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.