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How to Get Started Submitting Work to Literary Magazines & Online Journals

If you’re a writer, poet, and anything in between, most likely you have had the inkling to submit your work to a literary magazine or online journal. What stops writers from submitting their work? Well, it could be a couple of things that hold up the process along the way. First, finding a literary magazine or online journal to submit to requires some work and research. The internet has become a hub for everything that we can imagine, all with a stroke of some keys on the keyboard. You have to narrow the search to specify your genre or writing niche.  Tip: Poets and Writers.org has a tool that filters by genre and sub-genre, all of the literary magazines on the web. Search on Literary Magazines database, https://www.pw.org/literary_magazines?apage=*.&gclid=CjwKCAiAoqXQBRA8EiwAIIOWsnuF5bKsaNuUUb3s5KWYdQcAzRKkez6d7nLt7DrKbRDELho-k3v-ZBoCyW8QAvD_BwE There are numerous tools like this that one can find just by researching.

Another showstopper might be the submission fees that range anywhere from 5 to 50 dollars, in some cases. Again, do not let this stop you from submitting work! There are free submission windows for most literary magazines and online journals. Tip: Most of the time you have to sign up for email notifications, but if you are serious about submitting it is worth it to know when the free submission windows open. According to https://sanmiguelwritersconference.org , there are 25 well known literary magazines that require no reading fee. Click the link below to view some of the literary magazines that offer free submissions:

https://sanmiguelwritersconference.org/25-literary-magazines-you-can-submit-to-without-a-reading-fee/

Remember, don’t get discouraged about reading fees or overwhelmed with where to start submitting your work. We all must start somewhere, be brave, go forth and submit your work into the world!

Author: Jacqlyn Cope

Mount Saint Mary’s MFA in Creative Writing Graduate Student

12 November 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sit Down With Wendy C. Ortiz

Wendy C. Ortiz has had quite the illustrious career in and around her native Los Angeles. Ortiz, writer, editor, and educator is also a practicing psychotherapist and counselor. She has founded and participated in numerous reading series in Southern California, and she’s hard to miss on social media. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Wendy reading from her “dreamoir,” Bruja. Her work is transparent, experimental, fearlessly honest, and her connection with her audience is palpable. In addition to Bruja, she is the author of Excavation: A Memoir and Hollywood Notebook. She has appeared in The New York Times, Joyland, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Most recently her “Urban Liminal” series of texts appear alongside signature graphic representations of the projects of Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in the book Amplified Urbanism.   Tonya Kelley: What does a normal day look like for you? Do you wake up to an alarm? When does the day end? How committed are you to a set schedule? Wendy C. Ortiz: On a normal day I tend to naturally wake up between 6am-6:30am (no alarm). In between I'll write, co-parent, see psychotherapy clients, household stuff, etc. The day ends as late as 11:30pm. I like a set schedule because my jobs allow me to create my own hours. As someone who works from home half-time, I've found that without a structure, things can get veerrrrry messy.     TK: What is your creative process? Do you find you come up with ideas for collections (such as  Bruja) first, or does the work inspire the collections? WCO: My creative process is typically me thinking of something I want to write for weeks, if not months, sometimes years...and in that time I'm working it out, questioning all the angles, imagining how to go about it...and if I'm lucky I will write it down/type it out at some point. The work often inspires the collections.    TK: What do you consider the purpose of memoir? What do you hope your readers will take away from your more personal stories and experiences? WCO: The purpose of memoir is the purpose of any story, poem, song. There is no one purpose.  My hope is that readers will either begin to see or advance more conversation about what lives in the gray area, what is not simply black and white, or binary.    TK: I recently went to one of your readings where you read from Bruja - your “dreamoir.” Even though we knew we were listening to dreams, there were a few moments where the audience audibly gasped. One that comes to mind is a reference to a dream in which you stabbed your mother. Is there anything off limits? How do you trust your reader that they can distinguish between “dream” and “waking desire” so to speak? How does mom feel about this? WCO: There's plenty that is off limits! I, in fact, pride myself on this. I would never want to give everything away. With regard to dream vs. waking desire: well, if a reader cannot distinguish between the two, perhaps they are not my ideal reader, nor I their ideal writer. If they see a relationship between the two--well, there is room for us to grow into understanding one another, perhaps.  The question "how does mom feel about this?" is a funny and telling one to me--I often use this question, as it's posed by a number of audience members I've talked with over time, as an anecdote to ask readers: Why assume I have the sort of relationship with my mother that would allow me to talk about my books? Or, why assume any relationship at all? It's actually a projection audiences make on the author.    TK: When you feel like you just can’t possibly write another word, what do you do to entertain yourself? Inspire yourself? WCO: Read more books. Watch episodic television. Hike. Go to the beach. Read even more books.   TK: Tell us a bit about your academic life. How do you think your background in psychology and therapy has helped (or hindered) your literary life? WCO: I earned my MFA in Creative Writing in 2002 and my MA in Clinical Psychology in 2010. When I embarked on the road to the MA I already knew that studying psychology would only help my literary life--on the page and how I deal with people (peers, writing community, readers, etc.)    TK: Any hobbies of note? How do you unwind? WCO: Not sure these are of note, but reading and hiking in Griffith Park. I like to reserve one day per week when I don't leave the house and can talk as little as possible.   TK: Any embarrassing literary moments? “Mistakes” you made as a young writer? WCO: A few! None I'd share here. But I have for years been building on the essay in my head of "what not to do."   TK: I would read it!   TK: Is there anything you’ve done that you absolutely loved, but couldn’t get published? WCO: Currently (as of now--one can hope that by the time this is in print this will be untrue)--I have a poetry book that has seen numerous rejections. It's sitting with four publishers now. If it strikes out with them, I'll hold it aside for a while and come back to it later.    TK: What do you read for pleasure? WCO: Everything. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry. I consider nearly all reading pleasure.    TK: If you had to live anywhere but LA, where would you end up? WCO: Oooh, tough question...I never imagine this...but if I had to end up somewhere else it would have to be somewhere with a beach and temperate weather. I wouldn't end up anywhere else.     Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir, Hollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in such venues as The New York Times, Joyland, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Most recently her “Urban Liminal” series of texts appear alongside signature graphic representations of the projects of Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in the book Amplified Urbanism. Wendy is a psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles.      About the interviewer: Tonya Kelley is an MFA candidate at Mount Saint Mary's University where she is an editor of the literary magazine, The Rush. She is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer, and a past recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship award for poetry. She resides in Los Angeles.

