Tag Archives: Literary Journal

Paying For A Writing Contest: Is It Worth It?

To submit to today’s literary contests, writers can spend anywhere from $0 to $50. But generally, the average for entry fees is around $15. After spending countless hours tweaking every line and sentence of a poem or story, many writers find it difficult to fork over this kind of money.

It’s not just that many new and emerging writers are young students that makes this difficult. Most contests and journals take quite a bit of time to read submissions, even listing periods of up to six months in delay to hear back from their editors. Because of this, it’s not unusual for writers to submit one piece to multiple publications. If each contest charges $15 to enter, then the cost of doing so quickly adds up.

It begins a vicious cycle. Writers take better, more time-consuming jobs to help support their writing endeavors, but then soon discover they have little time or energy to write.

I may sound sympathetic here, but I’m not. I once went to a lecture given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She looked at the audience of hopeful writers and said “It’s no one’s fault you wanted to be an artist.”

It’s important that if you’re going to be a writer, you develop a thick skin. That when the author of a bestselling novel tells you it’s no one’s problem but your own that you decided to be a writer, you listen.

Writers, including myself, want to be taken seriously. On the bus the other day, a coworker began telling me about her friend, “the novelist,” who self publishes young adult books online and has now been picked up by a larger publisher. She’s making a living doing it, my coworker told me. I don’t know how, she went on, it seems like she’s never doing anything to me. I cringed. I suppose writing does look a whole lot like doing nothing from the outside.

Being taken seriously means not only desiring to be able to earn a living by the work we do, eventually, but also to be respected for that work. A long day of brainstorming and plotting might, to a stranger, appear a whole lot like me pacing my studio apartment in my underwear—but that’s how real work gets done folks.

Let’s look at the facts about writing contests:

Story Shots: Silence

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Sometimes the most terrifying thing isn’t what you hear, but what you don’t hear. Silence can be tranquil and peaceful, but often what breaks that silence isn’t something we wish to be greeted with. For October’s Story Shots, we asked our writers to tackle silence and this is what they came up with.


“I don’t think it’s natural.”

“What isn’t?”

“The silence.”

“Let me see,” the doctor said in a heavy accent as she pulled her chair close to me. I had small ear tubes or something, which made me prone to ear infections all of my life. If I got any sort of cold or sinus infection, an ear infection wasn’t far behind.

“I think there’s a blockage,” she said as the warmth of the light made my ear slightly uncomfortable. I sat there in jeans and a t-shirt on the doctor’s table while my little sister sat in the room with me. I didn’t want her to be afraid of doctors, so I took her into simple examinations like this with me. I thought it was good to teach her not to be afraid by showing her not to be afraid.

“I think it’s just my inner ear being swollen,” I offered. This wasn’t my usual doctor. I had an HMO—Kaiser Permanente, so really, I never had a usual doctor. I had whoever was on at the time at whatever hospital I happened to stop at.

“No no no, it’s a waxy buildup,” she insisted.

I hesitated, “I’ve never had that before, but I’ve had ear infections all of my life. I have small tubes and I get them frequently when sick.”

“Trust me” she said as she fetched a long blue plastic stick with a loop at the end. “I’m just going to pull this wax right out and your hearing will be fine again.”

She had me sit still while she fished around my ear with the long blue noose until she hooked what she wanted.

“I don’t think that’s wax; I can feel that,” I said as she yanked.

Blood started to pour out of my ear.

“Oh!” she exclaimed as she got up to fetch something to catch all of the blood.

My sister recoiled and started to cry, “Manda!”

“Fucking shit,” was all I could say as I felt the warmth of the blood from my ripped eardrum sliding down my neck.

The doctor pressed some cotton to my neck and then left the room. Another doctor came in to look at my ear.

“It’ll just need to heal. Here’s a prescription for amoxicillin for your ear.” He handed me a piece of paper. The thing I wanted in the first place instead of the bloody and ripped ear drum.

The silence in my left ear lasted for months as it healed. It never fully recovered due to some scarring from the ripping itself. And, to boot, my sister was now terrified of doctors. And, to be honest, so was I little, now that they had ruined my dreams of being a recording engineer.

How could I mix music if I couldn’t hear it?

– Amanda Riggle


The headboard presses at the back of my skull as I close my eyes and sink into it. For a while, it’s just me, alone in my basement bedroom. I imagine my brother sleeping across the hall, his arms stretched out. The hair on his forehead slick with sweat—the musty scent that is teenage boy in the air, sticking to his sheets. And my mother, in the room above me, face-down on her king-sized bed, her thin hair a halo, her deep snores a lullaby. My sister and her newborn son in my old room. His body rigid. “Relax,” his brain screams, but his muscles don’t listen.

My body screams “sleep,” but my mind won’t listen. In the darkness, I begin to hear voices—muffled, but familiar. I open my eyes and walk to the door. I open it, peer around the corner. Left to right. Right to left. The house is dark and silent, but in the distance, a man laughs. His voice is raspy and high. I quietly close the door.

“Matt,” I call, but there’s no answer. Padding back across my bedroom, back to the bed, I dig my knees into the mattress, lean over, and draw back the curtains. Outside my window is a sea of black, but a woman stares back at me. Her short, brown hair curls away from her face, round and grey as the moon. I lean closer, pressing my skin against the cool pane until she disappears. I squint, trying to make out the landscape of our backyard, the weeds overtaking the flowerbed, the glow of the street lamps lining the freeway behind our fence. The window pane vibrates as a semi passes. The thin walls shake. My world is blue, and there’s no one it.

