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.