Quick update from the editor’s side of CALYX:
Quick update from the editor’s side of CALYX:
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 Acceptance, Acceptance, and Decline. Here’s how to unpack that:
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.
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.
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.
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…)
I’ve been working at CALYX for about two years now, and I have immensely enjoyed the various jobs that include coordinating the editorial collective every year. During my time, I’ve come to two conclusions about being an editor for a feminist publication:
1) A lot of people submitting think they know exactly what we’re looking to publish
2) They’re wrong
They’re wrong because CALYX isn’t looking to publish anything in particular, other than excellent writing from women-identified authors.
In my short time here, I have read a lot of poems and stories that are about what might be considered “women’s issues.” Stories of labor and childbirth, memories of mothering, deconstructions of patriarchal restrictions, poems about breast cancer diagnoses. I am proud of the material that CALYX has published on these subjects over the last 40 years. I find all of them incredibly important. But I think we get a disproportionately high number of them simply because we are a journal of women’s literature, and they seem like the subjects we’re most likely to publish.
Ironically, when we get a lot of pieces that address the same topic, those pieces tend to get compared to each other and therefore reviewed more stringently. When the editorial collective gets twelve poems about breast cancer, we’re more likely to take note of the one that’s approaching it in a new, exciting way.
At one meeting, we had an editor fight long and hard for a poem that was just about vultures and not much else. When we asked her why, she explained that vultures didn’t appear in most of the work we receive, and it stuck out to her in an interesting way.
“I like vultures,” she said. “They’re creepy.”
All of our editors are women, but they don’t all have the same tastes. One of them, apparently, is really into vultures. One of them hates what she calls “Looking-out-the-window” poems. One of them has said she’d be really interested to see more narratives of women in their various professional lives. And so on.
The odd thing about having the reputation that we do is that people assume we only accept material with certain themes or subjects, so that’s all they send us. We have on separate occasions been asked if someone is allowed to send in work if she’s a lesbian, or if someone is allowed to send in work if she isn’t a lesbian. This whittling down of who we are and what we accept saddens me a little. Being a journal that promotes women’s writing and art shouldn’t make us a niche publication.
Women are half the population, and I’d like to encourage all of them to write any story they like. Bring to light the raw and undisclosed, make prevalent the domestic, shine the spotlight on the caretaker, expose the abuse. Do those things, and give them all the meaning and beauty and scar tissue they deserve.
But also, also, send us your vulture poems.
When The Puritan, a Canadian quarterly publication, reached out to us at CALYX, I immediately went and read up on everything of theirs I could find. Having been sufficiently amused by the description of their blog thusly: “The Town Crier is an arm’s-length, bloggy appendage to that venerable beast of Canlit, the Puritan,” I take great pleasure in helping them spread the word of their annual contest.
This one is pretty cool, as it allows for both poetry and prose (Margaret Atwood was one of the judges last year!), and it offers prizes in the form of money ($1000 prize!) and books (books!)
Read on for all the details!
For every literary magazine, a prize. Our lit culture’s thick with ’em. Whether you’re an ardent submitter, see them as a necessary evil to keep literary ships afloat, or you love to hate them, writing awards can often feel more common than the periodicals they support.
Here at The Puritan, we’ve got our own—The Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence (yes, intentionally long-titled)—and it’s in its fourth successful year. However, we like to think of ‘The Morton’ as slightly more intriguing, slightly more appealing than many other honors from many other magazines—even those that grant a bit more money.
That’s because we see The Morton as a real writer’s prize. Sure, we give away $1000 cash to each winner in the fields of fiction and poetry. We toast each work with publication in our journal and at our annual fete, Black Friday (a must see, if you’re in Toronto). And we’ve enlisted the assistance of established literary voices to help select the winners—last year’s judges were Zsuzsi Gartner and Margaret Atwood, and this year we’ve got the amazingly talented Ian Williams (poetry) and Miriam Toews (fiction) at the helm.
But what also makes our prize is especially suited to writers because, at the core, every writer is a rabid, omnivorous, and compulsive reader. So each winner gets a prize package of books, generously donated from a growing list of stalwart Canadian presses, that grants a small library to a few lucky people. This year, the package is bigger than ever: we’re donating $950 worth of books for each winner, donated from the following rock-steady presses (now breathe in deep and try to say the entire list with one breath):
Anvil Press, BookThug, Brick Books, Brindle & Glass, Caitlin Press, Chaudiere Books, Coach House Books, Cormorant Books, Coteau Books, Dundurn Press, ECW Press, Freehand Press, Guernica Editions, House of Anansi, Goose Lane Editions/icehouse poetry, Mansfield Press, Mawenzie House, Pedlar Press, Quattro Books, Random House/McClelland & Stewart, Talonbooks, Turnstone Press, Véhicule Press, and Wolsak & Wynn!
