Best of the Net 2016 Nominations

Congratulations to all our 2016 Best of the Net nominees!

Fiction

Care, by Jessica Roeder

Rabbits, by Nick Brown

Creative Non-fiction

Happy Birthday, Houdini, by Amelia Skinner Saint

Vow, by Dean Kostos

Poetry

Selections from Sierra Amnezia, by Michael Luis Dauro
If Cygnus Were a Refugee, by Jess X. Chen
The Safety of Women, by Sarah Blake
Spastic Cartography, by Maya Pindyck

What we are even doing

I appreciated reading Barrelhouse editor Tom McAllister’s recent blog post on the ethics of certain practices of literary journals, particularly on charging submission fees. I felt called to respond because it seemed like a good opportunity to share with our readers and with the larger literary world, as Tom says, “what we are even doing.” I’m always curious to see how different journals and small presses juggle these questions as well, and hope to be in dialogue with other editors about this.

Tom takes issue with journals that do the following:

a) charge sub fees
b) don’t pay
c) are online only
d) “can’t promise to respond”

I 100% agree with his assessment of journals that “can’t promise to respond.” Not responding to a submission is ludicrous. Given how easy it is to create a form rejection on Submittable or other software, clicking “reject” to send a form email response is a no-brainer. I don’t know why any lit journal wouldn’t do that. We also have “higher tier” rejections, in which we encourage the author to submit again. That’s standard practice, and also very easy to do.

Storyscape falls in the category of a journal that is online only and does not pay its contributors. We have a tip jar and free reading periods, so for the following periods submissions are free (and you can choose to tip if you’d like; some people do): May 1 – August 1; October 1 – December 1; January 1 – March 1. For any periods that fall outside those dates, the tip jar becomes required, so yes, it is a fee. But I think we set out enough months of free submissions that this system is accessible to most folks. It’s similar to just having open reading periods during certain times of the year, and not reading submissions during other times of the year, which many journals do. We read submissions all year long, and part of that time includes the free submission periods.

In his blog post, Tom also brings up the question of why charge fees for an online journal that doesn’t pay its writers? Specifically he says,

…if a journal is charging fees and not paying writers, then they are either explicitly or implicitly saying they need that money to cover costs. But if the only thing you do is pay for web hosting, a Submittable account, and maybe a Squarespace account, then your annual fees are no higher than $550-600. That cost is covered by the first 200 submissions (which will come in about 3 weeks), and then what? What, exactly, am I paying for?  The time of the editor, who, of his own volition, decided to start a website and call it Sick Hermit Crab Quarterly or whatever?

Indeed, this mostly describes us (minus the Sick Hermit Crab and minus paying editors). The tip jar covers our basic costs: web hosting and our Submittable account. Our journal is free to read. We have published two print anthologies, but other than that, we do not print books. We mostly don’t sell anything (except for those anthologies and some t-shirts!). If there is ever extra money from the tip jar, which occasionally there is, but not a whole lot, we keep it in our account and use it for things like mailing out copies of anthologies or t-shirts.

We are as low key on the business end as we can get. This was a conscious choice. All our editors (and our awesome web designer) are volunteers and have other jobs to make a living. The journal mostly exists outside the realm of capitalism; we keep costs super low. No one will ever be forced to pay a submission fee, and no one has to pay to read the journal. We treat our contributors with respect, we give substantive feedback on pieces that we want to see developed further, we copy edit everything meticulously, and we choose gorgeous cover art for every issue. We now celebrate our contributors’ achievements with quarterly blog posts sharing their good news. We do wish we could pay authors, but the tip jar definitely will not cover those costs. And while I admire journals that have found ways to make enough money to pay authors, we’re a very small operation, and we’re still proud of the incredible work we publish.

We hope that by sharing our practices here other journals will do the same. I think the optional tip jar and free reading periods are a sensible compromise for small journals like us. And you will always, always get a response.

 

Contributor News

María Isabel Alvarez’s prose sestina, “Strawberry Girl,” appears in the 2016 summer online issue of Gulf Coast.

Alison Hicks has new poems in recent issues of Glassworks and Passager.

Kryssa Schemmerling’s first book, Iris In, a collection of poems about films, film history, and her own history growing up in West Hollywood, California, was published in August by Broadstone Books.

Rosebud Ben-Oni has a new poem, “Odisea,” in TriQuarterly’s 150th issue.

Amy Gottlieb’s debut novel, The Beautiful Possible (Harper Perennial) is a Target Emerging Author selection and is included in the Jewish Women’s Archive 2016–17 book list.

