Saturday, September 8, 2012

Now Available: "Alternate Lanes Anthology" at Amazon!

Alternate Lanes: An Anthology of Travel Using Alternate Transportation in the City of Angels (copyright 2012 Sybaritic Press) is now available for purchase through Amazon! You can purchase a trade paperback for $9.95, or you can order the Eco-friendly Kindle version for $3.99.

Thank you to all those who contributed their words, and art. We'll be at the West Hollywood Book Festival  on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, so, come on by to purchase a copy, meet the authors, or, just say, hi. Note: Pan Pacific Park is easily accessible by the MTA bus, so, save yourself some money on gas, and, help the environment at the same time.:)

List of contributors in Alternate Lanes:

L.Ward Abel
E. Amato
Michelle Angelini (aka Rina Rose)
Jim Bolt
Lynne Bronstein
Deborah Edler Brown
Gully Burns
Charles Claymore
J. de Salvo
Meg Elison
Jerry Garcia
Sandra Hunter
Alex S. Johnson
Scott Kaestner
Deborah P. Kolodji
Eric Lawson
Tess. Lotta
Gregory Longenecker
Tamara Madison
Matt McGee
Brenda Petrakos
Rick Lupert
Daniel McGinn
Scott Nichols-Collier
Apryl Skies
Julia Stein
Anthony Torchia
Mary Torregosa
D.L. Warner
Florence Weinberger
Hilda Weiss

article content  © 2012 marie lecrivain

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Words Cast Upon the Water: the Trouble With Simultaneous Submissions