For international or American winners, this is an irreplaceable dose of titles that often rarely crosses the border. For all winners, it’s a fantastic snapshot of a year in Canadian literary publishing. And, besides helping The Puritan keep chugging along (we don’t get paid around here—this is a true-blue labor of love), the small donation fee also helps us keep strengthening ties to the web-like family of Canadian cultural producers, who could never succeed or continue alone.
But don’t trust our word alone; we’ve also got a few ringing endorsements from our past winners.
For Daniel Scott Tysdal, our 2014 fiction winner, the Morton Prize “was an ideal way for me to get this new work out there and signal this fresh direction … it also came with a shelf of incredible books that will keep me busy and inspired for years.”
For Laurie D Graham, our 2014 poetry winner, the best thing was all about feeling recognition from last year’s guest judge, Margaret Atwood. “The craziest thing about … winning the Thomas Morton Prize is knowing Margaret Atwood had not just read the poem, but had penned a few words in response to it. That’s one thing prizes do for you as a writer: they lend outside legitimacy to this work you do alone, at your desk, for no wage, in a society where wage is everything and vocation nearly incomprehensible. People who don’t know about the world of poetry (and even people who do) hear the words ‘prize’ and ‘Margaret Atwood,’ and it now makes a little more sense that I choose to hang out at my desk and not draw wages for this many hours (years!) at a stretch, arranging words on a page.”
As for the nitty-gritty, winners will be announced in late October or early November 2015, and will be invited to our annual Black Friday celebration and year-in-review party in Toronto, Ontario. Next year’s award will be announced in early 2016 and will feature even more awesome prizes, another set of sweet judges, and even more love.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the sheer mass of contests out there, be a real puritan (ha, not really, they were horrible). But submit to a prize specifically designed for writers, and help us commemorate the undying memory of Thomas Morton (may he rest in peace).
With the start of the 2012 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize reading period, I’ve been thinking a lot about why people submit (or should submit) to literary contests. I recently had a conversation with a friend that went something like this:
Me: Hey friend who is also a poet. You should submit to the 2012 Lois Prize. It’s great. Emily Warn is our judge and she’s, like, amazing.
Poet Friend: Is there a reading fee?
Me: Yep, it’s $15 and 100% of the fee goes to produce our 2012-2013 CALYX Journals. You can be part of the magic!
Poet Friend: $15!! You must think I’m made of money. Only my poems are pure gold! You’re no friend of mine–get lost!
(Okay well the conversation didn’t really end like that, but you get the idea).
Sound familiar? Given the tiny budgets of most literary magazines, recent cuts to arts-related funding, and the fiercly competitive publishing scene today, it probably does. Lost of magazines have contests and they do it both to support themselves and also to promote the work of the best new writers. Lots of writers submit to contests. Lots of them don’t (or can’t).
While it’s true that submitting to contests take an investment on the part of the writer, the benefits are great. Here’s a few that come to mind when I think about CALYX’s prize:
There you have it. You can even save yourself the paper and stamps by submitting online this year. Thanks for your support of our contest–if you want more information about our contest, you can read more about it here.
Thank you to all for the great response on our first pick of the week: The Violet Shyness of Their Eyes: Notes from Nepal. As many of you know, CALYX’s mission is to provide the finest art and literature by women to a wide audience. We’ve decided to do discounts each week on a favorite book or journal of the staff. That way, more people can have the chance to fall in love with the many writers, poets, and artists of CALYX!
Staff Pick of the Week- Beverly McFarland (senior editor) recommends:
Vol. 20:3, Summer 2002, is my “Journal Pick of the Week”! Because included in all the wonderful work is one of my most favorite stories we’ve ever published—“Wings” by Teresa S. Mathes. Who among us has never dreamed of literally having “wings” and being able to really fly? Women in Mathes’ story are born with wings! Great summer reading about girls learning to test their freedom.
Enjoy our discount this week.
– Beverly McFarland, senior editor