Quick Links: In The Margins

Hello Everyone!

For this latest edition of Quick Links, I’d like to add a new podcast to your must-download docket. The “In the Margins” podcast broadcast it’s inaugural episode in December 2014 and has consistently debuted back-to-back hits with each new interview.

The bi-weekly podcast is produced by Tate Street, “a literary blog that observes trends in poetry, fiction, publishing, and academia.” The inquisitive Abigail Browning hosts the show and does a stellar job of simultaneously asking the questions you’d want to ask if you could sit with some of the great minds of the literary field while also putting forward inquiries you’d never think to ask but really want to know the answers to.

Each In The Margins podcast features a discussion with leading voices in the creative writing field. The show’s guests hold unique perspectives on creative writing and in the short suite of episodes that have aired so far, each has shown a different relation to the writing life.

Publishing professionals such as Kevin Larimer of Poets & Writers Magazine, Jeff Shotts of Graywolf Press, and Crystal Simone Smith of Backbone Press discuss the inner workings of their own literary institutions while sharing their insight into the industry.

Professors John Kessel and Dorianne Laux of North Carolina State discuss MFA applications and their own programs.

Writers Ross White (“How We Came Upon the Colony”) and Therese Ann Fowler (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald) discuss their work, their approach to the craft, and how their personal philosophies toward creative writing inform their process.

The discussions are informative and deeply edifying for those who hope to learn about the literary field. Whether you’re interested in fiction and poetry; reviewing and editing; staffing a publication or what-have-you, there will be at least one episode of this podcast that speaks to your own passions.

I’d recommend downloading the previous episodes of In The Margins and then becoming a dedicated listener. I’d also recommend checking them out on Twitter at @tatestreetorg where you can find regularly updated fiction/poetry writing prompts and updates on the organization’s various activities. Show your support and check them out today…or tomorrow…or whenever you want.

Just be sure to visit soon and visit often!

Quick Links: The Submission Edition (Pt. II)

Hello Everyone!

This Quick Links picks up where the last left off with another entry dealing with short story submissions. For this latest addition to the Submission Edition, I want to introduce you to Horror Tree. Similar to the previous featured site, Horror Tree culls calls for submission from various print anthologies, magazines, and publishers across the net. The difference is that Horror Tree focuses almost exclusively on—you guessed it—scary short stories. Often enough, the calls for submissions will want horror fiction that incorporates speculative elements from fantasy and sci-fi so don’t be shy if you write tales with hybrid elements.

In addition to their regular listings, the site also has a calendar feature that allows writers to view deadlines by date, guest written articles that give insightful advice on different aspects of the writing craft, and a mailing list that you can subscribe to via email.

Stuart Conover is the man who keeps the proverbial circus running. He’s an author, blogger, self-proclaimed geek, and writer for several sci-fi and horror websites. Horror Tree is a separate philanthropic project that Stuart maintains out of the goodness of his heart. As he states on the site:

“My main goal is to include all the latest horror anthologies and publishers that are taking paying submissions…I do not make money from you submitting to these anthologies, I am not releasing them, not any I responsible for them in any way. I’m just trying to help my fellow horror authors have an easy way to find out what anthologies are open to submit to.”

And we’re grateful Stuart extends his time and effort to keep this resource running and regularly updated. The site details all the submission guidelines for each featured venue but Stuart suggests checking the guidelines on the page itself “at the time of submission in case they have changed between the original post and when you are submitting work.”

Be sure to add Horror Tree to your favorite tabs, refer to it often, and recommend it to the horror writers in your life. And, of course, start submitting. You can follow Horror Tree on Twitter at @HorrorTree to get regular updates on the site’s posts.

Quick Links: The Submission Edition (Pt. I)

Hello Everyone!

It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? Quick Links has been on an unscheduled hiatus these past couple months due to an extremely productive bout of writing on my part. That said, I wanted to pause and feature a top-tier contender among my favorite writer resources. So let’s launch the submission edition of Quick Links with the superb site, Coffintree Hill.

Coffintree Hill lists calls for submissions from magazines, upcoming anthologies and small press publishers seeking science fiction, fantasy, and horror. These calls range from short form pieces like flash fiction, short stories, and poems to requests for longer works such as novellas and full-length novels. In addition, Coffintree Hill occasionally posts author interviews and features guest bloggers.

