Monday, November 24, 2008

Blood Orange Review 3.4 is here

Editor’s Note--Stung
Blood Orange Review 3.4

In a story from this new issue, “Once the Queen Is Gone” by Jeremy Griffin, one character chooses to study biochemistry, specifically the pheromones of honeybees, after being attacked by a hive that results in a week’s stay in the hospital. In the same story, the main character arrives on the doorstep of a former lover to “tell her things about love and fulfillment and mistakes and forgiveness,” or, on second thought, maybe just to see what might happen. Drawn to what has stung them, both characters find themselves pinned between what they separately want and fear.

The poems of Jeff Hanson reveal a person seeking to remake himself, and in one instance, getting what he wants only to find he can’t handle it. In “The Artist’s Father” by Brently Johnson, a father watches his son and weighs, self-consciously, whether it’s the moment itself or the preservation of that moment through language that matters more. “Avalanche” by Gregory Lawless offers a speaker tumbling through life after life hoping eventually to get it right. Poem after poem, story after story, the voices in this issue waver then begin, ever so slightly, to tip.

Jim Fagiolo’s unnervingly beautiful landscapes appear as monumental still lifes. Look at “Ruby Lake” or “Portage Glacier” which serves as the doorway to our new issue; so clear and reflective, the water seems to point to the impossibility of it staying that way. If you found yourself on a dock like the one in “Blue Lake,” how could you not throw a stone out and ruin all that stillness?

I’m drawn to the way the work here pulls the reader into that frozen moment through words or images. We’re along for the ride as the subjects, for better or worse, try to make something happen. It feels right that they don’t always know what they want or where they’re going or why they do the things they do. Rattled or wounded, the subjects take us out of our own uncertainty and give us the uncertainty of someone else to ponder for a while. Thank you, literature and art; it’s exactly what we need right now.

Stephanie Lenox, editor
Blood Orange Review

PS – In this issue, the editors have selected several works to be nominated for a Pushcart Prize. We’re thankful for the work in this issue and in all the ones we’ve published, which after stinging us once, continues to draw us toward it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September Issue of Blood Orange Review

Editor’s Note -- Soft Light
Blood Orange Review 3.3

I used to live a couple of blocks from Raymond Carver’s former home. In the evenings, I’d walk past on the dark street and peer in through the warm light of the undressed windows to see walls of bookshelves in an empty living room. I always half expected to glance in and see him sitting in a worn chair, reading in the soft light. Somehow, it was comforting to think that at one point, he sat right there, in a little house at the intersection of two anonymous streets. He and I shared the same view of the sometimes turbulent and sometimes pacific Strait of Juan de Fuca .

When the cacophony of human life becomes hushed and I am granted the chance to observe discreetly, I become mesmerized with the tender, tragic theater before me. When I stride anonymously along the unlit sidewalks and look into windows at the sheeted birdcages and abandoned dining rooms, I can imagine the lives of the people that had just slipped invisibly out of sight. I love them, the ghosts that haunt my nighttime meanderings. This is the way literature blends in with my day and blurs at the edges. It is the way I carry other writers and their creations with me.

The writing and artwork in the current issue of Blood Orange Review has captivated me in much the same way. Douglas Bruton’s short piece, “A Pebble from the River for Annie” shows a character during a crisis moment that will re-shape the very essence of her being for the rest of her life; the young girl will haunt me as much as Dickens’ Miss Havisham. Laura Ring’s poem, “Grimes Grave” is one that must be read out loud to feel the muscle and grist and hear the scrape of metal on stone.

The issue is compact and powerful, but it isn’t all seriousness or tragedy; Brandon R. Schrand and Calvin Mills offer two humorous contemplations on the ways two writers confront failure. And Jane Linders’ photography (Mike Ross’ Big Rig Jig is show above) is quirky and marvelous.

The September 2008 issue of Blood Orange Review has come together in the midst of intense political, economic, and social anxiety, and I think that it is palpable in the issue. It feels like a strong vibration in the air, perhaps something like oboe music drifting in from the neighbor’s backyard.