Wendy C. Ortiz has had quite the illustrious career in and around her native Los Angeles. Ortiz, writer, editor, and educator is also a practicing psychotherapist and counselor. She has founded and participated in numerous reading series in Southern California, and she’s hard to miss on social media.

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Wendy reading from her “dreamoir,” Bruja. Her work is transparent, experimental, fearlessly honest, and her connection with her audience is palpable. In addition to Bruja, she is the author of Excavation: A Memoir and Hollywood Notebook. She has appeared in The New York TimesJoyland, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Most recently her “Urban Liminal” series of texts appear alongside signature graphic representations of the projects of Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in the book Amplified Urbanism.

 

Tonya Kelley: What does a normal day look like for you? Do you wake up to an alarm? When does the day end? How committed are you to a set schedule?

Wendy C. Ortiz: On a normal day I tend to naturally wake up between 6am-6:30am (no alarm). In between I'll write, co-parent, see psychotherapy clients, household stuff, etc. The day ends as late as 11:30pm. I like a set schedule because my jobs allow me to create my own hours. As someone who works from home half-time, I've found that without a structure, things can get veerrrrry messy.  

 

TK: What is your creative process? Do you find you come up with ideas for collections (such as  Bruja) first, or does the work inspire the collections?

WCO: My creative process is typically me thinking of something I want to write for weeks, if not months, sometimes years...and in that time I'm working it out, questioning all the angles, imagining how to go about it...and if I'm lucky I will write it down/type it out at some point. The work often inspires the collections. 

 

TK: What do you consider the purpose of memoir? What do you hope your readers will take away from your more personal stories and experiences?

WCO: The purpose of memoir is the purpose of any story, poem, song. There is no one purpose. 

My hope is that readers will either begin to see or advance more conversation about what lives in the gray area, what is not simply black and white, or binary. 

 

TK: I recently went to one of your readings where you read from Bruja - your “dreamoir.” Even though we knew we were listening to dreams, there were a few moments where the audience audibly gasped. One that comes to mind is a reference to a dream in which you stabbed your mother. Is there anything off limits? How do you trust your reader that they can distinguish between “dream” and “waking desire” so to speak? How does mom feel about this?

WCO: There's plenty that is off limits! I, in fact, pride myself on this. I would never want to give everything away. With regard to dream vs. waking desire: well, if a reader cannot distinguish between the two, perhaps they are not my ideal reader, nor I their ideal writer. If they see a relationship between the two--well, there is room for us to grow into understanding one another, perhaps. 

