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Why Your Rejection Letter Means Nothing

Dan Burgess, editor-in-chief of literary magazine Firewords, shares an editor’s perspective on the loathed but unavoidable reality of rejection letters.

At a recent book fair, we were talking to several writers about their experiences of submitting to literary journals. It was surprising to hear that they had all given up trying after receiving rejections.

We were aghast and quickly reassured them that they shouldn’t take rejections personally. We know (first hand!) that rejections are hard to take, which is why we try to give personal feedback to every single submission we receive, even though it makes our job infinitely harder (we’ll go into our reasons for giving feedback in a later blog).

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Taking Your Notebook for a Walk An A to K of Places to Write

What to do there and why it’s good for you

A guest post by Shaun Levin
The second half of the A to Z of Places to Write can be seen here.

I like taking notes. I believe in the importance of notebooks. If you don’t trust me, listen to Joan Didion. A notebook is like a dream diary but for when you’re out of bed. It doesn’t need a plan or a story or a novel that’s being worked on; just an openness to what’s out there, and a quiet faith that whatever gets written will find a place in the greater project that is your work. Below are a few more places to write, with suggestions of what to do there. Many of the suggested exercises would work in other places, too.

“The habit of note taking is obviously compulsive . . . Our culture’s need to pigeonhole everything is defeated in these notebooks. Spontaneity rules here. The writer incorporates chances and makes do with the unforeseen.”
Charles Simic

A is for Art Gallery

What to do there: Pick a painting to work with. Go for something figurative. Tell its story in detail as if you’re describing a scene. Stay within the frame. Focus on describing what you see before moving into “story”. When you’ve written for at least 20 minutes, allow yourself only one reference to what’s going on beyond the frame. Come back to describing what’s in the frame. For inspiration on ways to use your description in a story, read Don Delilo’s story ‘Baader-Meinhof’.

Why it’s good for you: Discipline. Playing with restrictions. Ekphrasis expands your repertoire.

A is also for: Aviary, Amusement Park, Airport,

B is for Beauty Salon

What to do there: Write about bodies and body language. Write about different parts of the body and how they are treated: nails, hair, body hair, the face. Notice how people touch each other and avoid touching. Write about what people do to their bodies and have done to them. Follow one person and record what they do. Later, rewrite this as a set of actions or instructions to an understudy. For an example of how it’s done, read Jamaica Kincaid’s story ‘Girl’.

Why it’s good for you: Observing body language. Experimenting with list stories. See also Joe Brainard’s book I Remember.

B is also for: Bus, Boat, Bookshop, Bakery, Barbers, Bank.

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A woman reads a tablet beside a fire pit on cold winter evening outside the Science Center at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT) - RTR4Q65X

Young adult literature is booming – and the secret is in the communities of young book lovers forming online. Photo: Brian Snyder

A post by Marcella Purnama and Mark Davis, University of Melbourne

Before JK Rowling, critics and experts predicted that young adult (YA) literature would finally die, as sales continued to decline. In 1997, a mere 3,000 YA books were published. A decade later that number was 30,000.

The success of Harry Potter changed everything. YA is now embraced by teenagers and adults alike – a 2012 Bowker Market Research study in the US found that 55 per cent of people buying YA books are over 18.

We’re currently living in the second golden age of YA literature. But why is there a sudden demand for these coming-of-age books?

Apart from the undeniable quality of the books themselves, a generation of online readers are creating new ways to discuss, dissect and celebrate their favourite stories. And it’s driving sales in a big way.

Take John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (2012). It reached #1 on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists six months before the book was published. It received thousands of five-star reviews, ranked by readers who hadn’t even held their copies.

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Fellowship and Mentorship Programs for Screenwriters in 2016

Please check the relevant websites for full entry terms and conditions.

Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab
is an intensive four-week program that runs two to three evenings a week in Los Angeles every Autumn. It is designed to help screenwriters develop and express their unique voices as writers and to take their current scripts to the next level. Lab Fellows connect with various established screenwriters and explicate their films, learn about their careers, and discuss the writing process. The fellowship includes a $10,000 cash grant as well as inclusion in the Screenwriting Lab.. Non-member applications close on 18 April or Film Independent members have until 2 May to apply.

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. This international screenwriting competition is open to writers based anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenship. All entrants must be aged over 18.The final entry deadline is 2 May.

CBS Diversity Institute’s Writers Mentoring Program
aims is to provide access and opportunities for talented and motivated diverse writers. The program is held in Los Angeles but writers do not need to be American residents to apply (there are no travel grants or subsidies though). Applications close 2 May.

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The Matador Review

The Matador Review is a new online literary magazine based in Chicago. We contacted co-founder and editor-in-chief JT Lachausse to find what this new publication has in store for 2016 and beyond.