Shelly Oria’s story “Ruben,” which she wrote in collaboration with Nelly Reifler, is in Issue 5 of No Tokens.

Shira Dentz’s e-chap, FLOUNDERS, a hybrid of poetry, prose, and visual elements, was recently published by Essay Press and is free and downloadable here.

Rachel Mack published an essay, “On Not Shaving My Head for a Cancer Fundraiser,” at The Billfold.

J. C. Reyes is now Director of Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas Low-Res Creative Writing Program, with residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach and across the Americas.

Jeffrey Boyle’s poem “Agamemnon and Iphigenia” appeared in Issue 3 of the Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, and his poem “King Christ of Dude Mountain” appeared in “Free ______ Poems About _______ (Jesus edition).”

Merridawn Duckler’s poem “Saga of the Grief Journal,” appeared in the summer issue 8 of Rivet Journal, and her manuscript “Given Name” was a finalist at Tupelo Press.

Nicole Rollender’s latest chapbook, Ghost Tongue, is available from Porkbelly Press.

One of Katherine Forbes Riley’s recently published pieces, “A New Law of Nature,” appears in the July issue of The Conium Review.

Joy Ladin is hard at work on an NEA fellowship–funded book of trans readings of the Bible.

Peg Alford Pursell has launched an independent publishing company, WTAW Press, and is interviewed about the press by Litseen.

Tim Hunt’s third collection, Poem’s Poems & Other Poems, has now been published by CW Books.

Stephen Massimilla’s co-authored 500-page volume Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare—which includes hundreds of food poems and essays, along with 150 recipes and 200 color photos—was recently released by Tupelo Press to wide acclaim.

Susan Stiles’s poem on naming, “The Light Box,” appeared in Antiphon (Issue 17).

Contributor News

Congratulations to our past contributors on a slew of awards and publications. You guys rock!

Joshua Bennett’s debut collection, The Sobbing School, was selected as a winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series and will be published by Penguin Books in September 2016.

Rosebud Ben-Oni now writes weekly for The Kenyon Review; check out her essay “The Weight That Will Make Us Planets,” with nods to fellow poets Wendy Chin-Tanner, Adam Clay, Jason Koo and Yesenia Montilla.

Celia Bland’s essays on rereading Look Homeward, Angel and Jane Eyre recently appeared in the New York Book Critics Circle serial, “Second Thoughts.” 

Sarah B. Boyle’s chapbook What’s pink & shiny/what’s dark & hard was published by Porkbelly Press in 2015 and recently reviewed by Meryl DePasquale in The Hairsplitter.

Patricia Caspers’s full-length poetry collection, In the Belly of the Albatross, was published by Glass Lyre Press in November 2015. 

Pamela Davis’s first book, Lunette (ABZ, 2015), was selected by Gregory Orr for the ABZ Poetry Prize.

Adam Deutsch was recently interviewed about Cooper Dillon Books on The Best American Poetry blog.

Mario Duarte recently published short stories in Aaduna and Huizache and a poem in the Madison Review.

Merridawn Duckler has two poems in the Rust Issue of Blast Furnace.    

David Ebenbach’s first full-length book of poetry, We Were the People Who Moved, won the Patricia Bibby Prize and was published this year by Tebot Bach.

Jeff Friedman and Dzvinia Orlowsky were awarded a National Endowment Literature Fellowship in Translation for 2016 for their translations of a selection of poems by Polish Poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun.

Amy Gottlieb‘s debut novel, The Beautiful Possible, was just published by Harper Perennial.

Emily Grelle’s poem, “crab – shell,” was published in Volume 18 of Waterstone Review.

Sam Grieve recently won the Rash Award for Fiction 2015 for a story that will be published in the Broad River Review in the spring.  

zachary scott hamilton’s poem “years in a seahorse” appears in FUR LINED GHETTOS #7 UK.

Will Harris won the 2015 Darwin T. Turner Award for best essay of the year on any period of African American literature, for his essay “Phillis Wheatley: A Muslim Connection.”

Terrance Hayes’s most recent  collection of poems, How To Be Drawn (Penguin 2015), was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award.

Kate Kimball’s short story, “Capturing Flight,” was recently published by Fourth River.

Dean Kostos is interviewed about his new collection of poems, This Is Not a Skyscraper, in Guernica.

Joy Ladin’s seventh book of poetry, Impersonation, came out last spring, and in the fall she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.

Devi Lockwood was interviewed by Public Radio International on her work traveling the world by bicycle and by boat to collect 1,001 stories about water and climate change.