(Original article previously published in Magnapoets, Issue 2, July 2008,
minor updates/changes have been added to reflect recent events.)
One morning as I opened my email, I noticed one marked "regarding submissions from 1/12/08," from a poet whose name I will not reveal. He notified me that one of his poems had been accepted elsewhere for publication, stated I that had his permission to publish the others, and hoped, if I liked his work, I would re-publish it and the other poems in an upcoming issue. After re-reading his submission, I congratulated him and told him, "No thank you."
For the record, I applaud the poet's honesty in admitting that his work had been simultaneously submitted (he stated so in his first email). However, this poet's work, while technically sound, did not resonate with me, which is, ultimately, why I turned him down.
As a writer/ editor, I find myself walking a precarious tightrope on the subject of simultaneous submissions. In publishing, this is a conundrum that has plagued me for years. Within this essay, I will explore the matter based on my own and other others experiences to shed some much needed light on the matter: why poets/writers brazenly - or not so - simultaneously submit work to the "quickest" bidder.
According to an article I discovered in the online magazine Ink and Blood, Norman Mailer was the first to pioneer simultaneous submissions, utilizing the natural frustration and subversion that go hand in hand with a writer's persona to send out manuscripts en masse to publishers. If I ever had the chance to meet Mailer (alas, he's since shuffled off this mortal coil), I'm not sure if I would've shaken his hand, or kicked his ass, in that order. (Note: with manuscripts, simultaneous submissions are another story for another time).
I'm not a prolific writer, though many people would disagree with me. In my opinion, it's vital to me that my work is read by as many people as possible. Yet, I want the "life" of my prose and poetry to last. This means, in accordance with my literary ethics, to refrain from sending the out same five poems to ten different literary journals, which, according to aspiring novelist and Subtle Tea editor David Herrle, is "like a guy 'poking' several women to raise the chance of impregnation."
As the editor of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles, I no longer accept simultaneous submissions, In doing so, I find that many poets/writers choose to believe I'm being disingenuous when the rules of my publication clearly state:
7) Previously published work will be considered for publication, but with the following caveat; please cite where the work was published for the former, and contact us if your submission was accepted elsewhere for the latter. This will not bar submissions from getting published in poeticdiversity, it's just that every publication has its own rules and we don't want to step on anyone's toes. Simultaneous submissions will not be considered. And yes, we do check!
More often than not, these same submitters assuage their conscious with the fleeting validity of publication rather than risk the opportunity to be honest in return. Before I made my decision to stop accepting simultaneous submissions, I would do the following: perform a Google search to determine if the work had appeared elsewhere. If the work had already been published, I would request a publication date and name. Nine times out of ten, my request is ignored.
Because of this, I routinely reject work of those who are less than forthcoming. It’s not in my best interest, nor in my nature to represent the work of liars, the notable exception being, in quite a few cases, the poet/writer in question who accidentally omits the mention of previous publication. This is an honest mistake, and one that I made on occasion. Poets/writers who generate a body of work that spans a few years can easily fall prey to forgetfulness, as poet and Magnapoets executive editor Aurora Antonovic states, with unforeseen consequences:
"While there are honest mistakes (sometimes poets forget to where they've submitted what, or editors reject a poem only later to publish it, and the unsuspecting poet has already sent it off elsewhere), anyone who knowingly does this is engaging in unethical behavior. If poets (or anyone for that matter) want to be taken more seriously, they have to begin by behaving responsibly.
I've never knowingly simultaneously submitted somewhere, but I have made mistakes with records or an editor has made mistakes. Human error is one thing, but deliberate misleading of submissions records is serious enough, in my book, that repeat offenders ought to be no longer considered for publication. After all, no serious publication wants to get into copyright trouble."
I have yet to hear of a small press publication/literary journal suing another for violating the "exclusive" or more specific (though it reeks of nationalism), "first time North American serial rights" rule, and Antonovic raises an excellent point: The frustration writers and poets are exposed to, caused by editors who are not timely or courteous enough with responses, which compels them to simultaneously submit. Time lags have inspired Richard Beban, ex-pat, poet, and author of What the Heart Weighs (Red Hen Press 2004) and Young Girl Eating A Bird (2006 Red Hen Press), to take a hard line with journals, and to seek alternate and more selective means of publication:
"Since I began work as a poet in 1994, I don't bother sending to any publication that wants:
            2.) simultaneously claims a response time of six months or beyond.
I think six weeks is reasonable, no matter how "understaffed" a publication claims to be. Part of staffing should include the commitment to give writers enough respect that you don't hold their work for inordinate amounts of time. Writers like to see their work in print, yes, and particularly within their lifetimes. I also query about the work after six weeks, unless the specified response time is longer.  I even bug The New Yorker, which apparently has NO specified response time, judging from the black hole my poems go into when I send there.  I give them (the publication) three months in any case, and then gleefully simultaneously submit elsewhere."
Not everyone is as organized or as adamant as Beban. In my opinion, his approach is straightforward, and somewhat fair - because he has clearly established guidelines. Many newer poets/writers, legitimately bound by time constraints, don't have the time to research ALL the publications that they wish to submit work to, as one anonymous writer/editor/poet shared with me:
"I do send out to about five different publications at a time when I submit sets of poems. I do that with publications who say they accept simultaneous submissions, because they agree to take that risk. And writers take risks; too, when we send work out to journals because it's more likely than not that we're rejected. Of course, odds of acceptance depend a lot on the match between quality of work and quality of publication, but if we only submitted serially we'd be hard-pressed to have any kind of publication credits at the end of the year. At the end of the day, getting published is either important to you, or it's not. And if it is, you want to be smart about it and increase your odds by increasing your submission sights.
Groups like Writer's Relief make their living getting people published by doing that very thing: targeting about 30 publications with a single set of poems from an author. I know a handful of poets who use that service, and it does seem to work for the writer. I'm sure it's hard on editors when work is pulled at the last minute which is why a lot of them don't accept simultaneous submissions."
While the writer quoted above is acting responsibly by employing an intermediary like a writing/publishing resource to act on his/her behalf, there are many more poets/writers who are not, either because they are new to the submission process, and become overwhelmed by the plethora of submission rules, or because they experience frustration caused by the increasingly iconoclast rule of "exclusive rights," which has caused a potential pandemic of dishonesty between poets/writers and editors. As the rift widens, not only does the relationship between the poet/writer and the editor disintegrate, but the standard of a publication can become compromised, as John Amen, poet and editor of The Pedestal Magazine, maintains:
"Pedestal does ask for firsttime rights; i.e., we don't (re)publish previously published material; we do accept simultaneous submissions and ask that folks let us know if/when work is accepted elsewhere. This policy doesn't seem to be creating too many problems, although we've had a couple of situations that led us to consider changing the policy. Personally, I've never been into simultaneous submitting. I don't know why, it just doesn't appeal to me.
Now, there's another thing that goes on from time to time: someone wanting to publish a particular piece in various publications at the same time. It's not a question of whoever says "yes" first gets the piece; it's that the writer wants everyone/all the editors to publish the piece. As we ask for first rights and don't republish material, this clearly doesn't work for us. But more importantly, I think this practice does a disservice to the literary landscape. It fosters homogeneity and compromises the uniqueness of a particular publication."
I'm in accordance with Amen - and - I firmly believe that homogenizing one's art is the ultimate form of self-sabotage. I base my opinion on personal experience and a hard-won work ethic. Which is more important: elusive popularity coupled with the fleeting validation I receive every time my name gets into print, or the TRUTH that exists in my words? This is the question I ask myself as a writer when I submit work for consideration of publication, and, as an editor to whom work is submitted to on a weekly basis. I strive to respect myself and others in this capacity, and I believe that honesty is the key to bridging the chasm between poets/writers and editors.
This responsibility rests with the poets/writers. After six years, I have found that it IS possible to build a CV of publication credits without casting out my poetry and prose like the proverbial bread upon the waters. The following guidelines may help:
1) Be clear and careful. Study a publication's guidelines. Follow them to the letter. If a rule is unclear, take the initiative and contact the publisher.
2) As Beban illustrates, construct clearly established parameters regarding submissions. One suggestion: Unless the publication in question takes submissions on a rolling basis, consider your submission to be defunct if you have not heard from the editor by the publication date, and then take it somewhere else. Or, if the publication gives permission to contact them after a specific time, do so. You and your work deserve respect.
3) A writers' resources, like Doutrope, offer over 4,300 venues for publication, along with (daily) updated listings, a submissions tracker, notification of changes to publications (defunct, dead, temporarily closed to submissions). Duotrope is free, though I would encourage those who use it donate money to its upkeep once in awhile.
4) Keep a log of your submissions; dates, titles and email correspondences. Duotrope offers a log,. Many online publications are now using Submittable's Submissions Manager program, or you can create your own in an excel spreadsheet. A lot of confusion and anger can be avoided by getting organized in this fashion.
5) Be patient. Getting published en masse does not guarantee your literary immortality. Turn off the little voice inside your head that urges you to disseminate your work like fish food in a tank full of guppies. Too much food can kill the fish!
6) You all have heard this one, and it bears repeating. Carefully PROOF your work before submitting it anywhere; that stray comma or missing period can make a difference between a "Yes," or, a "No. Thanks for playing."
7) If all else fails, publish your work on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger or Live Journal where the whole world can see it, and where you can be fawned over or condemned to your heart's content.
I fear the day is coming - , no - it may already be here, where instant gratification outweighs the desire for quality literature. Of my own volition, I do my best to stem the tide. I wish each and every one of you "good luck."
(Note: Thank you to all those who answered my questions regarding this matter, which, of course, we all know will not be resolved any time soon.)
© 2012 marie lecrivain