The question "how does mom feel about this?" is a funny and telling one to me--I often use this question, as it's posed by a number of audience members I've talked with over time, as an anecdote to ask readers: Why assume I have the sort of relationship with my mother that would allow me to talk about my books? Or, why assume any relationship at all? It's actually a projection audiences make on the author. 

 

TK: When you feel like you just can’t possibly write another word, what do you do to entertain yourself? Inspire yourself?

WCO: Read more books. Watch episodic television. Hike. Go to the beach. Read even more books.

 

TK: Tell us a bit about your academic life. How do you think your background in psychology and therapy has helped (or hindered) your literary life?

WCO: I earned my MFA in Creative Writing in 2002 and my MA in Clinical Psychology in 2010. When I embarked on the road to the MA I already knew that studying psychology would only help my literary life--on the page and how I deal with people (peers, writing community, readers, etc.) 

 

TK: Any hobbies of note? How do you unwind?

WCO: Not sure these are of note, but reading and hiking in Griffith Park. I like to reserve one day per week when I don't leave the house and can talk as little as possible.

 

TK: Any embarrassing literary moments? “Mistakes” you made as a young writer?

WCO: A few! None I'd share here. But I have for years been building on the essay in my head of "what not to do."  

TK: I would read it!

 

TK: Is there anything you’ve done that you absolutely loved, but couldn’t get published?

WCO: Currently (as of now--one can hope that by the time this is in print this will be untrue)--I have a poetry book that has seen numerous rejections. It's sitting with four publishers now. If it strikes out with them, I'll hold it aside for a while and come back to it later. 

 

TK: What do you read for pleasure?

WCO: Everything. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry. I consider nearly all reading pleasure. 

 

TK: If you had to live anywhere but LA, where would you end up?

WCO: Oooh, tough question...I never imagine this...but if I had to end up somewhere else it would have to be somewhere with a beach and temperate weather. I wouldn't end up anywhere else.  

 

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A MemoirHollywood Notebook, and the dreamoir Bruja. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesThe Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the National Book Critics Circle Small Press Spotlight blog. Her writing has appeared in such venues as The New York TimesJoyland, and a year-long series appeared at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Most recently her “Urban Liminal” series of texts appear alongside signature graphic representations of the projects of Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in the book Amplified Urbanism. Wendy is a psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles. 

 

 

About the interviewer: Tonya Kelley is an MFA candidate at Mount Saint Mary's University where she is an editor of the literary magazine, The Rush. She is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer, and a past recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship award for poetry. She resides in Los Angeles.

