Project Girl – Batey Lechería

imageHello Calyx blog readers! This is Olivia, one of CALYX’s interns. My first blog post is a prelude to a longer interview that will be up next week. It’s about Project Girl, a student-led initiative in the Dominican Republic focused on breaking the cycle of poverty for young girls in the DR through educational workshops and community-building activities.

Built on a mutual passion for education, feminism, and equity, Sara, Jahaan, Andrea, and Luisa have been hard at work expanding opportunities for young girls in Batey Lechería through a curriculum they developed based on their own experiences growing up in a country where women are not always encouraged to finish school.

A longer interview with this fem-quartet is forthcoming! We’ll cover the history of Project Girl, and give a look into the kind of work they have been able to do in areas of high need in Batey Lechería concerning girl’s and women’s education. Until then, you can check out Project Girl DR’s website.



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Our readers are just racing along through the current submissions this period, and we are already finding a lot of material that we want to send to the Editorial Collective for further discussion. I’m sending out preliminary notices a little early this year, so here are some things to consider if you receive a “held” message.

Once a held submission is discussed (any time between January and April), you may receive any of the following responses: Revise and Resubmit, Conditional AcceptanceAcceptance, and Decline. Here’s how to unpack that:

  • If you receive feedback that encourages you to “revise and resubmit” a piece, it is because the editors believe that small or substantial changes would make it a good fit for CALYX, but that it isn’t right for CALYX in its current form. If you do choose to revise and resubmit, please take the suggestions seriously. If the suggested revisions are ignored, our editors will likely not select it again.
  • If you were held a previous year, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be held again. The decision process is a fluid, organic thing, which can be frustrating. If you received a “revise and resubmit” notice last year, efforts will be made to consider it in light of the changes that have been made.
  • If you receive a notice that declines your submission but encourages you to submit again, please note that such a suggestion is quite sincere. Anyone held for the final round has been positively considered by at least two readers, and even if you weren’t selected this round, we find your work compelling.
  • If you receive a conditional acceptance, there will be small changes required before we publish your piece. If you choose not to make those changes, you may withdraw the piece at any time.
  • If you receive an acceptance, please take note that we accept material for two issues during this period. The work accepted for this round will be published over two volumes (29:3 and 30:1) in 2017.
  • If you’re a poet, we may not be holding all of your poems. We allow up to six poems per submission, so it’s possible that we’ll hold and discuss as few as one or as many as all of them. If you’d like confirmation of which poems are held, you can always email me at

This is just the first waves of notices, so remember to keep submitting! We’re open until December 31, and we’ll be reading and responding steadily through March.

CALYX Open Submission Timeline


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CALYX is currently accepting poetry and prose through December 31. Our readers have already started on the initial submissions, so now seems like a good time to lay out the timeline for this submission period and what the writers can look forward to. Full guidelines can be found, but here’s what you can expect once you’ve submitted:

Now – December 31: Send us up to 6 poems or a 5,000-word max story (fiction or nonfiction). Simultaneous submissions are fine, but we don’t accept previously published work. You are free to submit in both the poetry and prose categories. We have a lot of people who accidentally submit under “Book Reviews,” so make sure that you choose the appropriate genre when you submit so that we can file them accordingly!

December 1 – January 31: Every single submission we receive is read by at least two of our amazing volunteer readers. Our readers are experienced editors, writers, and teachers. If a submission is approved by two readers, it’s held for final discussion with the Editorial Collective. All submissions (held or not) will receive a notice around this time regarding the status of their material. Unfortunately, we cannot give personalized feedback for everyone who submits, but all submissions are read with great care and attention to detail.

January 1 – March 31: Our Editorial Collective meets once a week to discuss the poems and stories that are held by the readers. While we don’t do a “majority rules” approach, the collective does have to generally agree that a piece should be included in the journal. Please be assured that there is both exhaustive discussion and compelling debate, and it’s quite a thing to see sometimes. Even pieces we haven’t accepted have been championed, dissected, and read aloud. Every submission discussed by the collective receives personal feedback. If your piece is held and you don’t receive a feedback message by April 30, PM me at

All material chosen this period will be published in Vols. 29-3 and 30-1, which will be released in 2017. Happy writing, everyone!