Heather K. Hummel, editor
Blood Orange Review

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where do your rejections live?

Keep your eye out for the next issue of Blood Orange Review appearing online later this month. Below is an excerpt from a forthcoming essay by Calvin Mills entitled "Mathematics, Gallbladders, and Sticking Your Babies in the Mail". To be alerted to the publication of the next issue, which will include the full text of this essay and other great works by new and established writers, enter your contact information in the box to the right of this post.
This simple mathematical approach allowed me to see my rejections not as personal attacks, but as steps forward, items checked off a list. Incidentally, this method did work for me. I landed a story before I hit 100. I still use this method from story to story. I keep sending them out, and sometimes I actually smile a bit when I get a rejection in the mail, because it means my evil plan is working.

Now that you’re considering doing the math and sending your big-eyed babes out into the wild, wild world, here are a few thoughts to help you stay sane during the process:

1. Never have just one baby in the mail. . .
2. Consider the magical power of “buffer time”. . .
3. Read rejection letters just far enough to determine they are actually rejection letters. Then stop reading. . .
4. Sometimes adversity is your friend. Don’t believe me? Make a list of 100 successful child actors. Try to find more than five who you admire now that they’re grown up. . .
5. Remember that there is always another (or a better) magazine out there. . .

Of course, after the thin, crummy advice above wears off, some small part of you is bound to feel like a failure when an editor sends a neglected baby back to your ZIP code. But don’t let that part of you be a big, important organ like your brain or your heart. Don’t even let it be your lungs—we don’t want them letting you down while you sleep. Sleep apnea is a bitch. Allow the failure to be housed in a small unimportant organ inside you­—one you can live without. A tonsil or appendix would be my first choice, but many of you may already be sans these superfluous organs. Then what? Okay, I know what you’re considering, but let’s not lose our fertility over this. I was thinking more along the lines of the gallbladder, or a single kidney. Do some research, and choose your own failure hotel somewhere on a less popular street along the super-highways that are your entrails. Once you’ve designated the location, run your establishment like the old commercials for the Roach Motel, “Rejections check in­—but they don’t check out!”

Calvin Mills teaches English at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington. His stories and creative nonfiction essays have appeared in Short Story, WeirdTales, The Caribbean Writer, Tales from the South Vol. 1, Timber Creek Review, Southern Indiana Review, and other journals and magazines.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Excerpt from "On Failure" by Brandon R. Schrand

Keep your eye out for the next issue of Blood Orange Review appearing online later this month. Below is an excerpt from a forthcoming essay by Brandon R. Schrand entitled "On Failure". To be alerted to the publication of the next issue, which will include the full text of this essay and other great works by new and established writers, enter your contact information in the box to the right of this post.


On Failure

When you Google the words failure + literary + writer in a single search, you will be greeted with 1,970,000 returns. It’s an ominous but not surprising number. Of course not all of those returns deal explicitly with the literary writer as failure, but most do, and I think the number of returns reflects a certain inescapable truth about our business: the writing life is shaped, in one way or another, by failure. It’s one of the only careers in which you begin as a failure. Failure is the baseline, the starting point. Curious about my search results, I thought I would put the number of returns in context of other careers. This is what I learned:

A search for the words failure + librarian yields an alarming if depressing 400,000 results.

A search for failure + cryptozoologist retrieves only 73,600 results.

Googling failure + “worm farmer” yields a mere 508 returns.

And finally, you’ll be happy to know that a search for failure + “cheese attendant” will give you 0 returns.

If there is a lesson to be gleaned from my inquiry, I’m not sure what it is. However, it does strike me as peculiar, refreshing even, that to be a writer engaged in a profession that is colored by failure is another way of saying you are among friends, that there is safety in numbers, as they say. On the other hand, if you failed as a cheese attendant, you would be the first and only failure in that unsung occupation. The cheese attendant would stand alone, in other words, and that cheese attendant would be you. . . .

