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It’s Complicated

jki

What do the three men pictured above have in common? If you guessed, “They’re all white dudes!” or “They’re all sociopaths!” you would be correct, on both counts. But Walter White, Hank Moody, and Tony Soprano share another important characteristic, one that demonstrates one of the best ways to complicate a character. All three men have daughters whom they love very, very much.

It was no accident that, as Breaking Bad came to a close, the last thing Walt does with his family is stare lovingly at Holly as she lies in her crib. I didn’t finish Californication, because the show’s writers decided to put the whole thing on repeat after the third season, but Wikipedia informed me that it ends with Becca’s wedding. And throughout The Sopranos, Tony tells Meadow that she’s more like him than her mother. The major plot line at the end of the series stems from Tony seeking revenge after one of his rivals says some not-nice-things to Meadow at a New York City restaurant.

I call this the “Give the Guy a Daughter” phenomenon. If you have a character, in particular a main character and especially a man, that would be very easy for the audience to absolutely and totally despise, give the guy a daughter that he loves and prizes above all else. We will forgive many sins if the man loves his daughter.

There’s probably a lot of psychoanalysis that could go into this phenomenon, especially regarding the sort of inverted “Daddy Problems” thing going on here. Also, we should probably talk about how women characters don’t get any bonus points for loving their children because it’s just expected, whereas men characters, by simply being around their children, get to revel in the audience’s good graces. But I’m more interested in the mechanics. The “Give the Guy a Daughter” concept works because loving a daughter absolves the man of some, not nearly all, but some, of his moral reprehensibility. If he loves his daughter, he can’t be all bad. But not all characters are monsters, and non-monster characters also need some complicating.

In a tweet not too long ago, Guy in your MFA talked about how his main character having an affair demonstrated emotional depth. It was a smartass remark, but something I often see in short story submissions. The main character is a little boring, maybe a husband who works as an insurance salesman, or a wife who teaches second grade. How does the writer spice it up a little? Throw in an affair. Voila! Now we have tension! Emotional depth! Lies! Perfection!

If it works for Don Delillo, it will work for you.

I brought the “Give the Guy a Daughter” thing up with some of my EIU friends a while ago, and they helped me brainstorm some other ways to complicate a character. If a woman character is spectacular in every imaginable way, make her clumsy. If the character is a total nerd, have him/her listen to hardcore gangster rap. If the character is Catholic, make him guilt-free. Minds will be blown.

I think these concepts work because melding opposites immediately creates tension, and tension leads to drama, and drama leads to a good story. What strikes me as odd is what does or does not become cliché. It seems like the “Give the Guy a Daughter” and “Affair Equals Emotional Depth” concepts could go on forever. But does anyone want to read about another alcoholic priest? Or English professor having an affair with a student? Or writer with writer’s block?

Perhaps the best way to figure this out is to catalogue some other repetitive, but not quite cliché, character complications. Readers, what do you got?

–Sean Towey

Bluestem At AWP15: Postcard Contest

BoxofBluestem2015

 

Thanks to everyone who came by the table at AWP in Minneapolis to say hello. If you picked up a postcard for our 2015 contest, we look forward to reading your work! Here’s a reminder of the contest guidelines:

1. Pick up a Bluestem postcard  at AWP and write an amazing poem, story, or essay on it.
2. Mail that postcard to Bluestem Postcard Contest c/o English Department, 600 Lincoln Ave., Eastern Illinois University,  Charleston, IL 61920. Don’t forget to give us your digital contact info.
3. Top entries will be considered for publication in an upcoming contest issue of Bluestem (online and/or print).
4. One grand prize winner will be awarded $50.00.
5. Limit one entry per submitter. No submissions
considered by current or past students, faculty, or staff of EIU.
6. All submissions must be postmarked no later than
April 30, 2015, to be considered for the contest.
7. Look for winning entries on bluestemmagazine.com.

Last year we had lots of excellent entries for our contest, and we cannot wait to see what this year will bring. Here’s a look at last years winners featured in the June 2014 Online Issue:

“Dear Dad” by Judy Halebsky
“Through the Viewfinder” by Sarah Shaffer
“The Youth Minister & His Wife Go to the Pool” by Anne Kniggendorf

“You Do You”: It won’t be for everyone

A couple of weeks ago, Colson Whitehead published an op-ed in The New York Times Magazine titled “How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture.” In a glorious moment of online irony, the piece, an anti-narcissism salvo from a writer who just published a memoir about playing poker, showed up on my Facebook newsfeed at least ten times. We are now using media dedicated to self-aggrandizement to share our thoughts on the deleterious effects of narcissism in our culture. Go team.

