Wall Street Journal feature tracks some of the pitfalls of self-publishing. Some tips: arrange a distributor before printing; don't order too many copies; pick a title with the widest possible appeal.
In this essay on the Tor Books website, widely published fantasy and science fiction novelist Kate Elliott discusses two-dimensional stereotypes and sexist tropes to avoid in fiction writing.
Concise tips and essays for writers of all kinds. Now offering a searchable contest database. Essays in the poetry section explore such themes as cowboy poetry, tips on translations, and the form of the triolet. Also provides selected links to poetry resources.
Well-stocked page of links to Christian writing resources.
The good news: You're a winner. The bad news: It's costing you fifty bucks...For a struggling poet, it can be painful to admit that a letter from a poetry contest or publisher is nothing more than a sales hustle. But what's worse: being honest with yourself or being the victim of a company that exploits the vanity of aspiring poets?
BBC-sponsored forum where users can read and contribute personal stories of their experiences in World War II, either battlefield or homefront. Also includes lesson plans, historical resources, timelines and maps, and tips for researching your family history.
This short fiction anthology from Main Street Rag celebrates the creativity and perseverance of women who don't play by normal rules. The eclectic cast of characters includes an HIV-positive senior citizen, a spunky lesbian drama teacher fighting her school's bureaucracy, and a teenage girl with a crush on Abe Lincoln.
Founded in 2007, Yellow Medicine Review is a twice-yearly print journal devoted to Indigenous literature, art, and thought. It is named for a river in Minnesota where people of the Dakota tribe would gather healing plants. See website for special themes for each submission period.
YesYes Books publishes books of innovative contemporary poetry, prose, and visual art, as well as the online journal Vinyl Poetry. See website for their Pamet River Prize, for a first or second full-length book of poetry or prose by a female-identified or genderqueer author. Writers in their catalog include Rebecca Hazelton, Danez Smith, and Ocean Vuong.
YOU ARE by Prasenjit Maiti
there and you are not
like the dizzy sorrows that are mine
lining my shirt, frosting my drink
as I walk across downtown Calcutta
my beloved misery
where your smiles light up the stairs
and my cigarettes endless
like your days and ways
that are my sorrows, my ins and outs
because you are there and you are not
Copyright 2010 by Prasenjit Maiti
THE SECOND MILLION TIMES by Larry Pontius
How do you say I love you
The second million times
After you've used up all the special looks
Unexpected flowers and quotes from favorite books
I can't think of any more places to walk alone together
That we haven't walked along before
And the only way I can surprise you with a visit on the phone
Is to call someday when I know you're not at home
There isn't another place on your soft skin
That I can give a loving touch
We covered all of that long ago
When our lips learned every loving kiss
And our passions every loving way to go
Is it possible that love only has a million signs
I guess that's what I'm trying to say
That, and how'd you like to start over
Like we just met yesterday
Copyright 2010 by Larry Pontius
Critique by Tracy Koretsky
Love poems—they're been with us at least 4,000 years. Type the single word "poem" into Google and the first item you are offered is a link to love poems. No single subject rushes the poet more breathlessly to his desk, drunk with overpowering emotion, a-tingle with vivid imagery. But given both the love poem's long history and arguable surfeit, however is our poet to find anything new enough, fresh enough, not only to be worthy of his exquisite condition, but of its precious object? And, more importantly to us, as readers and contesters, how is it possible to write a love poem that a third party might be interested to read? The answer, perhaps, has something to do with strategy, because, let's face it, the love poem is a poem on a mission. Its objective: seduction.
This month, in celebration of Valentine's Day, I'll take an appreciative look at two very successful love poems that could not possibly be more different, from authors writing from locales that—beside their heat—could not be more different either, with a particular focus on their strategy. The first, "You Are", is a brief, intense lyric by Dr. Prasenjit Maiti from Calcutta, India, who calls himself "a political scientist by occupation and a writer by compulsion". "The Second Million Times", a superbly crafted light-rhyme, was sent in by Larry Pontius of Florida, who has had a long and distinguished career in advertising.