This site is regularly updated and lovingly run by British fantasy and horror writer, Angeline Trevena. Her new novella was just released a few days ago and if you’re interested, Cutting the Bloodline is available on Kindle. Here, I think it warrants mentioning that her site is an altruistic endeavor. As she says:

“Coffintree Hill started some time ago as a humble blog on Tumblr. Its move to WordPress has been accompanied by a swing in direction. I hope to build this as an essential resource for fantasy writers…I do this because I love it. I get no money or recognition for doing it from anywhere. I am not affiliated with, or in any way represent any of the publishers, magazines, or organizations, companies, or individuals I mention or feature in this blog.”

The posts usually contain most of the submission guidelines for the featured publication—word count, specific preferences, formatting, payment (if any), deadline, etc—but also posts a link to the site itself. Angeline wisely urges authors to check the guidelines on the publisher’s actual site before submitting: “Never take my word for anything because things change all the time. And remember that some presses, sadly, are only out there to get your money.” Coffintree Hill also has an active Twitter page @coffintreehill that does a fine job of keeping up with the site’s regular posts.

I’ll admit that this particular line has become a familiar refrain for me when writing these Quick Link posts but this site is an excellent resource for speculative writers and really, really should hold a venerated and often-clicked position in your favorites tab. Visit Coffintree Hill today and start submitting.

 

Quick Links: The Coode Street Podcaaaa…aaast

Hello Everyone!

Have I really managed to resist talking up a writing podcast for two months? That streak ends today. For this latest edition of Quick Links, I want to introduce you to The Coode Street Podcast. This Hugo-nominated podcast features “discussions and digressions on science fiction and fantasy” that run the gamut from author interviews to conversations on publishing to chats about various aspects of the speculative genre.

This brilliant show is hosted by two intelligent, genre savvy gents: Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe.

Jonathan is an Australian speculative fiction editor with eight Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award to his name. He’s edited enough anthologies to break a bookshelf and shows little sign of slowing down.

Gary K. Wolfe [not to be confused with the creator of Roger Rabbit, Gary K. Wolf] is a professor at Roosevelt University and speculative fiction editor, widely recognized for his science fiction scholarship and expertise. He’s received two Hugo nominations, a World Fantasy Award, and is a recipient of the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The pair make an excellent team and their one-on-one interrogations of the speculative genre are often just as engaging and informative as their author interviews. But rather than hear me talk about the Coode Street Podcast, you should really go and listen for yourself.

Since 2010, Jonathan and Gary have recorded and compiled a veritable rogues gallery of science fiction and fantasy greats. That list includes:

 Ann Leckie (Ancillary Justice)

Neil Gaiman (Trigger Warning, American Gods)

Jeff VanderMeer (Southern Reach Trilogy)

Nnedi Okorafor (Lagoon, Who Fears Death)

Kij Johnson (At The Mouth of the River of Bees, The Fox Woman)

Paolo Bacigalupi (The Wind-Up Girl, Pump Six, The Water Knife)

Nalo Hopkinson (Sister Mine, Brown Girl in the Ring)

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness, Wizard of Earth Sea)

The Coode Street Podcast also delves into genre-related discussions and debates across a wide spectrum of subjects such as…

*The state of Chinese science fiction with Ken Liu in an incidental series of conversations with multiple authors that include dialogues on the state of British science fiction, Australian science fiction, and Canadian science fiction.

*An in-depth discussion on science fiction and publishing with Bill Schafer, founder of Subterranean Press.

*A chat with podcast favorite, Kij Johnson and John Kessel on Alfred Bester’s fiction.

*The literary uses of fantasy elements in fiction with Peter Straub and Caitlin R. Kiernan.

*A conversation between the hosts/editorial heavyweights Jonathan and Gary on the history and nature of short story collections.

The parade of links above is just a small sample so trust me when I tell you that I could go on. Instead, I’ll just finish by telling you that the Coode Street Podcast has an archive of 200 conversations and more on the horizon. If you’re like me and consistently contemplating the nuances and particulars of the spec-fic genre, this is a can’t-miss podcast.

Quick Links: Query Theories Series (Pt. II)

Hello Everyone!

This edition of Quick Links continues the thread from last month about querying literary agents. Even if you don’t have a finished manuscript that you’re ready to shop, it’s not a bad idea to start researching agents you might potentially query later on. That said, under no circumstances should you actually submit queries to agents without a completed manuscript ready (at least, if you’re a fiction writer). Now that I’ve given my PSA of the day, I’d like to introduce you to AgentQuery.com.

AgentQuery.com is a free online database featuring over 900 literary agents representing fiction and non-fiction. The site does an admirable job of keeping up-to-date profiles. AgentQuery.com is committed to making lives easier on writers searching for representation. As their mission statement puts it:

“Publication is not a dream. Extraordinary stories written by ordinary people are sold every day to major publishing houses. Literary agents make these sales a reality. For this reason, AgentQuery.com offers the largest, most current searchable database of literary agents on the web…And it’s free (not because there’s a catch, but simply because not enough things in this world are free).”