Brandon R. Schrand is the author of The Enders Hotel: A Memoir, the 2007 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize winner and a 2008 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dallas Morning News, The Utne Reader, Tin House, Shenandoah, The Missouri Review, Columbia, Colorado Review, Green Mountains Review, River Teeth, Ecotone, Isotope, and numerous other publications. He has won the Wallace Stegner Prize, the 2006 Willard R. Espy Award, the Pushcart Prize, two Pushcart Prize Special Mentions, and his essay, “The Enders Hotel,” the title piece from his memoir, was a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2007. A two-time grant recipient of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, he lives in Moscow, Idaho, with his wife and two children where he coordinates the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Idaho.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Award for the Nicest Rejection

From the failure files of Blood Orange Review editor Stephanie Lenox:

I have been rejected by Karen Craigo of Mid-American Review no fewer than four times. I have to say she seems like one of the nicest editors around. I've discussed this with other writers, and I'm not the only one who looks forward to her cheerful rejections.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hey, Rejects, You're Not Alone

I've been browsing the Rejection Collection, a website that bills itself as the "on-line source for misery, commiseration, and inspiration." Thanks to "Chief Rejecutive" Catherine Wald, artists and writers no longer need to suffer in silence.

Under the Read 'em and Weep category, you can find rejections from small literary journals, grants and fellowships, residencies and artists colonies, and more.

One of my favorites:

In response to a poem called "Going Under," a first person lyric that had to do with being anesthetized for surgery,the editor wrote back:"We never accept poems about drug abuse. I only hope for your sake that this isn't you!"

Reminds me of the high school sub in my English class who had a private talk with me about safe sex after reading a short story I wrote about a train. A real train.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What more can we say?

From the failure files of Stephanie Lenox, editor of Blood Orange Review.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Rejecting Rejection: An editor's perspective

Here Blood Orange Review editor Heather K. Hummel shares how she learned to let go of rejection slips and keep going:

I am not one of those writers who plasters her wall with rejection slips. I do not have a file overflowing with "Sorry, not for us" notes. Some time ago, I decided that habit was a really bad one for me--one that would weigh me down and wear me out. So, now, when the rejection slips arrive in the mail (and it's an almost daily occurance) I make note of it on my submissions spreadsheet and recycle it immediately. If it is a really disappointing one--say for the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, I let it sit on the counter while I cook dinner and I pout at it for all I'm worth while I chop and stir-fry. And then I recycle it.

One spring, I lived at a yoga ashram and my parents handled my mail. My dad would read the rejections outloud over the phone and then launch into a peptalk about not giving up. Every day. Having my rejection slips read out loud was miserable--and ludicrous. But somehow, it gave me a sense of humor about receiving them. Try reading your next rejection slip outloud, and then at the end add a "buck up kiddo, your are trying and that's all that counts" in a concilatory fatherly voice. I guarantee you'll laugh. Or, maybe cry and then laugh. And then it just becomes part of the process, like tilling the soil or weeding, and waiting for the squash and pumpkins to burgeon.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

My Favorite Failure: One of my first rejection notes

The editors of Blood Orange Review know a lot about rejection. Not only do we reject about 90% of the submissions we receive, but we receive rejections ourselves. All the time.

In the next few weeks, Heather, Bryan, and Stephanie will share some thoughts on failure and rejection in the writing life. We'll also post an excerpt from a forthcoming essay by Brandon R. Schrand entitled "On Failure", to be published in full later this month in Blood Orange Review.

To get started, Stephanie posts one of her favorite rejection letters from fellow literary journal Bellowing Ark along with some comments:

I save all my rejection slips in neatly labeled manila folders that hang in a file cabinet with tabs marked "Rejections 2000", "Rejections 2001", "Rejections 2002", etc. Some files are larger than others as my confidence over the years ebbs and flows. When rejections come in, I log them into a spreadsheet and then drop them unceremoniously into the file. The process has become so automatic that there's little emotion involved any more.