Maiti's strategy is the simplest and the perhaps the wisest: the most important word in a seduction is "you". As a poet, he recognizes that overusing his most important word would diminish its potency. Look where he places it: the first word of the title, and the first line and their echo in the last two lines, giving this poem both shape and the sense that the poem will continue on as the poet walks in the hot night.
Between these lines Maiti pulls the reader along with multiple sound repetitions. He begins by grounding us in physicality. This poem is between the object "you" and the poet's body; as readers, we are just eavesdropping. With "my beloved misery" the poem pivots elegantly. Maiti has chosen to use no end punctuation enabling just this sort of ambiguous enjambment. Does the phrase refer to Calcutta? Or to the object of his love? Or neither—is it parenthetical, or voiced as if within a sigh?
The thread of sound repetition continues as the referent opens out: we see the lamps in the stairwells, the ember end of his cigarette, made so poignant by the reversal of the adjective and noun. What the eighth and ninth lines lack in specific or sensory image, they make up for in sonority. The heavy rhymes work almost like a pendulum through them. In tone, they almost whine.
All this, the result of too much exquisite pining. Oh, what could be more romantic than that? I feel certain that his beloved will want to race to him. Mission accomplished.
Pining is not, however, the position Larry Pontius finds himself in. The opposite. His long-time sweetheart is still happily by his side. How to tell her he loves her in a new way? Oh, what could be more romantic than that?
For his strategy, Pontius relies far more on design and what is probably the clue to sustaining love: gentle humor. Though as a humorous poem, this one is full of surprises.
It does not scan, for one thing—these lines defy a metered reading. Pontius chooses "alone together/along before" and "every loving way to go" and all the superfluous syntax of lines seven and eight because they complicate his rhymes, undermining expected rhythms and waking up the ear.
The lines break down as four sentences, which the poet packs with rhymes, though choosing to end with them only in lines three through eight. In other words, as soon as the reader comes to expect rhyme, the poet gives them something else. Line nine begins the third sentence, as in a popular song, and is the one sentence that takes five lines to contain. He gives us a new rhyme pattern in the last four lines anchoring the poem not only with the hard rhyme of "say" and "yesterday", but also with "million signs" and "million times"—connecting the last four lines to the beginning of the poem.
The other thing that the first and last four lines have in common is that they are both questions. Only two sentences are: the first and the last. Rather than have all four sentences ask questions, Pontius holds our interest by taking us through a list of increasing value.
Notice how almost every noun has an adjective in this piece. Notice how these adjectives increase the importance or intensity of the noun. Yet, even with the adjectives they are not specific. The poet allows the reader to supply detail, in a sense, making his poem more generally applicable—a desirable quality in a commercial poem.
Look how with "any more", and "only way", and "isn't another", Pontius completely forecloses any prospects for our hero to achieve his desired goal. He "raises the stakes" as the fiction writers say. But before all hope is lost, proffers an invitation—my dear, shall we fall in love again?
Who could help but smile, and be touched, and for a moment, love the poet for writing it. Mission accomplished once again. Ah, the love poem, may we write them always.
Where could a poem like "You Are" be submitted? The following contests may be of interest:
Tiger's Eye Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: February 28
Semiannual journal offers prizes up to $500 for unpublished poems; open to emerging writers
National Federation of State Poetry Societies Awards
Postmark Deadline: March 15
Wide array of prizes up to $1,500 for poems in various styles and themes; some categories are members-only; no simultaneous submissions
Saturday Writers One-Page Poem Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 15
Missouri literary society offers prizes up to $100 for unpublished poems
JBWB Poetry Competition
Entries must be received by March 31
British writer Jacqui Bennett's website offers quarterly contests with prizes up to 100 pounds; enter and pay by mail or email
Where could a poem like "The Second Million Times" be submitted?