“No Complaining on the Yacht”: Women in Writing and Publishing


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Last night I attended “Transmit Culture: Women in Writing and Publishing” at Portland State University. It was a panel featuring author Karen Karbo, Tin House Press editor Masie Cochran, and our own Alicia Bublitz.

There was a lot of discussion about what it means to be a woman in publishing and how marketing women’s writing has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. (Anyone else remember Chick Lit and its candy-pink covers? Good luck being taken seriously!)

All three of the panelists did a great job of talking about the VIDA numbers and their own numbers on the diversity that goes into their reading lists, teaching lists, or publication schedules. A lot of statistics were brought up to illustrate what most of us already know: women are underrepresented in publishing across the board. So are trans writers, LGBTQ writers, writers of color, and impoverished writers. But what I heard at the heart of the discussion wasn’t really numbers, it was the sense of unfairness, the sense that in small and not easily identifiable ways, women are being reduced and pigeonholed in the writing world.

I could discuss the panel at length because it was fascinating, but I want instead to just list a few of the points that stuck out to me and generate some discussion. In the comments section or on Facebook, I’d like to know if these sensations ring true to you, if you have your own anecdotal evidence, or if you feel strongly to the contrary.

  • The idea of “Dinner Party Names” vs. “Bedside Table Names.” When Masie asked her interns at Tin House why they became interested in writing, most of them initially listed Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc. before admitting that what they’re currently reading is actually Roxanne Gay or Mindy Kaling. Does anyone else find themselves doing this–listing “classic” male authors to impress others?
  • Foundational sexism in the way we read. Who else read predominately white male authors in high school (with other classes for women or writers of color) and learned to use those authors as the barometer for what constituted a classic?
  • The one-way street of reading. Women are encouraged to read books by both men and women, but men are expected to only read books by or about men and are even shamed for reading books by or about women. That could certainly explain the disparity in the publishing numbers!
  • The aforementioned “Book-shaming” is enforced by society at large rather than one sex in particular. Karen had an ugly anecdote about a male participant winning a free copy of the book she wrote about Katherine Hepburn. When he went to pick it up, the woman handing it to him said, “You’ll want to give this to your wife.” Seriously, WTF is that?
  • Social media presence. Are men just allowed to live in caves and leave their personal lives out of their art? Can they brood on their book jacket cover and be sort of homely and still make it in the writing world? Related question: Are women allowed the same opportunity?

At some point in the discussion, Karen said “There’s no complaining on the yacht” because everyone on that panel was a professional publisher, editor, or writer. It takes privilege (money, time, education, opportunity) to get to that point, which many talented people don’t have. But I think “Don’t complain” is a common thing to say to women, so I say “Let’s discuss” instead.

The Third Character


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*Note: Spoilers below. Go read the book.*


Alicia Bublitz

As Brenna has already told you, several of us from the CALYX office took a road trip to Vancouver, BC to see the Vancouver International Film Festival showing of Into the Forest. We live(ish) tweeted, ate poutine (because, Canada, eh!), and extensively discussed our reactions. Much like other reviewers I found the film to be beautifully acted and a striking contrast to more traditional novels that address social collapse from the outside in rather than focusing on the very personal realities of re-learning life. I had strong feelings about Eva’s dancing—in the book she is a ballerina, here they made her a modern dancer—but more about that later.  The part that has, fascinatingly, stuck in my mind is the most neglected (literally) third major character of the film.

What we saw was a deliberate and holy narrowing of focus, but not possibility, to a trinity of family and home.

It’s not, as several reviews have argued it should be, the forest itself. I found Patricia Rozema’s “direction” of the forest to be beautiful and realistic—I didn’t feel it necessary for it to be scarier, looming, or encroaching; the scariest interactions are with other desperate people, something I felt to be realistic. The gorgeous presence of the forest outside of Eva’s studio windows, indeed all the windows, seemed to me to encompass the land that is waiting to sustain and embrace the sisters, but that they hold at bay, to the extent of covering windows and boarding up doors for as long as possible.