Whitehead’s main point, which has previously been made by Charles Taylor in The Ethics of Authenticity, is that the “you do you” mindset leaves no room for criticism. If everything is relative, no one action or actor is bad or good. As Whitehead puts it: “‘You do you,’ taken to its extreme, provides justification for every global bad actor. The invasion of Ukraine is Putin being Putin, Iran’s nuclear ambitions Khamenei being Khamenei.”

I agree with Whitehead that the prevalence of narcissism in our culture is a problem. However, the piece is extremely bitter. Someone from Generation X calling someone else “narcissistic” is extraordinarily annoying, in a pot-kettle-black sort of way. My other issue with Whitehead’s piece is that it ignores the positive justifications for the “you do you” ethical imperative, which can be summed up in the phrase “Who am I to judge?” The idea is that, because we can never truly and totally understand the inner-workings of another person, we should not judge that person’s actions. It’s not that I don’t want to criticize another person, it’s that I don’t have the right.

The culture is not nearly as hopeless as Whitehead proposes. There are not a whole lot of people saying “That thing in Ferguson? That was just Darren Wilson being Darren Wilson.” Or “That thing in Charleston? Michael Slager being Michael Slager.” Or “That thing in Indiana? The Indiana State Congress being the Indiana State Congress.” We are willing to make moral judgements about the actions of others in specific circumstances.

I believe the issue is a little bit deeper, and perhaps more pernicious, than critics of the narcissism present in millennial culture wants to admit. The “you do you” mindset is only partly, as Whitehead supposes, about protecting ourselves from criticism and assuaging our fragile egos. It is also about creating a moral horizon that everyone can follow. With the rise of modernism and postmodernism, any and all ethical paradigms went out the window (some for very good reason). But there weren’t any ethical paradigms left to replace the moral horizons flattened by the postmodernists.

About the only ethical imperative left in our society is: never disallow others from being themselves. Which tells me lots of things not to do. But it doesn’t tell me a whole lot about what I should do, besides keep being me.

Our nation is very good about discussing the protection of individual rights from systematic injustice. Taxation without representation. Civil Rights Movement. Gay Marriage. But what we are not very good at talking about is what happens when individual rights battle other individual rights. What happens when a woman’s right to control her body runs up against freedom of religion?

The time is coming when “me being me” will somehow affect “you being you.” The real question is, what will we do then?

 

–Sean Towey

Drinking and Writing and Drinking

A writer is an anxious creature. There is the little gnawing creature at the back of your head telling you the words you insist on putting to the page are not only incomprehensible and stupid, but boring. You’re a boring person. Then there are the rejections from literary magazines, short in length and long in an ability to crush confidence. Finally, there’s Duotrope, a web site that writers use to keep track of their submissions and to predict the arrival of the aforementioned soul-crushing rejection letters.

But then there is alcohol, which provides writers with self-assurance while simultaneously disappearing disappointing memories. In my opinion, the writer’s anxiety re:failure has directly lead to the writers-as-alcoholics stereotype. Seeing as AWP, where thousands of writers gather to drink and talk about writing, is this weekend, it is a fitting time to explore what various writers have said about booze.

The following quotes are all from Goodreads.

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.”
—Dorothy Parker

I don’t know much about Dorothy Parker, but, judging from that quote, she seems like she was a lot of fun. Because here’s the thing about hooking up with someone because you were drinking to forget about how you want to be a writer—it could become material for a great short story.

“I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.” 

Sylvia Plath

Hardcore alcoholics, the type of people who maintain a near constant buzz, drink vodka. It’s odorless, clear, and pairs well with any other liquid. The amazing writer Sylvia Plath, who is unfortunately more famous for her mental instability than her syntax, nails the writer’s love-affair with drinking. It is both self-destructive (swallowing swords is not healthy) and confidence-boosting. We call this sort of relationship tragic.

“War and drink are the two things man is never too poor to buy.” 

William Faulkner

Well-played, Mr. Faulkner, well-played. Perhaps there is a direct proportional relationship between the amount of time the United States has been at war and the rise of microbreweries. If we can’t defeat the terrorists, we’ll out-drink them using our best home-grown American hops.

This might be apocryphal, but I heard a story about Hemingway driving to Faulkner’s house to tell Faulkner he had to drink less. If Hemingway is telling you to sober up, you’re in a bad, bad way.