What made you decide to establish the Matador Review?

I had been interested in the literary magazine communities for a while and felt that there was something my team could offer. I won’t say that there was anything missing, because the online and print culture is vast and diverse; however, we wanted to dig a hole – welcomed or not – into both the literature and art world. There are great publications out there, namely The Adirondack Review and Bat City Review, that are unquestionably doing the Magazine Lord’s work; we are just cocky enough to think that we could have a place behind them, if not beside them, or somewhere upon the landscape of what they do and represent. We sat at a little glass table in my apartment and began tapping out questions, ideas, hopes, issues, things like: “What if we were The Paris Review’s ‘evil, rotten twin’?” That’s what really started it. Yes, there are countless houses for alternative art and literature, but we wanted to build something really special of our own. We wanted a style for our magazine akin to the recognition level of, say, The New Yorker or Paper Darts; we believed and believe that there are not enough characters in the magazine world. It’s difficult to really go on about all of the conversations we had during the conception phase without sounding all jumped-up – and maybe that’s because we really are jumped-up about this project – but that’s the nature of this team. We saw enough big and beautiful dogs in the fight that we wanted to jump in with our own scrawny, overweening chihuahua. But enough of the caveats and metaphors; in summary, we want to assemble a publication of “alternative” art and literature, both forms represented equally in quality and attention, and we want the magazine to be of real significance to the communities we are working with.

You describe yourself as being an ‘alternative art and literature magazine’: why alternative?

For every piece of quality art or literature, there is a home. Some “homes” include work that is regionally or culturally inspired, and some are reserved for particular genders, sexualities, or ethnicities. This sort of exclusivity creates an environment for distinct voices, and due to its distinction, these magazines are considered “alternative” (syn: “different”, “nonstandard”). What we wanted to do was to open up a home for art and literature that is, in every capacity, unconventional; this could mean a “fresh” voice, or perhaps a peculiar style, or maybe a bizarre subject that would otherwise struggle to find a place willing to parade it. As stated in our “About” section: “…our purpose is to promote work that is thought-provoking and unconventional; we want the controversial and the radical, the unhinged and the bizarre; we want the obsessive, the compulsive, the pervasive, the combative, and the seductive.” The Matador Review wants all of your redheaded stepchildren, but we want them on a damn good hair day. And they better not behave.

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A post by Naomi Wood, Goldsmiths, University of London

Writing is something of a lawless place. Lawless, because there’s no clear indication that your effort will bring success; or that an answer will ever emerge from the mud; or that the most insane, most unpromising idea won’t reward you eventually.

Writing, especially in the drafting stage, can get very swampy indeed. In the first drafts I write to see what’s going to happen. I don’t know anything until I’ve begun to probe the life of the character. Is there someone at the door? A piece of unexpected news in the post? Weevils in the flour which means the cake is ruined?

I find first drafts scary and hard to do. I will do lots of other things instead of writing this draft. Scrubbing mould from the bathroom’s grouting. My laundry. My marking. Even my tax return, with its eminently calculable results …

What I do to get it done is lie to myself. I tell myself I’m writing short-stories, not a novel. If I take baby-steps I know I can get there, but if I knew it was a marathon, I’d never begin.

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Mistakes Writers Make When Submitting to Literary Magazines
In this guest post Eva Langston from Carve Magazine shares ten of the most common mistakes writers make when submitting their work.

1. Not reading literary magazines

This seems obvious, but if you want to get published in a journal, it’s helpful to read the types of pieces they publish. Most literary magazines suggest you read a few back issues first to get a sense of their aesthetic. In an ideal world, you should do this, but chances are you don’t have time to read multiple back issues of every single journal you’re going to submit to. Instead, make it your goal to simply read more literary magazines than you currently do. Subscribe to a few each year. Get your friends to subscribe to different publications and then trade. And of course, take advantage of free online journals, such as Carve. Read a story whenever you have a spare moment, even if it’s on your phone while waiting in line at the grocery store.

2. Not submitting your best work

Instead of finishing a story and submitting it immediately, let your piece rest for a few months then go back and revise. Workshop it, or let a trusted writer friend read it and give feedback. Print it out and triple-check for grammatical and spelling errors. Read your piece out loud at least once. Only submit when you think the piece is the best it can possibly be.

3. Not following guidelines

Double check all guidelines before submitting to a magazine. Is there a word count requirement? Should your name be removed from the piece? Should your document be in Word, PDF, or rich text format? If it’s an email submission, do they want the document attached, or pasted into the body of the email? Do they accept simultaneous submissions? Don’t risk getting your piece being tossed out because you didn’t follow the rules.

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