Sunday, September 2, 2012

John FitzGerald's "The Mind"

     JohnFitzGerald's new collection, The Mind (copyright 2011 Salmon Poetry), is one poet's journey through his internal cosmos. In The Mind, the poet wanders through the realms of life, beauty, truth, death, The Self, and possibility (or, prophecy), but... to what end? FitzGerald's, The Mind is a 21 Century companion to Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, but one endowed with an immediate, vibrant accessibility; a Hero's Journey not soon to be forgotten.

     FitzGerald, an attorney who fights for the rights of the disabled, took some time to answer questions regarding the inception, as well as literary process that went into his latest collection of work.

     Q: Please explain the what events led you to form the concept behind The Mind?

     A: A couple ideas collided. My father died unexpectedly at forty-two, while I was in Europe. It was ten days after his burial I first learned of his death. My own forty-second birthday was approaching, and I reached it. I felt it worthy of some memorialization. I had been working a long time on a piece that didn’t pan out, wherein I catalogued aspects of the mind, as if descended from one another genealogically. Those efforts transformed into this.

     Q: Your use of the article “The,” in the title is telling. Are you referring to the “universal” mind, as in shared global consciousness, or to your “own” mind, by removing yourself from The Center and placing yourself in the role of observer. Why/why not?

     A: I’m working on a non-fiction book, in which I answer that question like this: There was a time before language. Suppose you are a hunter, with nothing but your wits and a spear you made yourself. You don’t just wander aimlessly, hoping some piglet impales itself. You track. That’s what hunting is. Reading signs. And those signs speak much as any words. I may never have seen the particular creature I’m after, but it came through the brush here, scraped its fur against this branch, put its right front foot just here as it drank from the stream. I have no doubt it is an antelope, a heavy male. It marked its territory there, a sign for other antelope to read. But I speak antelope. It nibbled from those shoots then took off in that direction. This story told itself in my head. Earth spoke it directly to me in a voice no other can here. Once we have words to describe this process, that internalized voice of Earth is ‘The Mind.’

     Q: The first stanza, in poem “Three,” caught my attention:

     The mind could be a very long poem.
     It could pick up where you left off, so many years ago,
     before you became law abiding.”

     This could infer that the poet is an outlaw. Based on that, as an attorney, how do your reconcile your dual roles of lawmaker and poet?