But there are a few failures I cherish more than others, and this is one of them. I had been submitting my poetry to journals for a few years, but one day in 2000, I received my first personal rejection. It was handwritten by the editor of Bellowing Ark, a still-active literary journal out of Shoreline, Washington.

Though the editor rejected my work, he wrote that my poems showed "a good deal of promise." Those few positive words kept me going. I submitted again to the same journal and received one of my first publications. I've continued the trend of being rejected first by almost every journal that has later published my poetry. The "failure files" are my proof that even when my work isn't getting picked up and published by literary journals, I'm doing the work that needs to be done.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Only Connect!

Last week, Heather Hummel and I had the chance to present together at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. We presented on “Creative Collaborations” and talked about how to make partnerships work when you’re not in the same town or time zone.

The conference provided a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our decade-long partnership and what we’ve accomplished together. While working on the presentation, Heather and I realized that we have not been in the same room for more than 24 hours in over seven years. But because of our ongoing work with Blood Orange Review, we were able to sit down and work together face-to-face as though no time had passed between us.

In more than a few presentations I attended over the week, participants expressed the desire for community. How do you find like-minded writers? How do you continue to grow as a writer if you can’t find anyone to share your words with? For Heather and I, the key to making a partnership work has been creating an environment where we can share ideas. Because in the past decade the two of us have moved over 14 times, that communal space had to be virtual. Blood Orange Review is our cafĂ© and our classroom.

Some people, some very credentialed and qualified people, believe that online forums allow us to isolate ourselves further. We participate in discussion boards with people around the world but still feel lonely. We have 200 “friends” on a social networking site, but still have no one to pick us up from the airport. I agree.

However, at the conference last week, I had the pleasure of meeting three contributors from past issues of Blood Orange Review: Pat Daneman, Sayantani Dasgupta, and Emily Evans Larson. I sat in presentations with them or heard new work they’ve written, and it’s exciting to meet these writers in the flesh. What I’ve learned from working on Blood Orange Review is that the world is not as huge as I once thought it was. If anything, this forum can be a doorway and an introduction to new people and ideas, as it has been for Heather and I.

PS – The editors have some fun stuff planned for upcoming issues, including a themed edition of the Swing Shift Writers’ Series all about rejection and failure. Check it out!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blood Orange in Port Townsend -- part 2

Blood Orange Review had the opportunity to sit on a panel this week to discuss literary journals. Here are some of Stephanie’s thoughts, continued from yesterday:

In the panel on literary journals in which I participated with several others at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference this week, Brenda Miller from the Bellingham Review discussed how she educates her staff about responding to submissions. If someone sends in writing that is clearly not ready for publication, she encourages her staff not to consider the individual an unskilled writer. With her staff, Brenda talks about the importance of seeing submitting to literary journals as part of the creative process, not just the final step in the creative process.

I really enjoyed her perspective on this because I’ve felt this myself. Submitting to journals and receiving rejections is how we calibrate our writing. It’s one method for understanding audience and making this abstract concept more tangible. Submitting is a way to see how your work stands on its own beyond the friends and teachers who are invested in our work and who know what we’re trying to do.

A rejection from a literary journal can be an educational tool. It should not be viewed as a declaration that a work is unforgivably flawed, but that it’s not ready yet for publication in that journal and may never be due to the aesthetic preferences of the editors who make the decisions. Samuel Ligon, editor of Willow Springs, says he loves it when a piece that is almost accepted but ultimately rejected by his journal is accepted into the Georgia Review or some other reputable journal. It’s encouraging that writers have options in the literary world and can find a publication that is suited to their unique creation.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blood Orange in Port Townsend

Yesterday, I had the chance to represent Blood Orange Review on a panel about literary journals at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference . At the table were editors from Concrete Wolf Press, Crab Creek Review, Tidepools , Bellingham Review, and Willow Springs.