The Quick Search option allows you to input:

a. keywords.

b. one single genre.

The Full Search option is where AgentQuery.com really shines. There, you can input:

a. keywords.

b. check boxes for as many genres as applicable (literary fiction, science fiction, childrens, young adult, romance, western, true crime, memoir, etc).

c. choose to only list agents that accept email queries (or not).

d. choose whether to include agents that are part of the Association of Author Representatives (or not).

e. choose whether to only include agents that are currently accepting new clients (or…well, you get the idea).

The listed profiles that appear include an agent’s name, agency, email, the fiction/non-fiction genres they represent, and whether they are currently accepting queries. There’s also an eye-shaped icon you can press to see the individuals full profile which often includes their agency website, additional facts and information, and their submission guidelines. Sometimes these profiles will also include an agent’s recent deals or current clients.

Agents are particular about their submission guidelines (for good reason) so if you’re planning to submit a query and don’t want to automatically disqualify yourself be sure to read the submission guidelines carefully. Also be sure to visit their personal/agency website in case the information on their profile happens to be out of date.

All this alone would (and does) make AgentQuery.com an invaluable service but in addition to its database, the site also hosts various other writer resources. There’s a page with query writing advice, a useful listing of agent and editor blogs, advice on avoiding scams and questionable agents, and even advice on what to do once an agent offers representation. And what I’ve listed here is only a small sampling of the various pages dedicated to helping writers get a grasp on what comes after they’ve polished and buffed their manuscripts to a sheen.

For writers who are more comfortable exploring their own mental mazes but come to a standstill when faced with the seemingly-labyrinthine professional side of the writing business, AgentQuery.com is a more than capable sherpa.

Spend some time there, recommend the site to a fellow writer friend, and know you’re in good hands.

 

Words With Friends: 1/22/15

We are now 22 days into 2015 but rather than look forward, I wanted to reach backward and draw on powerful works from the recent past. This edition of Words with Friends features two talented writers at the top of their game and still rising, Geetha Iyer and Andrew Payton.

***

Geetha Iyer is winner of the 2012 Gulf Coast Fiction Prize. She’s also a dual-recipient of University of Michigan’s 2007 Hopwood Undergraduate Short Fiction Award [judged by Percival Everett and Bich Nguyen] and Robert F. Haugh prize. Geetha is a fantastic force to be reckoned with and her talent is on full display in her latest short story, “The Mongerji Letters.”

This surreal short story chronicles correspondences between the Mongerji family and the Chappalwala clan. These two families are connected by the samples of flora and fauna their kin have exchanged via envelope over multiple generations.

“But the polar bear you stuck in the inner envelope suggests you are keen to continue in the family trade. That first explosion of teeth and air bubbles as the creature snapped at my face—what flair! I learned to swim backwards that day, you know? It took a week to bail out the living room and pour the Arctic Ocean back into the envelope. Our three-year-old, thankfully, was in the nursery when I released your capture, and thus spared his first swim.”

“The Mongerji Letters” won the University of Louisville’s 2013 Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction and has recently been reprinted in Orion Magazine. The tale is a testament to Geetha Iyer’s creative prowess and it isn’t hard to see why the contest judge, Tobias Wolff selected the piece but I’ll share his written standing ovation nonetheless:

“The great writer (Calvino) would certainly have recognized, and been delighted by, this story’s imaginative reach, both playful and serious; its subtle grounding in the realities of social and personal life, even as it delivers the reader into dazzling realms of possibility. It is, at last, a hymn to the imagination, and a tremor of apprehension at the worldly forces that threaten to overwhelm and destroy it.”

I can’t think of a better ending note than that glowing endorsement. Should you find an opening in your schedule today, do yourself a favor and read “The Mongerji Letters” here.

***

Andrew Payton is a fellow mid-Atlantic writer born and raised in the state nearest and dearest to my heart, Maryland. He’s also the winner of the 2013 James Hearst Poetry Prize, the 2014 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction, and a current recipient of the 2014-15 J. William Fulbright fellowship to the Slovak Republic. His publications, too numerous to list here, run the gamut across literary forms. Andrew is an adept practitioner of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

But for this go-round, I want to focus exclusively on his poetry and introduce “Photography” and “Cartography.” Both these poems are featured in the inaugural issue of the new biannual literary magazine, Fifth Wednesday Journal.