“I drink because it’s the only time I can stand it.”

—Truman Capote

I love this quote because what is the “it”? Life? Writing? Love? All of the above?

There are a lot of great non-drinking writers, too, for example David Sedaris and David Foster Wallace. Also, no proof exists to show that the hard-drinking writers would have been worse off if they didn’t drink. It strikes me that Sylvia Plath’s poetry might have improved had she gotten sober.

Overall, I think we tend to romanticize the writer-as-drinker lifestyle. Writing, like anything difficult, is best done sober. And if you’re writing to uncover the hard truths about being human, imbibing a substance that’s greatest attribute is dulling life’s hard edges doesn’t seem like a solution.

 

–Sean Towey

Even If It Hurts: The Cold Harsh World of Creative Writing

 At one of the many meals shared during Lions in Winter, Edward Kelsey Moore, an accomplished cellist, spoke about some of the differences between the music and writing worlds. Moore felt that writers tended to not take criticism very well. He recalled attending a weeklong writing workshop and hearing his fellow students call one of the professors “mean.” He had no idea what they meant. Compared to his music teachers, the professor had been like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.

One of Moore’s music professors regularly berated students in public. If a student did not perform to the professor’s expectations during a private session, the student had to give a public performance in front of the department several days later. The professor would stand in a corner, chain smoke, and look generally unimpressed.

Not one to believe the first thing I hear, I called Michael Towey, my younger brother and a percussionist at Central Washington University, and asked him about his worst experience with a professor.

As a young, impressionable, eighteen-year old fresh-person, Michael met with his Music Theory professor so she could do some quick evaluations before the class began. After the meeting, she told Mikey that she was shocked he had made it as far as he had, that he had absolutely no ear, and that his chances of succeeding in the music program were basically nonexistent.

And that was before the class even started. I asked Mikey if he had seen Whiplash. He had not because he was worried it would hit too close to home.

Michael will graduate with a B.A. Percussion Performance this spring, and he’s applied to several graduate programs, and he’s awesome.

Compared to the music world, Creative Writing workshops are like semester-long Caribbean cruises. Very few mean things are said. And when they are said, they are couched within layers of compliment-frosting. I’ve never heard a professor tell a student that she should give up on writing altogether. It’s usually along the lines of “I love the castle-setting, but maybe this story doesn’t need three pages of direct dialogue?” or “the conflict between the mother and daughter is really interesting, but I’m not sure I buy that the daughter would literally eat the mother’s heart while it’s still beating.”

Creative Writing workshops are really, really nice. And safe and cuddly. They’re the teddy bears of academic classrooms.

I’m not saying that Creative Writing teachers should be as mean as some of their musical counterparts. For one, musicians learn technical skills easily appraised by experts. Writers tell stories, which are more difficult to evaluate. To make it even more complicated, young writers tend to tell very personal stories. It’s easy to tune a violin. It’s a lot harder to tell someone that her main character, which is based on her childhood best friend who died of cancer, is totally unbelievable. One is a judgment on how much the person has practiced. The other sounds like a judgment on the person as a human being.

However, once I started sending my own work out to magazines, I realized how different the publishing-writing world is to the Creative Writing classroom. The actual writer-world is extremely competitive and almost entirely lacking in compliment-frosting. For publication, the stories can’t be pretty good, or the best story in a room full of twenty year-old writers. They have to be near-perfect.

We need to bridge the chasm between the environments of the Creative Writing classroom and the actual writing world, even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.

Judging Books By Their Covers

Maybe it’s cliché to start off a blog post with a cliché, but here we go: You can’t judge a book by its cover. My mom used to say this phrase to me to discourage my judgmental attitude towards people, and professors cajole you with it when the cover is from the 1970s and less than appealing. Let’s be real, though—we all judge books by their covers.

When I’m browsing the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado on vacation, I won’t even read the synopsis on the back if the cover is too busy, too provocative, too outdated. If you handed me two copies of the exact same book, I would pick the pretty one, superficial as it is. Don’t even deny it—you’d do the same.

It’s human nature, I suppose, to drift towards objects we find visually appealing. We even do this to people—you marry someone you find attractive. And while “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” what can a book cover really say about a novel or collection?

Kyle Vanhemert’s blog post on Wired tackles this question. His post revolves around Peter Mendelsund, an acclaimed cover artist who has designed artwork for old and new novels alike. But, as Vanhemert states, designing a cover isn’t just about design aesthetic: “It starts with understanding.” Mendelsund must understand the intricacies and, as he puts it, the “metaphoric weight of the entire book.” The cover must be appealing to potential readers, but it also has to reflect the core of the novel.