We each had the opportunity to introduce our journal and talk about what goes behind the scenes once a submission leaves the writer’s hands. While the other journals had online components, Blood Orange Review was the sole example of an online-only journal. I took some time to talk about the benefits of publishing online, both for writer and editor:

1) Accessibility – Not only can readers access the journal free from anywhere in the world (provided they have a keyboard and an internet connection), but contributors can develop an online presence for their work which can be distributed easily.

2) Affordability – Some writers don’t realize that most editors, even editors of glossy print journals, are not paid for their work. Blood Orange Review is a completely volunteer effort, a labor of love funded by the shallow pockets of writers just like you. Fortunately, the overhead for an online journal is minimal, and as a result an online journal is more sustainable financially. It’s also more affordable for writers to submit. No postage, no copies, no SASE.

3) ExposureWillow Springs has a print run of about 1,400. Crab Creek Review is somewhere around 400 per issue. Not every issue sells out, so there are a lot of back copies to contend with. In an online forum, issues continue to receive exposure beyond their publication dates. Readership is not limited by geography, distribution, or subscription.

I am, of course, not suggesting that you should submit to online journals instead of print publications. I do both, and I encourage you to do likewise. I love being able to hold a print journal in my hands and put in on my bookshelf. But I also love being able to easily forward a link of my online work to anyone who might be interested.

As for Blood Orange Review, here are a couple points to consider when submitting to us:

1) We’re selective – We reject about 90% of submissions we receive. We’ve published high-schoolers, and we’ve published established writers who have published multiple books. We’re opening to all literary work that shows concern for language and is artfully constructed. However, our decisions on what to publish are extremely subjective.

2) We promote writers – When we accept a work for publication, we’ll ask the writer for “fan club” contacts, a list of emails to which we’ll send a one-time announcement upon publication. We recognize that writers are not always good at self-promotion, so we take on some of the chore. And once you publish with us, we continue to support our writers by presenting opportunities to submit to themed issues and posting notices of awards and other publications here on our blog.

3) We’re respectful – One way Blood Orange Review demonstrates its respect for writers is by responding to submissions in a timely manner. Our guidelines say we respond within 8 weeks, but often it is much faster than that. Each submission receives three reviews by the three editors on staff. When we get together to discuss submissions, we argue for the ones we like, and we take our time trying to convince the other editors that a work is worth publishing. When we say your submission “provoked discussion” in our editorial meeting, we really mean it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Call for Submissions for the Blood Orange Review Swing Shift Series 2008

Attention writers, it is time again for the Blood Orange Review Swing Shift Writers Series. This is your chance to use our blog as a forum for discussing the often undiscussed challenges of being a writer.

Each week for the month of August, the Blood Orange Review blog will post field reports from working writers across the country. Our theme for this year's series is "failure."

We want to hear about how writers' deal with the struggle to become published. Writing and publishing is a hard line of work. What do you do when you get writer's block? What methods or practices help you buck up and continue in this cut-throat field? What philosophies sustain you, even if the book you wrote three years ago still hasn't gotten picked up by a publisher? Do you have a whopper of a rejection letter that you want to share?

We will be accepting submissions for the Swing Shift Series during July and August 2008. Send your blog submissions (100-800 words) to Please attach your submission as a word document as well as embed the text directly into the email.

If you'd like to see last year's Swing Shift Series, look in this blog's archive for June 2007. We look forward to reading your responses.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Meet the Writers: Arthur Saltzman

We'd like you to meet Arthur Saltzman from Blood Orange Review issue 2.3.

“What keeps me writing is the deliciously partial satisfaction of getting something shaped and something said. It is a goad and a gratification at once, on the order of Samuel Beckett’s advice to ‘fail again, fail better.’ Or if I need greater comfort when the keys seize, there’s E. L. Doctorow’s contention that writing is ‘like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.'"