“…Tonight/during the record colds, I’ll wait/for the sound of tires climbing/my snow-slick drive, an engine/idling and your voice, tinny/and eager–I’m here,/ you’ll say, to make good on every promise…”

Both poems provide short snap shots that hone in on locale, yes, but also hide emotional undercurrents that quietly draw you into the psychological landscapes imprinted on the physical terrain. Pause for a brief moment to read “Cartography” here and then read “Photography” here.

***

Quick Links: Query Theories Series

Hello Everyone!

This latest Quick Links is another two-for-one edition. For you writers who have a well-edited fiction manuscript in hand and think it might be time to start shopping for an agent to represent your work, the first step is to start crafting a foolproof query letter.

For some writers, composing a professional query letter that adequately represents their work (and, to a lesser extent, themselves) can be more challenging and worrisome than the writing itself. Fortunately, I know two sites that should help make this job considerably less nerve-wracking: Successful Queries and Query Shark.

***

Successful Queries is a series of posts hosted on Writer’s Digest’s site. Freelance editor and humor writer, Chuck Sambuchino has collected seventy (and counting) examples of fiction queries that have succeeded in capturing an agent’s attention. As Sambuchino says in his introduction of the series:

“I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as the why the letter worked.”

Each Successful Queries post first offers the sample query for perusal and follows up with a commentary by that author’s agent that examines the aspects of the letter helped it rise above the slush pile sea (and occasionally the elements that weighed it down). This series serves a rare glimpse into individual agents’ thought process when considering projects for representation. If you’re fortunate, you may even find an agent you’re considering submitting to among the entries.

Savvy writers, of course, will use these queries and corresponding commentary to get a feel for the basic format and details key to a successful letter while avoiding the (unwise) urge to copy-and-paste the template and fill in the blanks. It’s also worth remembering what floats one editor’s boat might very well sink another’s so be sure to look for commonalities while reading through these entries.

***

Query Shark takes a different but equally valuable approach to assisting writers hoping to develop their query writing skills. Rather than provide examples of successful queries, literary agent Janet Reid edits and comments on fiction queries that still need time in the crock pot before they’re ready to serve up to an agent.

Each example is presented with line edits included, summing up the areas where the queries falter and where it succeeds. The in-text edits are usually followed up with ending notes. The comments are straight-forward, blunt and incredibly useful.

Query Shark also answers questions that its readers have about particular nuances of query writing and dealing with agents. For the brave of heart, there is an option to submit your own query for revision and subsequent posting on the blog (with specific detailed instructions here). Be sure to read the guidelines to make sure your formatting is on point and read through previous posts to make sure you’re not making obvious errors. Reid gives fair warning:

“Your chance to be critiqued improves if you aren’t making the same mistakes the Shark has ranted about commented on previously. To make new a fresh mistakes, carefully read the query letters and comments already on the blog.” [strikethrough hers, not mine]

Query Shark can be unapologetically snarky at times and takes no prisoners but it’s hard to disagree with such solid advice.

***

If you’re in the market for an agent but don’t quite know where to begin or if you think you know where to begin but need to be sure before taking the plunge, both these sites are well worth wading through.

Insert shark pun here and see you next time!

Quick Links: Let’s All Go To The Movies

Hello Everyone!

For the first Quick Link of 2015, I wanted to feature Simply Scripts. This site is a massive database containing hundreds of free-to-read  movie and television scripts. In addition to these scripts, the site has a section where you can see samples from film treatments and never-filmed unproduced scripts. There’s also a store where you can buy bound copies of select scripts if you’re more inclined toward reading on paper and have some dollars to spend but the majority of the content on the site is free.

Simply Scripts is an excellent resource for aspiring screenwriters that want to draw lessons from successful scripts and also a great tool for writers that want to improve their dialogue. Just a few scripts available to read online are: Nolan’s science fiction epic Interstellarthe recent surreal black comedy Birdman, breakout fantasy drama Beasts of the Southern Wild,  the Coen Brothers’ somber thrillers No Country for Old Men and Fargo, classic Coppola-directed films such as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, and mind-bending scripts like Donnie Darko, Fight ClubBeing John Malkovich, and Dark City

There are also sample television scripts for the 60’s drama Mad Men, the space based science fiction western mashup Firefly, the cult favorite Twin Peaks, and other scripts the shows such as Prison Break, The Twilight Zone, Weeds, and  Sons of Anarchy among many others. 

If you’re an aspiring TV writer who wants to see how a pilot is put together, a screenwriter studying how successful scripts have been constructed, or know someone who cannot stand sitting in movie theaters but can’t wait until the DVD version comes out, begin 2014 by scrolling through Simply Scripts and finding one of your favorite movies.