In the blog, Vanhemert quotes Mendelsund as saying, “It’s very tempting to read a book only for visual cues when you’re a jacket designer… ‘Oh, her hair is blond, and it’s a cold climate, and they live on a hill.’ That’s just really treacherous. Because if you read that way, you’ll miss the point of the book. And almost never are those kind of details the point of the book.” It is easy to fall into the trap of picking out an obvious image to try and encompass the book, but Mendelsund’s cover for Kafka’s Metamorphosis “quietly suggests some of the story’s major themes—perception, identity, vision” all within two images on the cover of a story.

It would be interesting to track the covers of a novel throughout history and see how it reflects the art of the time of publication. Modern covers tend to be simple and clean, while a cover from the 1980s might be brighter and more intricate. The cover can also reflect the view society has had of the book throughout the years. Take The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, for example. In a blog post on The Lesbrary, the author includes pictures of the cover for the novel throughout the years, showing the progression of society’s views of lesbian relationships through the cover art. Just looking at the covers is fascinating, and it’s thought provoking to study the covers and track the changes that are made throughout history.

In addition to looking at the different covers that have appeared for a single novel over the years, it’s also interesting to take a look at “gendered” covers. Maureen Johnson sent out a challenge to her Twitter followers to create new covers for books as though the author was of the opposite gender. The results were eye-opening and are summarized in this Huffington Post article. The “girl” covers are soft, glowing, and airy, while the “boy” covers are sharper, edgier, and bolder. The point of her challenge was to show that the cover truly does impact who reads a book—whether it’s targeted towards males or females.

Examining book covers is an art in itself. With so much though that goes into them, maybe it’s okay to judge a book by its cover after all—just make sure you’ve read the book first.

—Hannah Osborne

Burmese Days and the Quiet Debris of Acceptance: An Anecdote

Here’s a guest post from Bluestem Magazine contributor Carolyn Zaikowski. Her work can be found in the September 2011 online issue. 

There’s a copious amount of lovely advice from veteran writers about handling rejection. Not so copious are musings about what gets triggered when work is accepted. The acknowledgement that acceptance, too, can be swathed in the life-debris of one’s personal psychology or social environment is not a conversation that’s often had. It’s assumed that acceptance is a euphoric pinnacle, the exhale after epic ascents up the publishing mountain, or, in some cases—especially when full manuscripts are at play—the unadulterated manifestation of a dream.

I’m sure many experience acceptances this way, and that’s beautiful. This anecdote is an offering to those who’ve had a more complicated experience. I wish to announce that yes, it’s okay and normal to have shameful, complicated, even panic-stricken reactions to acceptance!

My reaction to having my first manuscript accepted triggered more emotional unfurlings than any rejection I’ve ever received. I’m positive I can’t be the only one whose reaction to an acceptance was so thorny. My first manuscript, a semi-experimental/hybrid novel called A Child is Being Killed, was rejected so many times. This had to do with the usuals: Bad timing; presses that didn’t fit; editors who didn’t have the resources to publish everything they wanted; the fact that the book deals with traumatic themes and is written in a style some find inaccessible. I was about to stop submitting it and toss it in my locked chest—I actually have a locked chest—filled with discarded journals and writing projects.

When it was actually accepted, I started shaking and crying, not in the way that’s associated with excitement or a dream coming true, but the kind that accompanies having experienced trauma, sudden events that break the safety of your assumed narrative. The kind of shaking and crying that takes place in your reptilian brain, where physiological panic is activated. Unfortunately, you can’t logic yourself out of this state. When you’ve learned to be terrified of surprises, even happy ones, you hold body-memories of good things gone awry. The unpredictable pains of my past don’t make me special, but they’re why I’m panicked by surprises. To my survival’s biology, it just doesn’t register that happy surprises are different from terrible ones.

Meanwhile, my pre-frontal lobe was blasting meta-commentaries, summoning shame. The thing I wanted was going to happen, but I couldn’t navigate it happily—simply put, I felt like a brat. But I’ve learned there’s great risk in trusting, then handing oneself over, to happiness. Weary hearts know that something good or safe can be taken away on a whim. Often it feels safer to not bother with, or believe in, the good thing at all. These were not histrionic, self-indulgent notions; they were sincere veils upon my experience of being accepted. I only truly accepted my acceptance and consented to happiness when I held the book, the physical proof, in my hands over a year later.