An Interview with Boris Dralyuk

Literary translator, writer, and Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Boris Dralyuk is as approachable as he is accomplished. Speaking with him, you get the sense that he is as interested in you as you are in him. He is the editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (Pushkin Press, 2016) and co-editor of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015), and has translated several volumes from Russian, including Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (Pushkin Press, 2015) and Odessa Stories (Pushkin Press, 2016). Here, we discuss a life of language, literature, and what it means to be “home.”   Tonya Kelley: Having just wrapped up reading your translation of Bessarabian Stamps, one of the first things that stood out is the wit and sentimentality you’ve maintained throughout the text. How do you familiarize yourself with the original author’s work when you’re embarking upon a translation? Boris Dralyuk: First, thank you for your kind words, which are important to me — and would have been important to my good friend Oleg Woolf, who passed away in 2011. I should say that Oleg and I became friends through my translation of his magical Stamps. We met in New York, at a reading, and liked each other from the start, but it wasn’t until my flight back to Los Angeles, during which I read the slim Russian book he had inscribed to me, that I knew we were going to be friends. I started translating the stories as soon as I finished reading them — as soon as the plane landed — and Oleg and I began to correspond. We racked up hundreds of emails over the course of the project, and when the translation was finished, we raised glasses of wine on our respective coasts. We toasted our collaboration across a great distance, but couldn’t have felt closer to one another — an appropriate celebration for a translation, now that I think of it. Oleg was married to Irina Mashinski, a brilliant Russian-American poet, who played an enormous part in our project. She has remained one of my dearest friends. As has Robert Chandler, an inspired and inspirational translator of Russian, who sat on the editorial board of Oleg and Irina’s literary journal, Cardinal Points. Robert, Irina, and I went on to co-edit The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (2015) and to collaborate on Cardinal Points, the seventh volume of which will appear this fall. My experience with Oleg’s book taught me that an author’s work can reach out a hand of friendship to the translator. And if you're open to that gesture, if you respond as you would to a friend — attentively, sympathetically — you’re well on your way.   TK: What was your academic path? BD: I applied to UCLA as a high school senior, in part simply because I wanted to stay in Los Angeles. But I had another solid reason: I knew I wanted to study Russian literature — more specifically, translation — and it just so happened that UCLA had a terrific Slavic department, which was then chaired by Michael Henry Heim, a towering figure in the field of translation. He had brought Danilo Kiš, Bohumil Hrabal, and, perhaps most famously, Milan Kundera into English. I wanted nothing more than to learn from the man who had done that — who had introduced anglophone readers to a whole library of masterpieces. I was accepted, but still didn’t know what to expect: Would I have the chance to speak to him, show him my own feeble efforts at translation? I couldn’t have antiquated the warmth and generosity that Mike would show me on the very first day of classes and in the 12 years to come. In the days after his untimely death in 2012, I wrote about our first meeting — and about the many things he had done for me: http://international.ucla.edu/euro/article/128251 I went on to receive a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA, and to teach there and at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. But as much as I loved — and still love — teaching, I am not, at heart, an academic. My passion is translation, and although the art has gained some respect in academia over the past few decades (largely thanks to the efforts of Mike and a few other tireless advocates), it’s still something of a red-headed stepchild. Eventually, I decided to cede my place to someone who would be of greater use to the university and who could get more out of the academic environment.   TK: How did your first translation project come to you? How do you go about choosing your projects now? BD: My first project came to me through a now-defunct journal, whose editor asked me to translate first one piece, then another, and then to collaborate with him on an entire collection. Around the same time, a small co-op press asked to translate a short story for a standalone book. I met more and more people, both in person and over email, and the opportunities kept coming — some very small, some larger. I tell you, nothing was too small for me! Now I can be more selective, but I’m still driven by curiosity and enthusiasm for the art. I have a very hard time saying no!   TK: Do you have a favorite project? BD: My translations of Isaac Babel, especially of the Odessa Stories, mean the world to me. These vibrant, vital, thrilling tales — lush in language, rich in humor — embody the spirit of my hometown. I loved every second I spent in that world: a true homecoming. But you don’t have to be from Odessa to enjoy Babel. Jewish gangsters, sweet wine, and the salty sea — what’s not to like?   TK: Speaking of Odessa, what do you consider “home” these days? Has the meaning of “home” evolved over the years, as is the case with many of us transplants? BD: An excellent question! Home is Los Angeles, but a Los Angeles I see through the prism of my émigré experience — studded with flecks and glimmers of Odessa. (That’s no surprise, really: I live just down the street from the Odessa Deli on Santa Monica and Ogden.) I wrote an essay about “my” Russian Los Angeles for LARB (Los Angeles Review of Books) some time ago: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/land-columbus-echoes-las-russian-past   TK: Compared to the other places you’ve lived and worked, is there anything that you think makes the Los Angeles literary scene stand out? BD: The Los Angeles literary scene is uniquely diverse, and uniquely decentered. These qualities lend the scene extraordinary vitality. Los Angeles is the best place to try something new, to experiment, to work without the pressure of external expectations. Unfortunately, those same qualities can also breed a sense of loneliness, isolation. Sure, no one’s looking over your shoulder, telling you how to write — but it can also feel like no one’s looking at all. That’s beginning to change. People are looking in our direction. Presses like Phoneme Editions, Unnamed, Les Figues, Red Hen, and Writ Large, to name just a few, make up a genuine local publishing industry — an industry that reflects the city’s spirit of inclusivity and diversity. And I’d like to think that LARB is very much a part of this transformation.   TK: Can you describe your relationship with Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) over the years? Where did you start? Where are you now? How did you get there? BD: I first volunteered for LARB when it was little more than a gleam in the eye of our Editor in Chief, Tom Lutz. My first job was on the noir beat, soliciting and editing reviews of crime fiction. I’m hopelessly addicted to detective stories, especially the hardboiled variety, so this was a dream gig. I had to step back after about a year, in order to finish my PhD, but I stayed in touch with Tom, continued to contribute to the journal, and, when the opportunity came up, stepped in as Executive Editor.   TK: When you’re choosing reviews to include in an issue, what are you looking for? BD: We publish three pieces a day and cast a very wide net!  Our goal is to reflect the diversity of voices and interests both in our city and around the world. We look for thought-provoking, original, challenging — but clearly communicated — pieces. Just take a look at our main page on any given day; you’ll find essays, reviews, and interviews on a remarkable variety of subjects.   TK: How do you make time for “pleasure” reading (or not)? What genres appeal most to you? BD: I engage in a very dangerous activity: reading while walking.  I walk to and from work, and read along the way. . .  These days I gravitate toward poetry, literary essays, crime fiction — not necessarily in that order. Right now I’m reading The Best of Don Marquis, who’s always good for a laugh.   TK: What projects are you currently working on? BD: I’ve just finished a translation of Mikhail Zoshchenko’s intentionally inept Sentimental Tales for Columbia University Press’s Russian Library series. Zoshchenko was the greatest satirists of the Soviet period, and these devastating stories of provincial life in the 1920s and early ‘30s were both a joy and a terror to render. I drew on folks like Marquis, Ring Lardner, and Damon Runyon to set the tone. . .   Boris Dralyuk is a literary translator and the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (Pushkin Press, 2016) and co-editor of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015), and has translated several volumes from Russian, including Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (Pushkin Press, 2015) and Odessa Stories (Pushkin Press, 2016).   About the interviewer: Tonya Kelley is an MFA candidate at Mount Saint Mary's University where she is an editor of the literary magazine, The Rush. She is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer, and a past recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship award for poetry. She resides in Los Angeles.        

