? Steam is irresistible. If things are getting steamy, it means something is coming: last call at a steamy dance club, the rush of caffeine, a hurricane, a thunderstorm, even you.

I love the sound of steam. Fssssssssss.

When my sister and I were young, we were often forced to gravitate our chaos to our mother’s legs. On Saturday mornings, with no school, no babysitters, not even a father, just us and mom while dad was working in Los Angeles, my mother scrambled to catch-up on housework and television on her day off while still trying to keep my sister and me from giving the cat a make-over with her Estee Lauder lipsticks and eye-shadows, putting each other in the dryer, or collecting all of the dead roaches throughout the house, under couches and beds, in small corners in the pantry, stacking each dry bug with their skinny legs and bulging abdomens on every blade of the low hanging ceiling fan in the dining room, and waiting for our mother to come looking for us so we could turn the ceiling fan on and watch the roaches fly, alive again for one brief, wonderful moment as their red wings fluttered in the air, our mother screaming, swatting the things away from her as if she could feel them crawling on her skin. To avoid such instances as there, our mother tried to keep us close by while she had a long task at hand, like ironing. When my sister and I got too loud, too violent, too bratty, she used her iron as a warning, pushing the steam button at us when we got too close to her, the skin on our arms and thighs close enough to feel the warmth of steam and metal, the steam hissing as if to say, don’t fuck with me kid. Other times when I was sick with a cold, my mother would wrap me in towels and sit me on the toilet, the shower running as hot as it could, steaming the room opaque as she held me, waiting for the steam vapor to deflate my sinuses and heal her child.

Steam is v. versatile. So versatile, that for some, the Cleveland Steamer is a joke while for others, it’s a geyser of romance. It can be used as a statement of submission, of love, something not only tangible, but steamy and fresh. I love you today, the Cleveland Steamer says, I love you today and I am present, and you are present for this love, and I know it because you can feel my heat, my steam. It can also be used as the equivalent of breaking up with someone via text message, but one that is written in shit that they find on their chest in the morning. Steam. That sacred state of existence between water and gas, between one thing and the next, the ambivalence that exists between I submit to you, I am yours, and I will shit on you in your sleep.

Steam is fetish, steam is mystical. Steam is power, momentum. To run out of steam means to lose the energy or interest to continue. For example,

Fsssssssssss.