Rebecca Macijeski has poems appearing in the current issue of Sycamore Review.

Lynn McGee’s full-length collection of poetry, Sober Cooking, was released in 2016 from Spuyten Duyvil Press.

Rajiv Mohabir is interviewed by Rigoberto Gonzalez in the latest issue of Poets & Writers on his debut book of poetry, The Taxidermists’s Cut, which won the Intro Prize in Poetry from Four Way Books.

Caridad Moro-Gronlier’s latest work can be found, or is forthcoming, at The Collapsar, Moon City Press, The Cossack Review, and The Antioch Review.

Shelly Oria‘s book of short stories, New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, was recently translated into Hebrew and published in Israel by Keter Books

Maya Pindyck, former poetry editor of Storyscape, has a new book of poems, Emoticoncert, available for preorder from Four Way Books.

Lynne Procope is introduced by Ross Gay for the Poet’s Sampler in the current issue of Boston Review.

Nicole Rollender’s debut book of poems, Louder Than Everything You Love, was published by ELJ Editions in December 2015.  

Diane Simkin’s short story, “Bella,” has been included in a Zimbel House Publication called Dark Monsters, and another story called “Kinky and Gruen” was included in the Tulip Tree Review Winter 2015 Issue #4.

Kenny Williams’s book Blood Hyphen, winner of the 2015 FIELD Poetry Prize, is available from Oberlin College Press.  

Storyscape Pushcart Nominations 2015

Storyscape is pleased to announce our Pushcart Prize nominations for work published in 2015!

Storyscape Best of the Net Nominations

Storyscape is pleased to announce our nominations for Best of the Net 2015!

Poems

Dying, by Nicole Ross Rollender
Still Life with Skateboarding Rapper Orbited by Nerd Paraphernalia, by Cortney Lamar Charleston
The Stranger on Burnside Ave., by Sebastian H. Paramo
Brain Atlas, by Rebecca Macijeski
The Water is Happy to See Us, by Devi Lockwood
Second Round, by Lynn McGee

 

Stories

Seventeen, by Ken Cormier
Seven Pieces at a Time, by Yu-Han Chao

 

Creative Non-fiction

Education, by Rachel Michelle Hanson
The Wolf Closet, by Christina Kapp

Gale, Chou, Trump: WTF Is Going On?

By Hila Ratzabi

This year the literary world has been witness to an unfortunate pile-on of debacles that highlights serious problems with race and representation. Just as we were reeling from “poet” Vanessa Place’s use of virtual blackface on Twitter, we were treated to an offensive and ignorant blog post by Kate Gale, managing editor of Red Hen Press. Still reeling, with little time to process, we discovered that Best American Poetry 2015 published a poem by a white man pseudonymously posing as a Chinese person, Yi-Fen Chou. It seems to be taking more and more time from busy writers’ and editors’ lives to keep up with one shameful spectacle after another.

So why add my voice to the chorus of angry responses? Others have had their say much more eloquently than I feel capable of right now (see Brian Spears, Amy King, et al., Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo). Yet I can’t watch what is happening in the literary world, and the world at large, without saying something. I could have posted this on my personal writer website, but I chose, instead, to share this here, as editor-in-chief of Storyscape, because my response as an editor matters more than as a writer, though both are intertwined. (In fact, Storyscape didn’t have a blog until now. We had been planning to start a blog, but when these unfortunate incidents in the literary world started becoming more frequent, I realized it was time to get this blog up now and speak.)

To the white man who decided to don an Asian name to get an affirmative action style advantage in getting published: are you freaking kidding me? Not only did he quickly admit to the lie when his work was accepted by Best American Poetry, but he proudly explained the reasoning behind it in his very bio, and the editor, after extensive hemming and hawing, chose to publish it anyway. I do not agree with Sherman Alexie’s reasons for including the piece, and I would not have done the same. (Only once in Storyscape’s history have we, knowingly, published a piece under a pseudonym, and it was at the writer’s request and for her own protection due to the sensitive subject matter of a personal essay.)

At Storyscape, we are interested in how people define capital “T” Truth; it’s in our mission statement. We like to challenge and play with Truth categories, and allow our contributors to determine where their work falls on the Truth spectrum. This playfulness does not extend to misrepresenting one’s own identity, and certainly not when that misrepresentation involves taking on the garb of another’s race in order to make a point about lack of opportunities for white men. How is this not a no-brainer?