Words of Love Writing Contest
Postmark Deadline: February 20
Prizes up to $300 for love poems, stories and love letters, from the Writers' Workshop of Asheville, NC; fee includes critique
Chistell Writing Contest
Entries must be received by February 28
Free contest offers prizes up to $100 for poetry and short fiction by writers aged 16+ who have never been published in a major publication; no simultaneous submissions
Oregon State Poetry Association Contests
Postmark Deadline: March 1
Twice-yearly contest offers prizes up to $100 in categories including traditional verse, humor, open theme
Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: March 31
Prizes up to $1,000 and anthology publication for unpublished poems, from an independent small press in Connecticut whose motto is "Delight, entertain and educate"
These poems and critique appeared in the February 2010 issue of Winning Writers Newsletter (subscribe free).
Flawless prose captures emotions that are almost too subtle for words. Though his dark themes may seem familiar to readers of literary fiction (several tales feature bereavement and mental illness), these stories shine with moments of wisdom discovered and hard-won love, lifting them far above most examples of the genre.
By Ruth Thompson
In the photograph you are playing with a wolf. You are holding up a towel and the wolf, a cub, a dying cub though you do not know that yet, is reaching up to grab the towel with his mouth. Did he bite people's hands too, the way a mouthy puppy does? You do not remember. He was not troublesome, hardly there at all in your memories, poor stolen orphan cub, sold to a boy who wanted a wolf. And you too saw nothing wrong in it then, so far were you from anything real, so lost in college and books and boyfriends and probably trouble at home.
You knew no more than the wolf about the world, though unlike the cub you pretended to—you with your eyes and face swollen from allergies you didn't know about yet, your narrow waist and full hips, round arm stretching up to hold the towel, the grit of jaw and eyes hidden under pneumatic blonde prettiness, mascara, big hair. Two years later it would be Twiggy, short dresses and skinny legs, but for now you are in the sexual thick of things, sitting in the sunshine, just come from bed or on the way to bed, playing with another baby who is soon to die, alone and far from home.
And you, too, not tomorrow, but soon enough, you too will die, and far from home. Cut off willingly from home. Down, down, down you will fall, and all your prettiness, your innocent seductiveness, your fresh full arms and lips, the emerging strength of jaw and mouth, all will be torn from you and wither away, and you will be a servant, a nothing, drone, unformed and worthless blob. Until, twenty years later, long after all is lost, you will begin to reconstitute yourself—from what? How? Unlike the wolf pup you will be reborn—browbeaten, aching, childless, gray. And you will begin from that.
This growing archive of accessible contemporary and classic poetry will deliver a poem to your email inbox daily, weekly, or monthly. Subscriptions are free. There is also a moderated forum for sharing poems for critique. See website for submission guidelines. Reprints and previously published work accepted.
Everything you need to know about pitching your novel to agents and editors. Includes advice on selecting an agent, plus how to write query letters, synopses and book proposals, with many helpful samples of each.
A leading youth poetry and spoken word program. Offices in San Francisco (its home base), New York and Seattle. Organizes the annual Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam and the annual Brave New Voices National Youth Poetry Slam, and many smaller events and projects.
Yuan Yang is a publication of the University of Hong Kong.
Zeek publishes both a monthly online journal and a biannual print edition. Unpredictable, thought-provoking and fun.
Zephyr is a nonprofit press committed to cross-cultural exchange. It publishes American, Russian, Slavic and East Asian poetry and prose. Works of translation are a specialty. Zephyr collaborates with Adventures in Poetry, a small press that began as a mimeographed "little magazine" in 1968. AIP has published Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman.
Launching in Fall 2018, the print and online journal Zizzle is an international literary magazine devoted to publishing quality innovative fiction for young minds. They seek stories (500-1,200 words) and artwork that will appeal to both children and adults. This is a paying market.
In 1998, acclaimed film director Francis Coppola launched a website where writers could submit their short stories to his magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. A community of writers quickly formed around the website. It became so popular so quickly that a few months later he created sites for novellas and screenplays. The Virtual Studio, which launched in June 2000, brings together the original sites as departments, plus includes new departments for other creative endeavors. Members can workshop a wide-range of film arts, including music, graphics, design, and film & video, as well as access some of the best e-collaboration tools.