No, it is their house that I found to be the fascinating third to their duo—a fickle and somewhat crotchety character mirroring the ways in which society has failed to keep these girls safe. It begins somewhat obviously when the power goes out. They literally speak to the house (“lights on”) and receive no answer, but then the house begins to speak to them. The static from their emergency radio, the drips as water enters through the unpatched roof, the creaking groan of the timbers as rot takes hold. The house is ever changing and constantly communicating its power over the sisters.

Perhaps this was clearer in the book, but as a very visual person I found the hulking presence of their house as it slowly falls down around them to be an inspired directorial choice. The powerful dystopic statement of two young women confined to home and hearth as childhood dreams are destroyed felt terrifyingly possible. Eva and Nell are literally being stifled—Eva must leave the house to be able to safely give birth, the mold and decay of the house makes it unhealthy to inhabit, and neither sister can grow past regretting what has been lost while confined to the clearing of their childhood.

Perhaps because of the ways in which our society regards home and hearth, kinship work, child raising—in short ‘women’s work’—to be unworthy of great literature, this has been overlooked by many who felt that the movie should be bigger in scope. Instead what we saw was a deliberate and holy narrowing of focus, but not possibility, to a trinity of family and home. As such, it was fitting that when a third arrives, Eva and Nell are finally able to break free of walls and redefine themselves.

The “Man” Booker Prize and the Problem of Prizes


Unless you live under a twitter rock you will have seen that Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. He is the first Jamaican, and, from the sound of things, the first author to use so many swear words to win the prize. We’re so excited about the swear words we might even be willing to overlook the 1/3 representation of woman authors on the short list (we had a good run at it Hilary Mantel; waiting for your trifecta with The Mirror and the Light! And, let’s face it, more of the PBS series…)

Prizes are an essential part of the writing world–they mark you down as a serious author even when ‘Fifty Shades of this Week’s Fad’ is outselling you by a thousand percent; they are part of what keeps small presses and small bookstores in business, and they are part of the way we honor authors and weed through some of the thousands of new releases. And, with no disrespect intended to all white male authors out there, here are two reasons we’re so excited the prize winner is not a white man:

  1. The stories of ‘the other’ are more likely to be genre-ized (I’m sure that’s a word). Work by women is chick lit, work by people of color are ‘immigrant stories’, etc.; there is deemed to be no literary market for their stories. Look at Ursula K. LeGuin, a prolific and powerful writer who’s been being published since the 60s and is only now in the last decade collecting major non-genre awards. Highbrow continues to be unfortunately white and male.
  2. Along with the award comes a greater visibility of your entire body of work. Honors like the Nobel Prize and Poet Laureate positions, not to mention fat speaking fees, endowed chairs, and plum visiting professorship gigs are based on an author’s entire oeuvre, so if women and people of color aren’t being recognized for the ‘regular’ awards they won’t be selected for these major positions.

So, congrats to Mr. James on his win and to the prize committee for the racial diversity of the shortlist (more women, more women, more women!). And we’ll read A Brief History of Seven Killings as soon as we have time to sit down with all nearly 700 pages of it; better make it an e-book or you may end up with carpal tunnel.

On ‘Into the Forest’ and How to Live Correctly


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Brenna Crotty

Last Thursday, I had the tremendous privilege of attending the Vancouver International Film Festival, where I was able to see an early screening of Into the Forest, the new Patricia Rozema film based on Jean Hegland’s novel of the same name. I also had the privilege of posting cheeky tweets about it throughout the day, but now that I have finally digested all of the incredible poutine I ate along the way, I’m ready for something a bit more long form. Let’s get reviewin’.


“What do you mean this is a post-apocalyptic movie with no male lead?”

There is a crucial scene early on in Into the Forest that involves sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) fighting over a 5-gallon canister of gasoline. With the power out for months and the world slowly descending into violence and chaos beyond their property, five gallons of gasoline means electricity, music, showers, TV, popcorn, and a brief foray back into civilization.

Eva wants to use the gas. Nell insists that it be saved for an emergency. But the question that looms behind this debate is, “What good is five gallons of gasoline going to do in the long run? How much can it stave off the inevitable?”