What is perhaps most horrifying is not just the exposure of racism in the literary world, but that it is happening against the backdrop of equally alarming current events in the country at large. A name I loathe to type, Donald Trump, is making overt racism look acceptable to a mass of eager right-wing nationalists, who seem relieved to finally be divested of the veneer of political correctness. This on the heels of the racist massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, on the heels of a parade of cops killing innocent black men. The racism that has always been latent in this country, exposed or suppressed at various points in history, is rising to the surface again, and seems to be feeding on itself.

So when I read Gale’s cringe-worthy blog post and the news about Best American Poetry, I became more incensed. It’s not that racism in the literary world is new, it’s that suddenly it has become so much louder. Do we hold writers to a higher standard of ethical behavior because, in theory, literature sensitizes us to each other? Should we be surprised that white people in the literary world are rushing to defend themselves against the burden of political correctness, and that their defenses are so sloppy and irrational they sound like children’s tantrums?

What frightens me is that, apparently, within certain circles, these defenses are acceptable. That some white people were just waiting for the cue that now it’s okay to say what they really felt all along, whether in the literary world or elsewhere.

Perhaps I respond with more shock than this topic deserves. Black and brown people who deal with these assaults daily are more wary than surprised. I grew up in a bubble, in one of the most diverse counties in the country: Queens, New York. The people on my block, if not Jewish like myself, were Asian, Muslim, Spanish (yes, from the actual country of Spain), Italian, Indian (from the actual country of India). They were not black, which does say something, but the norm was not white. I did not experience anti-Semitism. It was normal to fall somewhere along the spectrum between black and white, and everyone’s family came from somewhere else. It was only much later in life that I began to parse the differences and complicated overlap between white people and light-skinned ethnic minorities, like myself. I have always identified as Jewish before anything else, but I can’t un-claim the whiteness that my appearance affords me. I assume people view me as white first, if vaguely ethnic (?), and that privilege counts.

Still, I am slightly more sensitive about racism because I am Jewish, but I am mainly sensitive to it because racism is fundamentally wrong and morally abhorrent. It shouldn’t take any special knowledge to get that. What is happening right now in the literary world is shameful, and as an editor, this matters to me.

The topic of blind submissions has come up in the discussion of diversity in publishing, so I would like to address this. First of all, if you use any type of online submission manager, you can’t not see the name of the person submitting. So there is no such thing as blind submissions. Nevertheless, I do try to be as fair as possible; like other editors, I am primarily concerned with quality. I usually try to look past the name, unless I recognize it, and then pass the submission on to another editor. Otherwise, when I read a submission, I don’t look at the cover letter or bio right away. I read the submission first, and if I’m interested in the piece (or totally weirded out with it, to be honest), I take a peek at the cover letter and bio. Sometimes a bit of context is helpful. I try not to give special privileges to any submitter, but if you read the journal, you might see some of my biases come through: on average, we publish more women than men, and we have a good mix of writers of color and non-straight writers (though we could always do better).

A blind submission process is never totally possible, and that’s okay: it shows editorial vision. This is why soliciting work is a good thing. I occasionally solicit work from writers I admire (though it does represent a small percentage of the work we publish). In the past, I didn’t think of this in terms of diversity, but of highlighting great work that I hoped would set an example of the type of work we like and raise the level of submissions (which keep getting better year after year).

However, one solicitation in particular made me think differently about the process. Somehow I got up the nerve to ask one of my favorite poets, Terrance Hayes, to publish a poem of his. I don’t know how this happened, but I do know how awkward and bumbling I sounded in my request. Shockingly to me, he said yes, and we were privileged to publish “Black Confederate Ghost Story,” a poem that continues to blow me away every time I read it.

What I didn’t expect was to later receive a submission from a poet I had never heard of, whose poems also blew me away, and to discover upon reading his cover letter that he chose to submit to us because he saw that we had published that poem by Terrance Hayes. Wow, I thought. Lucky us. The poet was Danez Smith.

That’s when I realized that soliciting not only writers I admire, but writers of color that I admire, actually means something. Here was proof, in the form of an unsolicited poetry submission: a gift. We weren’t consciously trying to publish more writers of color, but we accidentally learned that if we did publish great writers of color, we’d attract more. Really good writers, I learned, are actually reading our literary journal and paying close attention to what we publish. Therefore, we should pay close attention to what we publish and be aware of who is getting space on the page and why. That goes for our conferences and literary organizations. We can’t turn a blind eye to the obvious disparities in representation in the literary world. Ultimately, you come down on one side or another, and the position you take should be crystal clear. If you have to (meekly, vapidly) apologize later for your actions, you’re doing something wrong.