Zona Rosa began in Savannah, GA as a female empowerment writing workshop founded by award-winning Southern memoirist Rosemary Daniell. Chapters now exist across the country, with famous graduates including John Berendt ('Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil') and Cassandra King ('Those Same Sweet Girls'). Visit the website for a schedule of workshops and retreats, information on starting your own group, links to Daniell's books, and an excerpt from her new guide Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women's Lives.
Zona Rosa began in Savannah, GA as a female empowerment writing workshop founded by award-winning Southern memoirist Rosemary Daniell. Chapters now exist across the country, with famous graduates including John Berendt ('Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil') and Cassandra King ('Those Same Sweet Girls'). Visit the website for a schedule of workshops and retreats, information on starting your own group, links to Daniell's books, and an excerpt from her new guide 'Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women's Lives'.
Caged, toothless, a lion sits in the manner of Kabul
alley cats, front paws slightly curled inward
toward his chest, hind legs folded close to his body,
head erect, staring beyond what moves beyond the bars.
Marjan's mane mangled from a grenade tossed
five years ago that killed his mate.
He'd mauled the victorious fighter who'd entered
his enclosure to celebrate, lion to lion.
He survives revenge and today's war,
gunfire and guided bombs. Near starvation,
he gums the flank of something tossed to him.
Alley cats steal in to steal choice pieces.
From neglect, old age, he dies.
Ten years earlier, Kuwait City evacuated,
desert-hued walls shrapnel-riddled,
hippos, big as burnt-out Mercedes,
wandered the streets. Sharks, more or less lucky,
pulled from algae-festering aquariums,
eaten by the invading army.
A confused giraffe stared into
a flashing traffic light. Cages opened,
toucan and parrots perched on bullets.
At the city limits, steel-latticed stems
of a hundred desert derricks
sabotaged into unfurling black blooms.
by order of the Japanese army,
at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo,
shortly before the flash and ash
of Hiroshima and Nagazaki,
the cages left open, tigers, leopards,
bears, snakes, all poisoned.
Three elephants, John, Tonky, and Wanly,
wouldn't eat the poisoned potatoes.
The syringes' needles too weak
to pierce their skins. Seventeen days later,
John starved to death. Tonky and Wanly,
weak and thin, lifted their bony bodies,
stood on their hind legs, raising
their trunks as high as they could,
performing their bonsai trick,
begging for food, for water.
No one said a word. No one said
their trainer went mad giving
them what they needed.
Everyone prayed for one more day
that tomorrow the bombing would end.
Two weeks later, they died, trunks stretched,
hooked high between the bars of their cage.
If that prayed for time exists,
perhaps my father found it,
mowing the lawn, raking leaves,
finishing the basement with cheap
wood paneling, washing and waxing
a series of cars, a shine maintained
between wars. My mother kept
some of the bowling trophies,
emptied the closets of his clothes,
gave away all the shoes except
his traditional German dance clogs,
the ones with a military spit-shine.
I kept the patches, the chevrons,
insignias, medals, flags,
the photographs. His leather belts,
I could wrap around me twice.
One cut of gray, wrinkled
elephant skin, stamped authentic
as death must be.
Copyright 2005 by Walter Bargen
Critique by Jendi Reiter
This month's critique poem, "Zoonotic" by Walter Bargen, won an Honorable Mention in our 2005 War Poetry Contest. When you enter a contest with a specified theme, it's important to find a fresh angle that will make your poem stand out from thousands of others on the same topic. Bargen's memorable images and unusual choice of viewpoint—war as experienced by zoo animals—kept his poem in the running.