I liked this movie for its small moments, for the way it breaks the world and people down into little pieces. Lack of power is represented twofold in the argument over the gasoline. The devolving civilization beyond their borders is hinted at through rumors but never truly explored. The gorgeous cinematography unfolds the situation slowly, focusing on fingernails, chocolate candy, table corners, and edges before expanding out into the greater natural world. The sisters’ house and their relationship becomes a microcosm for examining the apocalypse on a larger scale. How do you survive with limited supplies? How do you continue to trust? How do you relearn to treat others well?

Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood are outstanding in this film, portraying a deep bond while still making the strain of survival real and raw. Page’s Nell is tough, uncertain, and unwaveringly practical, while Wood’s Eva is passionate, animalistic, and deeply in tune with her own body. The camera work pulls no punches in couching both of their experiences in the the visceral. It allows them to have flawed complexions, chewed fingernails, bloody thighs, blistered palms. The life they build together is a tough, frightening, and dangerous one, but it is inspiring to watch them do it.

Into the Forest is not the first film to ponder what will happen if the structures of our society breach. In the years since CALYX published the novel back in 1996, we have become obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories. The Walking Dead, The Book of Eli, Mad Max, The Road, and many others are all dystopian accounts of the end of civilization. In most cases, their storylines have the same end goal: Rebuild society as well as you can. Try to return civilization to its previous safety and glory.

This is not the story of Into the ForestInto the Forest is about learning how to live correctly. It looks critically at the way that Americans consume–mindlessly, constantly, and with no thought as to where their food or water or power comes from. I understand that Ellen Page has spoken before about how difficult it is to make a movie with two female stars, and I’m not surprised. Because this is not a traditional male take on the apocalypse. It’s not really about fighting or surrendering or leading or hoarding or any of the traditional themes. It’s about reconnecting with the way we used to live as a species, the way we used to have a symbiotic relationship with nature and each other. The film is quiet, measured, and firmly character-driven.

As someone who has read the book, I’ll be interested to hear about other people’s take on the movie. For me this was a supplemental piece, beautifully powering the story and themes I already knew. In preserving the events of the plot, the movie glosses over some important scenes and themes from the novel, so I’m excited to learn how those new to the story view the film. Stay posted for updates on when it comes to the states and where you can see it.

Reasons I’ll Probably Live-Tweet the Into the Forest Premiere


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Brenna Crotty

Tomorrow, our small but intrepid staff heads up to Vancouver, BC, to see the premiere of Into the Forest, a movie based off of the post-apocalyptic Jean Hegland novel that CALYX published back in 1996. I want to share this experience with you all as soon as humanly possible. Ideally, I’d just wait until the movie gets released in U.S. theaters, but instead I’m going to live-tweet my reactions while I watch, for the following reasons:

  • Alicia can’t tell me not to because her jurisdiction over me ends at the border (I might be wrong about that one).
  • We’re seeing the 11:00 AM showing on a Thursday and may therefore be the only people in the whole theater.
  • I want to find out how many times I can repeat “Ellen Page!!!” with a 140-character limit.
  • This movie is about society’s slow movement away from dependence on electricity, cell towers, and global connectivity, and I find irony amusing.
  • Just once I’d like to say, “But how does one live rightly in a consumer-based capitalistic society that is slowly draining the planet of essential resources?” and have a good answer waiting.
  • Everyone is freaking out about how the film will handle the “controversial scene,” so I want to be the first one to describe it to you all in vague yet salacious terms.
  • No one can convince me that just because we’re seeing the 11:00 AM showing on a Thursday that doesn’t mean Ellen Page won’t magically show up, and I would like to document that moment as it happens.
  • The book was awesome and I am just SO. EXCITED. to see the movie.

Vol. 28-3 Update (Of Course It’s Late)


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Brenna Crotty

Hey, everyone! I’m really starting to dig this blog because it means I can apologize to you all in one big, sweeping statement instead of individually during irate email interactions.