Literary translator, writer, and Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Boris Dralyuk is as approachable as he is accomplished. Speaking with him, you get the sense that he is as interested in you as you are in him. He is the editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (Pushkin Press, 2016) and co-editor of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015), and has translated several volumes from Russian, including Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (Pushkin Press, 2015) and Odessa Stories (Pushkin Press, 2016). Here, we discuss a life of language, literature, and what it means to be “home.”

 

Tonya Kelley: Having just wrapped up reading your translation of Bessarabian Stamps, one of the first things that stood out is the wit and sentimentality you’ve maintained throughout the text. How do you familiarize yourself with the original author’s work when you’re embarking upon a translation?

Boris Dralyuk: First, thank you for your kind words, which are important to me — and would have been important to my good friend Oleg Woolf, who passed away in 2011. I should say that Oleg and I became friends through my translation of his magical Stamps. We met in New York, at a reading, and liked each other from the start, but it wasn’t until my flight back to Los Angeles, during which I read the slim Russian book he had inscribed to me, that I knew we were going to be friends.

I started translating the stories as soon as I finished reading them — as soon as the plane landed — and Oleg and I began to correspond. We racked up hundreds of emails over the course of the project, and when the translation was finished, we raised glasses of wine on our respective coasts. We toasted our collaboration across a great distance, but couldn’t have felt closer to one another — an appropriate celebration for a translation, now that I think of it.

Oleg was married to Irina Mashinski, a brilliant Russian-American poet, who played an enormous part in our project. She has remained one of my dearest friends. As has Robert Chandler, an inspired and inspirational translator of Russian, who sat on the editorial board of Oleg and Irina’s literary journal, Cardinal Points. Robert, Irina, and I went on to co-edit The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (2015) and to collaborate on Cardinal Points, the seventh volume of which will appear this fall.

My experience with Oleg’s book taught me that an author’s work can reach out a hand of friendship to the translator. And if you're open to that gesture, if you respond as you would to a friend — attentively, sympathetically — you’re well on your way.

 

TK: What was your academic path?

BD: I applied to UCLA as a high school senior, in part simply because I wanted to stay in Los Angeles. But I had another solid reason: I knew I wanted to study Russian literature — more specifically, translation — and it just so happened that UCLA had a terrific Slavic department, which was then chaired by Michael Henry Heim, a towering figure in the field of translation. He had brought Danilo Kiš, Bohumil Hrabal, and, perhaps most famously, Milan Kundera into English. I wanted nothing more than to learn from the man who had done that — who had introduced anglophone readers to a whole library of masterpieces. I was accepted, but still didn’t know what to expect: Would I have the chance to speak to him, show him my own feeble efforts at translation? I couldn’t have antiquated the warmth and generosity that Mike would show me on the very first day of classes and in the 12 years to come. In the days after his untimely death in 2012, I wrote about our first meeting — and about the many things he had done for me: http://international.ucla.edu/euro/article/128251

I went on to receive a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA, and to teach there and at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. But as much as I loved — and still love — teaching, I am not, at heart, an academic. My passion is translation, and although the art has gained some respect in academia over the past few decades (largely thanks to the efforts of Mike and a few other tireless advocates), it’s still something of a red-headed stepchild. Eventually, I decided to cede my place to someone who would be of greater use to the university and who could get more out of the academic environment.

 

TK: How did your first translation project come to you? How do you go about choosing your projects now?

BD: My first project came to me through a now-defunct journal, whose editor asked me to translate first one piece, then another, and then to collaborate with him on an entire collection. Around the same time, a small co-op press asked to translate a short story for a standalone book. I met more and more people, both in person and over email, and the opportunities kept coming — some very small, some larger. I tell you, nothing was too small for me! Now I can be more selective, but I’m still driven by curiosity and enthusiasm for the art. I have a very hard time saying no!