Still, "Zoonotic" faced tough competition from the other honorable mentions, finalists and semifinalists because I wasn't completely satisfied with the ending. For many of the poems in that last group of 50-100, that was the deciding question: what does it all add up to? Where poems show an equivalent level of craftsmanship, I lean toward the one with something substantial to say, in which the emotions aroused by the story produce a larger insight. Although the last section lacked the intensity of what had gone before, I felt the poem taught me something new about compassion and cruelty in wartime, which was enough to put Bargen in the winners' circle.
The word "zoonotic" makes us think of the zoos that are the subject of the poem, but it is actually the word for any disease that can be transmitted between animals and people. Several kinds of interspecies transmission are at work in this poem. War is a human epidemic that spreads to the animals we have caged. Even before the war, we "infected" them with human culture, taking them away from their self-sufficient life in the wild and teaching them to depend on us for food and protection. We see this most clearly in the heartbreaking image of the elephants Tonky and Wanly vainly doing circus tricks in hopes of being fed.
And yet, the animals also transmit something more positive back to us. The plight of the trusting elephants keeps alive our capacity for empathy, which we are tempted to jettison as a luxury when violence threatens: "No one said/their trainer went mad giving/them what they needed." The Japanese trainer's unselfishness toward his animals, in turn, humanizes him in our eyes, making it impossible to see him as merely "the enemy" in World War II.
Viewing war through the eyes of animals highlights how human violence distorts the order of creation. The disoriented giraffes and hippos "big as burnt-out Mercedes", wandering through a surreal, chaotic landscape, are as unnatural as the "black blooms" of burning oil wells that replace true vegetation. Bargen's wonderful powers of description leave us with indelible images of war's horrors.
In virtually all cultures, animals function as powerful archetypes of human traits. In Marjan the lion, unaccountably surviving the onslaughts of larger conquerors only to die of neglect, we see every once-proud general forgotten or mocked in his old age. Marjan also resembles the beleaguered country of Afghanistan, caught up in the geopolitical struggles of empires while its people starve. In addition, Bargen may have intended an allusion to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir," a leader of the anti-Taliban resistance who was assassinated (probably by al Qaeda) just before September 11, 2001.
The only thing I would change about "Zoonotic" is the last section, beginning, "If that prayed for time exists,/perhaps my father found it". I had two problems with how Bargen chose to end the poem. First, I wasn't adequately prepared for the shift from a third-person omniscient voice to a first-person recollection. Neither the speaker nor his father appear in the previous stanzas, which take place in a wholly different setting. Thus, describing how the father and his son made peace with wartime memories felt like the ending to a different story. It was answering a question that hadn't been raised yet.
My second problem was that the perspective of the last stanza was several degrees removed from the action, which made the ending anticlimactic compared to the vivid scenes that preceded it. It's hard to make hindsight analysis feel as substantial as eyewitness reportage, especially when the memories aren't even the speaker's own. (Our first-place winner this year, Jude Nutter, pulls it off, but she's an exception.)
If a concluding stanza is necessary after the deaths of the elephants, I would have preferred to stay with the animals' perspective, because that is what makes this poem unique. Bargen could have added another anecdote about a war currently being waged, describing the threat to the (wild or caged) animals there or their apprehension of imminent danger, to arouse the reader to think "it's happening again—we have to do something". An even better ending would be a scene of postwar reconstruction, where the peace is symbolized by humans beginning to take care of their zoo animals again. Either way, what's needed is not simply another anecdote of animals suffering, but something that moves the narrative forward, showing us the means to avert catastrophe or the hope of seeing peace restored.
Where could a poem like "Zoonotic" be submitted? These upcoming contests came to mind:
Ruth Stone Prize in Poetry
Postmark Deadline: December 10
$1,000 and publication in the literary review Hunger Mountain; no simultaneous submissions
Poetry Society of America Awards
Postmark Deadline: December 23
Highly prestigious awards program for unpublished poems on various themes; poems like "Zoonotic" are a good fit for the George Bogin Memorial Award, given to a group of poems that "use language in an original way to reflect the encounter of the ordinary and the extraordinary and to take a stand against oppression in any of its forms"
This poem and critique appeared in the November 2005 issue of Winning Writers Newsletter.