Twisting this story further was my living situation at the time. When my book was accepted, I was living in a safe-house in Thailand, teaching undocumented Burmese political exiles. One of my Burmese students had been valiantly studying and writing essays for a lengthy application to a democracy studies training program from which she’d been rejected three times. She kept applying because, if she didn’t get accepted now, she’d be forced to return to the sweatshop she’d worked at most of her life as a child slave, sewing clothes for hours a day in violent conditions for little to no money. In the most profound way, this was her final chance. She’d taped her application pages to her walls. She’d stayed up nights obsessing, knocking on my door to practice her interviews and make sure the English in her essays was flawless. This situation was unspeakable—and not comparable, by any stretch, to anything I’ll ever contend with, even in my worst moments.

One morning, she burst into my room, shaking, in tears, carrying a laptop. All she could manage was a stilted mutter about needing me to read her email. She had been accepted. She asked if it was real or a cruel joke, if she was reading wrong, if they’d accepted the wrong person, if they were going to realize and take back their promise.

The very next day, I got my acceptance email. I found her, asked her quietly to read it. Asked her, in a clandestine voice, if I’d seen it right, if it was an awful mistake. She hugged me. For a bit, we shook and cried together.

There’s simply no escaping the vast, unjust gap between the violent, international political oppression that constantly threatened to destroy her, and my privilege to return home to relative comfort and the nearly absurd elitism of a book publication. She, too, deserves to tell her story, has risked her life repeatedly to tell it. Still, she had generous, real love and happiness for me. And I for her. My personal history and the agitated trenches of my nervous system interacted so perplexingly with our context, my glaring privilege, and my desire to honor her emotional generosity and our connection.

I can’t come to conclusions about any of this. Self-condemnations regarding melodrama, plus simplistic guilt over my privilege, are the easy way out. The only thing I can think to offer, which feels excruciatingly incomplete, is that being alive is so vastly permeated by having and not having. The conditions matter in which we are accepted or rejected. When we get or don’t get to tell our stories, personal and social histories are at play, matrix-like, whether or not we know or admit it. Maybe what matters is that we just keep fighting on behalf of the exquisiteness, the inherent worth, of our own and each others’ stories. The world needs to be safe enough for newly told stories—especially when, like my student’s story, they’re the literal ones of life and death.

Diligence is the Mother of Good Luck

I wasn’t terribly familiar with AWP until a few years ago. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1967 to advocate on behalf of creative writing in higher education. AWP hosts an annual conference, this storied gathering of writers young and old, and I was lucky enough to attend last week in Seattle, WA. There were writers from all over the globe, from enthusiasts to professionals, not to mention some of America’s literary rock stars like Ursula K. Le Guin and Chuck Palahniuk. If you’re having a hard time conceptualizing the sheer magnitude of a symposium this size, think Comic-Con, but for creative writing programs. It’s this massive congregation of fans sharing stories with other fans. There are panels and parties, readings, a book fair, and did I mention parties? For us writers young and old, it’s also a great place to network and recharge our literary batteries. It was hard not to revel in this super-charged atmosphere.

While a writer should draw inspiration from all these outlets, it’s just as easy to crumble under the presence of such talent. A writer can walk into this convention with publications under her belt, perhaps a book or two, and be met by hundreds of other writers who also have books, maybe even awards and interviews, merchandise, television shows, cult followings, you name it. I was constantly reminded of that age-old debate about whether success has more to do with luck or talent. NPR recently ran this story about whether art is successful because of the talent poured into a piece or because of luck, that set of seemingly intangible factors the universe dumps on us indiscriminately. The results of an experiment conducted by Princeton professor Matthew Salganik show that the success of art, or any endeavor, is largely left to chance.

Is there a universal standard of “good?” According to these results, not really. For anyone who prescribes to this theory, I think it’d be perfectly reasonable to curl up in a fetal position. Although to some it may seem like an oxymoron, this is an instance in which Cormac McCarthy may be able to cheer us up. In a 2009 interview with The Wall Street Journal, he says this about fallow periods in his writing:

I don’t think there’s any rich period or fallow period. That’s just a perception you get from what’s published. Your busiest day might be watching some ants carrying breadcrumbs. Someone asked Flannery O’Connor why she wrote, and she said, “Because I was good at it.” And I think that’s the right answer. If you’re good at something it’s very hard not to do it. In talking to older people who’ve had good lives, inevitably half of them will say, “The most significant thing in my life is that I’ve been extraordinarily lucky.” And when you hear that you know you’re hearing the truth. It doesn’t diminish their talent or industry. You can have all that and fail.