 

TK: Do you have a favorite project?

BD: My translations of Isaac Babel, especially of the Odessa Stories, mean the world to me. These vibrant, vital, thrilling tales — lush in language, rich in humor — embody the spirit of my hometown. I loved every second I spent in that world: a true homecoming. But you don’t have to be from Odessa to enjoy Babel. Jewish gangsters, sweet wine, and the salty sea — what’s not to like?

 

TK: Speaking of Odessa, what do you consider “home” these days? Has the meaning of “home” evolved over the years, as is the case with many of us transplants?

BD: An excellent question! Home is Los Angeles, but a Los Angeles I see through the prism of my émigré experience — studded with flecks and glimmers of Odessa. (That’s no surprise, really: I live just down the street from the Odessa Deli on Santa Monica and Ogden.) I wrote an essay about “my” Russian Los Angeles for LARB (Los Angeles Review of Books) some time ago: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/land-columbus-echoes-las-russian-past

 

TK: Compared to the other places you’ve lived and worked, is there anything that you think makes the Los Angeles literary scene stand out?

BD: The Los Angeles literary scene is uniquely diverse, and uniquely decentered. These qualities lend the scene extraordinary vitality. Los Angeles is the best place to try something new, to experiment, to work without the pressure of external expectations. Unfortunately, those same qualities can also breed a sense of loneliness, isolation. Sure, no one’s looking over your shoulder, telling you how to write — but it can also feel like no one’s looking at all. That’s beginning to change. People are looking in our direction. Presses like Phoneme Editions, Unnamed, Les Figues, Red Hen, and Writ Large, to name just a few, make up a genuine local publishing industry — an industry that reflects the city’s spirit of inclusivity and diversity. And I’d like to think that LARB is very much a part of this transformation.

 

TK: Can you describe your relationship with Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) over the years? Where did you start? Where are you now? How did you get there?

BD: I first volunteered for LARB when it was little more than a gleam in the eye of our Editor in Chief, Tom Lutz. My first job was on the noir beat, soliciting and editing reviews of crime fiction. I’m hopelessly addicted to detective stories, especially the hardboiled variety, so this was a dream gig. I had to step back after about a year, in order to finish my PhD, but I stayed in touch with Tom, continued to contribute to the journal, and, when the opportunity came up, stepped in as Executive Editor.

 

TK: When you’re choosing reviews to include in an issue, what are you looking for?

BD: We publish three pieces a day and cast a very wide net!  Our goal is to reflect the diversity of voices and interests both in our city and around the world. We look for thought-provoking, original, challenging — but clearly communicated — pieces. Just take a look at our main page on any given day; you’ll find essays, reviews, and interviews on a remarkable variety of subjects.

 

TK: How do you make time for “pleasure” reading (or not)? What genres appeal most to you?

BD: I engage in a very dangerous activity: reading while walking.  I walk to and from work, and read along the way. . .  These days I gravitate toward poetry, literary essays, crime fiction — not necessarily in that order. Right now I’m reading The Best of Don Marquis, who’s always good for a laugh.

 

TK: What projects are you currently working on?

BD: I’ve just finished a translation of Mikhail Zoshchenko’s intentionally inept Sentimental Tales for Columbia University Press’s Russian Library series. Zoshchenko was the greatest satirists of the Soviet period, and these devastating stories of provincial life in the 1920s and early ‘30s were both a joy and a terror to render. I drew on folks like Marquis, Ring Lardner, and Damon Runyon to set the tone. . .

 

Boris Dralyuk is a literary translator and the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (Pushkin Press, 2016) and co-editor of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015), and has translated several volumes from Russian, including Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (Pushkin Press, 2015) and Odessa Stories (Pushkin Press, 2016).

 

About the interviewer: Tonya Kelley is an MFA candidate at Mount Saint Mary's University where she is an editor of the literary magazine, The Rush. She is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer, and a past recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts fellowship award for poetry. She resides in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

Black Womanhood Front and Center: In Conversation with Morgan Parker  

When I call Morgan Parker to discuss her life and the brilliant poems that emerge from her experiences, she's in a bookstore. She's been there for two hours, and I feel a twinge of envy as I've just left work and haven't been near a bookstore in ages. Don't judge; staying away curbs my book-buying addiction. I also have an intense writing/work life at the moment. Taking the time to speak with Parker is a dreamy respite. She is currently on tour with her new poetry collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, a book that explores nearly every crevice of being a Black woman in America in a commanding and unflinching voice. We chatted about our mutual love of therapy, truth-telling art, her gift to the world, Beyoncé and more. 