Vol. 28-3 is still in the works. We’re 98% there, including proofing, but we hit a little snag when it came to art. We didn’t get as many submissions as we would have liked this summer, so we took a little extra time to reach out to artists we like (such as New York-based artist/activist Nona Faustine) and ask them submit to CALYX. I think that it’s going to be worth the extra few weeks of waiting, as we’ll have a really beautiful, politically-conscious art section this round.

I’m forever the Charlie Brown, optimistically expecting my deadlines to stay steady in front of me, but they always get yanked a little bit further away. This time I’m going to say that the issue will be ready for shipping by the end of the month, and I’m totally 100% sure I won’t have to eat those words. No, really this time.

To the authors and reviewers who submitted more than a year ago and have yet to see their work in print at CALYX: Sorry! I know it feels like Nixon was in office when you were accepted. But hot damn, I have to say that this is going to be a phenomenal issue. It features some really fascinating reflections on the nature of truth, aging, culture, and sexuality. It starts from a place of warm universality and ends on a poem that breaks my heart every time I read it. It is going to be so awesome, y’all.

TL;DR: Vol. 28-3 is almost ready for publication! I’ll announce when it’s about ready, ideally by the end of the month. (Also, send us your art submissions!)

Why It Takes Us So Damn Long to Get Back to You


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Brenna Crotty

CALYX’s General Submission period opens next Thursday, October 1st, and runs until December 31st. I love this time of year because I get to read beautiful, brilliant poetry and prose for four months straight.

But I recognize that for the women who submit, this can be an extremely frustrating time. After all, if you submit in October, hearing back from us in February (or March, or August) seems like an excessively long time to wait. I understand this feeling. Heck, every time I submit something, I suddenly embody Benjamin Percy’s “Refresh, Refresh,” checking my email obsessively. So now seems like a great time to explain what the hell we’re doing during the submission period, and why it takes us so damn long to get back to you.

I’m going to lead you down the dark, labyrinthine method of material selection, but the short answer is that we’re still a paper publication in a digital world, and a studious one at that. Having a full-color art section and a gorgeous cover are the benefits; long wait times are the drawback. Also, we do the proofing stage for like ten years, seriously, it takes forever.

The first thing that happens to any submission at CALYX is assignment to a reader. If you open any of our journals to the masthead and look at the “Editorial Assistants,” you’ll see a list of wonderfully talented, brilliant women. Two of those readers (or three if the first two don’t agree) have to read each submission and agree to hold it before it can go to our Editorial Collective.

The Editorial Collective is a volunteer group that meets in person after normal business hours, starting in January. We actually have two collectives: one for poetry, one for prose. Some of the editors sit on both collectives; all of them have read with us at least two years before they join. The held submissions are discussed by the collectives in batches for two hours once a week, every week, for three months straight. And good gravy, these editors can debate. They’re all teachers, writers, and editors, and they have a range of opinions that are all worth listening to. Each editor gets a vote, and while we try to follow a “majority rules” mindset, the truth is that we like to make sure everyone is (mostly) satisfied with the result before a submission is accepted or rejected.

By now we’re through March. Didn’t that go by fast? But now we’ve gotten to my favorite part. As the Editorial Coordinator, it’s my job to take notes during the meetings and assemble it all into something coherent. Everyone who has a submission discussed by the collective receives feedback on what the editors liked and what they thought needed work. (The feedback can occasionally be conflicting. I once had to send an author the following confusing suggestion: “One editor recommends you cut the fruit imagery; another editor would like to see more fruit imagery. Do with that what you will.”) This is a good reminder: our editors aren’t united in their literary preferences.

If you are accepted in CALYX, it’s another wait as we divide material between two issues of the journal, paginate it, copyedit it, and proof it. This takes…some time. (The submissions we accept this round will be published in Vol. 29-3 and 30-1, 2017!) The result, though, is a bold, colorful journal that has forty years of history behind it. I rather think it’s worth it.

So yes, it’s a long process. But I hope this brief overview has convinced you that it’s not just me sitting in the darkened CALYX offices with a bottle of gin and an audio recording of Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck, not answering your emails satisfactorily. There are a lot of people volunteering their time and creative power here at CALYX, and they are giving every submission the attention it deserves.

Happy writing, everyone! I hope to read and share your work this fall (and winter, and spring…)


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