 

Words with Friends: 12/17/14

Before 2014 ends and the new year begins, I wanted to slip in one more edition of Words with Friends (and remind everyone that copyright laws don’t apply to titles). This year has been a productive year for those fellow writers I’ve been fortunate enough to know and admire and I’m proud to introduce you (or if you’re ahead of the curve, reintroduce you) to their remarkably poignant poetry and prose.

Tegan Nia Swanson is winner of the 2013 Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction and an all around awesome human being. Her short story “On Wisconsin” is featured in About Place Journal, a publication “dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society.”

Tegan does just that in a fictional interlude that recalls the 2011 protests in the wake of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s signing of a collective bargaining bill. Narrated by a collective “we,” the story shines a spotlight on agitated, alienated Micah who leads them to a sit in at the Capitol building.

“We who lived in the Lake Cooperative that winter all fancied ourselves wearers of the black flag, more than a little left-of-center and just outside the law, but Micah was the really the only one who meant it, in the end. Queer in a family of conservative evangelicals, quiet and sober in a town of extroverted drunks, Micah had always felt outside until he found us and even then it took him a little while to warm up.”

“On Wisconsin” harnesses that sensation of being swept up in a larger tide, of marching and making your voice heard, and it can be read right here.

***

Lindsay Tigue is the 2012 winner of the Indiana Review 1/2K prize, a 2013 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and won the 2014 New Issues Book Prize for her poetry manuscript, System of Ghosts. But beyond her numerous recognitions (and she’s clearly on a roll, folks), I’m most impressed with how deeply Lindsay’s poetry mines the melancholy while still inspiring a hard won hopefulness. I always feel like a slightly different person after I’ve read one of her poems, like a minute transformation has taken place.

Her poems “Millions” and “Elevator” have a similar effect and both are available in the Fall 2014 issue of Blackbird, a literary magazine produced by Virginia Commonwealth University that publishes “excellent writing [that] challenges traditions in profound ways.”

To excise and excerpt a segment of either poem here would do an injustice to works that should be experienced as a whole. Instead, I’ll invite you to read “Millions” here and read “Elevator” here.

***

Brenna Dixon is the 2014 Artist-In-Residence for the Everglades National Park, a regular contributor for Ploughshares, and former Managing Editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Brenna’s non-fiction piece “Full Moon in Chekika” appeared in Burrow Press Review, a publication committed to featuring “one excellent work of fiction or creative non-fiction a week.”

“Full Moon in Chekika” provides a brief glimpse into Brenna’s time down in the Everglades, in particular a moon-lit trek into snake strewn territory in search of invasive Burmese pythons. Brenna’s prose, both elucidating and lush, sheds light on the diverse ecology of the Everglades while also honing in on nature’s ephemeral delights.

“It’s Friday the 13th and a full, honey-hued moon spotlights the Everglades. The last time a honey moon and a full moon coincided was on June 13, 1919. The next time it’ll happen is in 2098…Occasionally something rustles in the glass or flops in the water: a moccasin, maybe, or a rat. Possibly a gator. The huge moon hangs above us like an open mouth.”

For a wide-eyed glimpse of a side of the Everglades the public doesn’t get to see, read “Full Moon in Chekika” here.

***

Quick Links: Wired for Books

Hello Everyone!

I’ve mentioned time and again in these posts how important podcasts have been to my development as a fiction writer. For this edition of Quick Links, I’m proud to feature the archive that first introduced me to audio interviews: Wired for Books.

Broadcaster Don Swaim  interviewed hundreds of major authors on his Book Beat radio program during the mid-to-late 20th century. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this program is how down to earth the conversations are. Swaim approaches these interviews more as a fan than an academic, asking the questions a fellow reader might ask given the opportunity to sit with their favorite writers.

Ohio State University hosts the entire Wired for Books archive. The interviews are organized alphabetically by author and while there are a handful of interviews that can only be accessed via RealPlayer, the lion’s share are available in MP3 format. Each interview runs anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. Take some time to explore this collection, which includes interviews with:

Douglas Adams     Kurt Vonnegut     Joseph Heller

Rick Bass     Tobias Wolff     John Updike

P.D. James     Doris Lessing     Jamaica Kincaid

Toni Morrison     Jane Smiley     Ray Bradbury

Anne Beattie     Art Spiegelman     Tim O’Brien

These names are just a small sample of this wide-ranging archive’s contents. This cornucopia of interviews is a veritable time capsule filled to the brim with the voices of a generation of authors that built the scaffolding for literature as it stands today.