Back in bed, I reach for the phone on the nightstand. I dial his number with shaky fingers.

“Are you here?” I ask.

“I’m at home,” Matt answers.

Why Serious Writers Blog

Blogging, even in this day and age, sometimes gets a bad rap. Blog posts aren’t taken quite as seriously as articles from large news organizations, and there are many who consider it only a step above writing in a diary. It’s for attention-seeking writers who are no longer simply okay with tucking away their work in folders and old notebooks, who demand an audience. And how presumptuous of them to think that anyone would care to listen, right? No.

But even if you don’t believe that, even if you believe in the power of blogging, it’s hard to start. It’s hard to feel like creating your own blog isn’t like shouting into the void.

There are over 316 million people living in the U.S. alone. There is no such thing as a “void.” Someone out there will read your work, someone out there will love your work. You just have to believe that.

If you take yourself seriously as a writer, other people will too. But the fact of the matter is, no matter how great your writing may be—even if you’re the next Hemingway or Shakespeare (one can hope)—it doesn’t matter if no one besides you and Aunt Sally read those beautiful, insightful words.

It used to be that the only way for writers to share their work was by submitting to journals and magazines. If you were lucky, an agent would notice your work. They’d give you a call and ask for more. Or maybe, after years of your manuscript sitting in the slush pile, a bored intern would pick it up, flip through the crumpled pages, and, after falling in love with it, beg their editor to read it. In a way, blogging evens the playing field.

The reality of today’s publishing world is that less and less publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts at all. If they arrive by snail mail, most editors send them right back. If they arrive in their inbox, it’s as simple as pressing delete. New, debut writers are a risk. There’s no way to know if they’ll sell because their work is untested. So, instead, editors rely on agents to vet submissions, to vouch for authors, and these manuscripts—the ones that have been vouched for—are more often than not the ones that editors end up purchasing the rights to.

Why does this matter to you, dear writer? Because blogging is becoming a way that agents find new authors. Tim Manley, the author of Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings, is just one example of a Tumblr user whose blog was 1. found by a literary agent and 2. eventually sold to Penguin. But there are other examples, like Julie Powell’s blog “The Julie/Julia Project,” which was later turned into the book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and then later turned into the film Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. But even big names, like Neil Gaiman, have blogs. And, of course, John Green is all over Tumblr.

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There are plenty of people who will disagree with me. It’s time, they say, for the end of blogging to promote your book, your writing, to build a platform. And, you know what? They’re not wrong either. Because the point isn’t to blog because you have to. If it feels like work, if it doesn’t come naturally, then don’t do it. Don’t blog, and tweet, and tumblr, and pin, and post—don’t try to do it all, because your writing will sound thin. It will lack a voice. Pick one avenue, whether that’s a 1000 word blog post or a 140 character tweet. The point is, whatever you do, do it well. Do it right.

Amanda Riggle Author Profile

IMG_0206Published Poet Profile: Amanda Riggle

Interview by: Melanie Figueroa

Amanda is a student at Cal Poly Pomona, a tutor, and an editor at The Poetics Project. While Amanda’s goal is to become a teacher, she also writes poems and short stories. On April 26th, one of Amanda’s poems will be published in the Pomona Valley Review Literary Journal. For more information about the journal, visit their website www.pomonavalleyreview.com. Below is an interview I was fortunate enough to be have with Amanda about what it’s like to be published, her writing process, and, of course, poetry.

The Poetics Project: Amanda, you wrote this poem in response to a workshop for The Poetics Project. Can you please tell us a little about that assignment and how your piece was influenced by it?

Amanda: Before the website was launched, we had a small Facebook group in which we critiqued each other’s writing and had creative writing projects with a deadline for the work to be shared.  The assignment my poem was in response to had two requirements – one, that it be about childhood and two, that it fit with Russian formalist critic Victor Shklovsky’s view of art in that it takes a look at the mundane and transforms the familiar by describing it in unfamiliar terms so that the reader takes a look at the mundane subject and sees a new thing in it they hadn’t recognized before. My response to that prompt was to take the opposite view of childhood that society generally holds – that it is not something precious, unique, and priceless and, in fact, is something that everyone has, good, bad, or in-between.

Dan Hogan Author Profile

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Dan Hogan and wife, Sophie Mae

Published Poet Profile: Dan Hogan
Interview by: Amanda Riggle

Dan Hogan is a part-time English teacher at Cal State Fullerton, Irvine Valley College, and Norco College. In addition to being an amazing teacher, Dan has recently had his work published in Cal State Fullerton’s literary journal DASH – due out in May of 2013. His original haiku was about a double-parking incident and will be available for everyone to read once DASH releases their current issue. For more info on DASH, visit their website WWW.DashLiteraryJournal.Com. We had the pleasure to interview Dan via-email and below is what he had to say. He’s a smart man, talented man, so you should totally read this and be inspired.

The Poetics Project: Dan, what inspired you to write this piece? Did someone double park next to you and block you in?

Dan: I live at an apartment complex with two really narrow spots right next to the dumpster. I work so late that often those are the two spaces that are open. Most of the time, people with their gargantuan sport utility vehicles can’t fit in the spots, and it’s kind of an art to squeeze in there. But sometimes people just give up and park across both spots. Or worse, they park with one tire into the other spot making it impossible to park there. Such a pain. The nearest spot from there is about two hundred yards away, and at 1 am after grading all night at a coffee shop, it’s a real pain. So I wrote it one night because I always feel like writing notes and leaving them on the windshield, but this time I didn’t.