      A: My forthcoming book of poetry addresses that question directly, with a ‘fictional’ poem about the conflict between an attorney and his inner poet. Actually, I think the selected lines not merely infer, but directly states the opposite: that I am not an outlaw now, but may once have been. I understand how disappointing this can be. My first poems were published before I began law school in 1993. Once law school began, I had to give up writing poetry.

     Completion of law school left quite a vacuum. I wrote four poetry books between 1998 and 2004, of which The Mind was the first. When they were done I adopted the notion I would not write more until I published these, so applied myself to that. The fourth book I wrote, SpringWater, was the first published in 2005. The third, TellingTime by the Shadows was published in 2008. The first, this one, was published in 2011. And the second book I wrote will be published by Salmon in 2014. I became an attorney to learn how far law could be stretched before breaking. Knowledge of law allows one to exist at its limits. Law school changes a person, makes one foreseer of liabilities. With these four books all published, I was freed to go back to writing again, and am now working on non-fiction.

     Q: There are many references to your own mortality, and the death of family (father, uncle), in your collection, particularly to the ages where both these men both passed on. Would you say that gaining a greater awareness of your own mortality is a gift, or a detriment, to your poetry, and, is it something that you will continue to foster? Why/why not?

     A: The men in the line I find myself die relatively young. The aforementioned uncle set a record reaching sixty. I would say I am acutely aware of the limitations. It makes me feel as if I never have enough time, or things are not getting accomplished quickly enough. Still, I consider it advantageous. There’s something intrinsically rewarding in fascination, at least for me. I love to be fascinated, and spend time making myself that way.

     Q: The Mind reads like a philosophical treatise, with you, as The Poet, hypothesizing/researching/and possibly concluding where He stands in the universal order of things. Did/did you not you intend for your book to be so?

     A: Absolutely. By the time I wrote The Mind, my father was dead longer than I knew him. His death was so unexpected. I have both his birth certificate and death certificates, as if they prove he ever even existed. Cause of death was retropharyngeal abscess dissecting into mediastinum with bilateral serofibrinopurlent empyema. His body produced its own poison, and he choked of unpronounceable words. Turns out that is just an infection, and had he gone to a doctor, might even be here now. The awareness became even more acute when, at age 42, I found myself in a hospital bed breathing through tubes, and I realized then how surprisingly death can come upon you.

     Q: The Mind contains nine lines per poem, all the poem titles numbered “One” through “Eighty-nine.” Why such specific structure?

     A: When I began, I did not expect to write such a long poem. That aspect just evolved. I set out only to write nine lines, and it grew from there. When I first finished parts one through ten, I considered it done, but couldn’t get that format out of my head, so just kept at it. Originally it had 111 parts, but was scaled down to this, with remnants found in Telling Time, which indeed takes its title from a line in The Mind. I find that establishing artificial rules for the poem provides a sort of frame into which a picture must be forced to fit. In Spring Water, for example, every poem is 32 lines, 4 parts of 8 lines each, with no line longer than 65 characters. In the mind, I wanted each tercet to stand alone, and each part to stand alone as they form a comprehensive whole. So when you’re reaching that ninth line you know you’re time is running short and you’d better get to the point.

     Q: Now that The Mind, is a published collection of poetry, what kind of feedback are you receiving from your readers?

     A: The Mind was completed in 2002. I have been reading it at venues since, so it’s been known to many for a long time before publication in print. It has an oral tradition. The feedback has been overwhelming. Everybody loves it.

     Q: As a poet with dual citizenship, where do you find your true inspiration, in the Irish poetry tradition, or in the American? Why/why not?

     A: I do not think I am inspired. There is a thing that makes me write and that is the need to record what seems to cross through my awareness. I am an avid note taker. Day to day life tends to become so routine, it’s rare to think something new and original. But I set that goal for myself, and have note pads everywhere, in my car and every room of my house. It’s not so much inspiration as a conscious effort to notice a good line when it occurs.

     Q: According to your bio, you have several literary projects: Primate, a novel and screenplay; The People of the Net, a work of poetic literary non-fiction;  and the poetry collection The Charter of Effects, currently in progress. Which one can we expect next to come to fruition?

     A: Well, Charter is scheduled for publication by Salmon Poetry in 2014. Most likely, that will be next, though it may have a different title. Primate is out there floating around. The other works continue to progress. I find that works I once thought complete tend to be absorbed by more recent writings until they’re basically sucked into a black hole and no longer exist in their former incarnation. So People of the Net no longer exists, it is part of something else now. All will be published at some point, it’s just a matter of making them known to the right people. 

Note: Jon FitzGerald's books can be found at, or at .

article content © 2012 marie lecrivain