Ashunda Norris: Who are the Black women that have inspired and influenced you?  

Morgan Parker: I mean, its gonna start with my Mama and my grandma, right? My aunties. That's how we learn, not only just how to be, strong and beautiful but how to be fed up. That it's okay to be fed up. How to keep it moving, how to care for people around you in the community and how to make humor and art and love out of what is traumatic. It's something that Black women have not only passed down in lineage, but also around each other. We have this kind way of not even having to speak anything and understand how each other is feeling and how to care for one another. It's mythical in a particular of way where it's just a sixth sense that we have of relating to each other and communicating. Our experiences are so unique, particularly in America... our lives are depleted and ignored and troubled and mythologized. Sometimes it just feels like Black women alone are the only people who understand me. And not just because we are all like the same but, because we all are battling the same set of systems and the same set of negation and trying to work against that.  

 

AN: Your poem, All They Want is My Money My Pussy My Blood in particular, these lines: "Okay so I'm Black in America right and I walk into a bar./I drink a lot of wine and kiss a Black man on his beard./I do whatever I want because I could die any minute." For me, the last line burns with a really direct truth because I feel like someone is always trying to drown us and not always in the most direct ways. Can you talk about the thought process behind the poem?  

 

MP: I wanted to write about this multi-pronged attack of just being in the world. Sometimes very subtle and sometimes really extreme. Some people don't understand that Black art can also be contemporary art. Their extremes of Blackness are rooted in history and trauma. That's a painful thing that happens in my day and also just like, here I am on a date with a white guy and there's no indictment. It's all very connected, and I wanted to write about the American capitalist, misogynist world where it's all about consuming of my money and consuming of my body and not only in a sexual way, but also in a violent way. I wanted to point to a lot of instances where I felt like that.  

 

AN: You write about sex and the intricacies of relationships Black women have with their partners. It's not always perfect Black girl love. As in the poem When a Man I Love Jerks Off In My Bed Next To Me And Falls Asleep. How do you write poetry full of vulnerability and not shy away from how the audience/readers will react to your honesty?  

 

MP: I'm just like really scared, and I've sorta given up being charming in a way. In my poetry, I want to entertain, I wanna make myself laugh, I wanna feel myself when I reading. Often sometimes, what is required of me is actually saying the truth and sometimes the truth is just not that cute. It's almost like an active thing. When I'm writing it, I haven't even really processed these moments that I'm pulling from so the writing of it is actually really painful. When I finished it, I was just like uggghh. I was like really struggling. I was like I'm never gonna show this. I still talk to that guy. And it's like weird. Should I publish this? If I do, what is he gonna think? Is he gonna recognize himself? Will other men recognize themselves? What does it mean to be publishing that work and then interacting socially? It's weird and it's also art and it needs to be said. Again, with that poem, I really wanted to think about violence on myself and this hating of myself and believing that I deserve pain. Whether it be neglect or sexual violence or punishment in this biblical sense. I wanted to track that. It really is about living and investigating what I'm feeling. What is at work? What is at play? What are my long held feelings about myself and the world that are making me feel this particular way? What have I internalized versus what do I really believe? Who is at fault? That is not just one person. That's me. That's the world. That's the bible. I'm really interested in figuring that out in the poem. It's really just about making the link. It's not just Black women's bodies. It's also about systems of oppression worldwide. The way that we think of service and how suffering has a purpose somehow. I wanted to make connections. I never want someone to read one of my poems and say it's this! The reading of the poem has to be plus this, plus this, plus this. It's a compounding of things and connecting them all together.  

 

AN: You mentioned not fully processing what had occurred when you wrote that piece. How do you push past the initial insecurities of panic and put the poem into the world?  

 

MP: It's not necessarily so much getting past it as it is living with it. That is what I have tasked myself with as a writer. Not everyone wants to do that. I have made it my mission to speak truth even when the truth is really scary to me and doesn't make me look good or whatever. If I really am gonna say that that's what I want to do, I have to do. That is very uncomfortable, but in the long run, and in the bigger scheme of things, that is what I'm tasked to do as a writer. It is making space for other people to say their own truth even if they are afraid to do so. Younger folks, my homies, other writers, they all have something to say and don't want to or are afraid. I'm taking one for the team. I'm the one who looks crazy so that other people can come through the door and feel okay with that. I look at a lot of other writers who are unafraid, artists, and people who are really putting their minds and bodies out there and truly I believe this is my offering to the world. It's not always gonna be the most beautiful rhythms it's not always gonna be the funniest thing. It will be the truest thing that I can muster that is what I have to offer to folks.  