Composing any piece of creative writing is hard enough as it is, let alone actually getting the work published. But AWP reminded me that luck, while instrumental, doesn’t determine skill, and really it isn’t all that important. It takes a backseat to conviction, certitude, and good ol’ fashioned grit. It’s easy to flourish and succeed when you’re participating in a community that truly understands, truly empathizes with the struggles and hurdles a writer faces in her career. More so than the convention center saturated with genius, I was able to draw inspiration from a collection of people who genuinely care about fostering and maintaining craft.

-Aaron White

The Writer’s World

      I want to give you advice on submitting work and how to get your work into the world, but I’m not an authority on the matter. I’ve been writing for three years, and I’ve yet to submit a piece of work to the outside world. I’m not afraid of rejection; I’m afraid of the wait. I’m not a patient person, but if I were I’d probably know a few things about submissions. Until I get my hours in, here are a few people that know a lot about submissions and how to stay organized when doing it.
      Becky Tuch writes in her article, “The Submission Styles of the Rich & Famous,” about writers and their submission techniques. My favorites from the article are David Bauman, Patrick Nathan, and Evan Simko-Bednarski. Even though these writers have a specific style for submitting, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. These are just some helpful suggestions from some interesting writers.
      David Bauman is ‘the dad poet’ as he states in his very humorous biography on his blog. So, how does he deal with submissions? His reply to Tuch was simple. “He writes, “Doutrope has helped me organize my submission process, and made it fun. As for fees, value is in the eye of the submitter.” As a broke college student, submission fees are nearly impossible to meet. When it comes to submissions, I agree with Bauman when he says the value is in the eye of the submitter. If I believe my work is worth it then I’ll do just about anything I can, even if that means raiding my piggy bank. As for Doutrope, we have to take Bauman’s word and check it you for ourselves.
      Patrick Nathan does things a little differently when it comes to submissions. He writes to Tuch and states that “I’m all about the spreadsheet…I color code active subs, unsent subs, and “can’t send yet” subs…If I want to send work to a mag, I do, regardless of how long it *might* take. The bells and whistles of avg [sic] response times, stats, etc., turn me into a nervous wreck. Better off w/o them.” When it comes to organization, I’m OCD—at least when it comes to alphabetizing books and DVDs. When it comes to writing, I could use some organization. I have folders for everything, but eventually the folders become overwhelming, and I need a simpler way to control my submissions—this is where Patrick’s style comes to play. Plus, who doesn’t love color-coding things. I know I do, and if you love his idea for submissions, you’d love his Tumblr.
      My last and favorite submissions style comes from Evan Simko-Bednarski. When asked by Tuch how he gets his submissions out into the world, he replies “Cry, write, cry, repeat.” I can’t think of an easier way to handle submissions. I’ve never cried over my writing, but I have cried while writing. I have a feeling however that after I start submitting things, I might come around to Evan’s style of submitting. For more information about Evan, a Brooklyn-based editor and journalist, visit his site.
      Each writer has a unique style of submitting his or her work and no one way is the right way. These are just some of my favorite organizational, emotional, and easy ways of going about it. But whatever you chose to do, don’t stop getting yourself out there, or in my case, start putting yourself out there.

Until next time,
Keep writing.
Tammy

The Newest Intern is Super Geeked!

Hello, gorgeous Bluestem readers. I am the newest intern at this great establishment and when I am not schlepping coffee from one editor to the next, I will be reading your lovely submissions. I must say, I am more than excited…I am geeked. I am geeking out about reading poetry submissions because poetry is really where my heart lies. I have been writing poetry solidly for a while now, but honestly, I haven’t always had the discipline required to write every day. I always hear about the writers who write every single day and at the beginning of the year, that is so me. Then February hits and like butter on toast, my discipline just melts away. This year has been different. I have been trying to write something every day and oddly enough, it actually helps. Those workaholics are onto something. Without a doubt, this determined effort has resulted in better poems. Admittedly, there is an abundance of Word documents full of gibberish stored in my computer, but amongst the babble I have formed some gems; and isn’t that what it’s all about? Those rare gems that have the possibility to turn you from some Jane Doe to a Dickinson or an Estep? So, I challenge you, dear readers, to get your discipline on and to geek out over your own gems.
Forever yours,
Adecia