This is the motivation that keeps Arthur writing. We hope you take the time to read his essay entitled, Trompe L'Oreille.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good News from Blood Orange Contributors

At Blood Orange Review, we want to celebrate writers, not just for the moment they grace our virtual pages, but for their continued accomplishments. Heather and I are both writers, and we know how much rejection plays a role in the writer’s life.

So, when good things happen to our contributors, past and present, we want to spread the word. Become part of this stellar group by submitting your work or signing up to receive notification of new issues!

We’ll post several good news items each week. Keep up the good work!

Thomas Lux chose Michelle Bitting’s (Volume 2.3) full length manuscript "Good Friday Kiss" as the winner of the inaugural C & R Press DeNovo First Book Award. It comes out in May 2008. Her chapbook Blue Laws, published last December by Finishing Line Press, was recently nominated this year for a Puschcart.

Doug Ramspect’s poetry collection, Black Tupelo Country, has been awarded the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and will be published in the fall of 2008 by BkMk Press. We’re proud to have published his poetry in Blood Orange Review 2.2.

We wanted to share the news about Arthur Saltzman’s newest book. We were pleased to have him be a part of Blood Orange Review 2.3. Check out his short essay, and then check out this book:Solve for X, the fourth collection of creative nonfiction by Arthur Saltzman, demonstrates the writer's continuing effort to expand on the thematic range, lyrical capacities, and imaginative possibilities of the essay in a signature style marked by what Publishers Weekly deemed Saltzman's "riskily mellifluous language."

Eileen Malone was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes: one from Perigee and one from Cezanne's Carrot.

Joel James Davis, whose story appeared in Blood Orange Review Volume 2.4, has been nominated for a Pushcart by redivider for his story "jars."

Brent Fisk has won an honorable mention in Boulevard’s Emerging Poets Contest. His poetry previously appeared in Blood Orange Review Volume 2.5.

Meet the Writers

What can you learn from a writer’s bio? Publication credits and degrees give a skeletal outline of a writer’s movement through the literary world. From these, you can learn about new places to read and publish and discover new resources. But credentials don’t answer the big question: how do they do it? At Blood Orange Review, we ask all our writers what keeps them moving forward, day to day, with their writing. We’ve been inspired by what they’ve said. We hope you’ll take the time to get acquainted with the writer below and an issue from our archive. Don’t skip the bios! They’re worth reading in and of themselves. We’ll be posting answers to our question throughout the month, so come back and read some more.

Meet Sarah Bonifacio from :Blood Orange Review 3.1:

“I’m not even halfway into the writing life, so I know my answer will change as I mature. Needing to believe Jorge Luis Borges’s claim that 'in this world, beauty is so common' drives me to continue writing poems the way I do, to write them persistently and with the urge to make the everyday and oft-neglected epiphanic. I dwell in surroundings plainer than I’d wish them to be. I don’t know how I’d survive without the sensitivity to respond, by poem, to the small and the sudden: the glint in a fish’s eye, muffled shards of dialogue at a street corner, those 'certain slants of light' that Dickinson spoke of. To write about such moments is to try renewing them; it’s to plead them to be beautiful, to push myself to see them as so for I must see them as so if I’m to keep living. Should poem after poem be completed without my pursuit having ended, this is so only because it is transience itself—to which all human lives are subject, that which is common to us all—that I strive to contain, in the way Odysseus grappled with Proteus. Joyce accomplished this feat in Finnegans Wake and Ulysses. I want to do the same. Only when I do would I quit writing, and be through with life too.”

Meet Ace Boggess from Blood Orange Review 1.2:

“I write poetry to take photographs. When crafting verse, I’m trying to capture an image, a scene or an idea that’s important to me at the time. My poetry books are my photo albums. Through them I can relive those parts of my past and, if I’ve done my job well, share them with others in a way that they can see what I’ve seen or know and understand what was on my mind at a particular moment in time. My notebook is the only camera I have, so if I stopped writing poems, I’d have no tether left to my past.”