 

AN:  I like what you said about taking one for the team because when I read some of your poetry, I was like thank you for giving me permission to write these kinds of things some things I was very uncomfortable putting into the world. Your mission is working and it's bold and brave.  

 

MP: That's awesome. That means a lot to me. That's what so cool about having the book out there and being able to talk to other Black women who are like thanks!  

That makes me feel better and it makes them feel better and we all just feel a little bit less insane. I've put something out there. I'm surprised at how far it reaches and how many people can identify. There's this weird myth we create: I'm the only one who's ever felt this ever before and that's just not true.  

 

AN: The way you write about therapy eradicates shame specifically for Black women. I'm in therapy, and I feel like I hit the jackpot with a Black woman therapist.  

 

MP: Whoa! 

 

AN: Yeah, and in L.A. too and she's changed my life in a different way from other therapists I've had. Can you talk about your relationship with therapy and how it informs your work thematically?  

 

MP: I would not be able to do this kind of work, this rigorous truth telling if I weren't in therapy. I see folks who wanna go there in the work but then once it's open, they don't have a support system to deal with that stuff. Sometimes you can surprise yourself with what you put on the page, and it's scary. For me, it's a lot of taking that first step in my therapist's office to put the words together because otherwise, it's just sitting in you. That building the own narrative that is your life and that really just informs the narrative that I put in my poems. I've been in therapy for such a long time. I think that everyone should be in therapy. It was such a thing for me when I first started going. I felt ashamed and it was dramatic and it was so secret and that is bullshit. It doesn't make sense. It's just a thing. I go I see this doctor. She's dope and that helps me. It's much healthier than a lot of other ways of coping. It's not about being mad or hysterical. It's just about taking care of yourself and also trying to get to know yourself and of people don't wanna know themselves. That is a scary thing because sometimes you don't like what you see. I don't have to just survive. I can maybe thrive, I can maybe feel a little bit better.  

 

AN: I've read that you hated poetry in high school. Can you talk about when the art finally spoke to you? When did you know poetry was a thing you could actually really do?  

 

MP: I mean, I still don't know that. [chuckles] I definitely didn't have a vision of being a poet. That wasn't something that felt available to me or even a viable option. I always wrote them so I thought that I would always write these poems. I grew and I became surprised at how much the form allows for me to do. A poem is so flexible. It's playful and it's about breaking rules and that really identified with me. When I was writing poems in college, I took a workshop and the teacher was like: Morgan, do you know that these poems are really good? I was like: I did not know that. [laughs] It really was news to me. I was just trying to have fun, make myself laugh. It was foreign to me, and I really didn't have Black female poet role models. There's Maya Angelou, but I'm not gonna write anything about a bird. That's just not gonna be me. It took a lot of audacity. I don't really see anyone doing what I'm doing as a Black woman. It took me just putting stuff out there and being okay with it not being well received.  

 

AN: Let's talk about using Beyoncé's name in the title and writing about her. Can you speak to that process? Because Beyoncé has become this huge spokeswoman for Black women and how we live. It feels timely since you've been writing about her for quite a while.  

 

MP: She was not politicized at all when I first started this book. It's really funny and I swear to God she's been reading my poems. When I first started writing the poems, I was getting a lot of flack. A lot of people were saying: 'I don't understand. I don't get why Beyoncé out of all the people to talk about Black women in this political way.' It's been funny and timely and in a way that I didn't expect. I feel that more people understand how to read it whereas before it was almost jarring to people and inappropriate and it felt like this juxtaposition of things that do not go together. I kind of feel vindicated. It's a testament to deciding that you want to do something and then people saying you should not do this thing and you saying I'm gonna do it anyway and then it all works out. Trusting your own vision and your own crazy ideas and seeing those connections. so much of being a) a woman and b) a Black woman in America is thinking that you're delusional about a lot of things. It was important for me to say: I see the links here and for it to come true that feels good. So often we don't say the thing because we think it sounds crazy, but we be knowing!  

 

AN: I was just about to say that you were so ahead of your time. You knew, Morgan! As artists we see these things that even within the art world that other people are not seeing.  

 

MP: Yeah, and it's really about having a specific version of popular culture. I was looking at how popular culture brands itself and changes and how it interacts with the world. What if celebrities are politicized? I was writing all of this in the Obama era. What about Black celebrity but the celebrity is the President or the President's wife? And Beyoncé and Jay Z and what does that all amount to? Even in the early days of the Obama presidency, when they were all homies, she [Beyoncé] wasn't necessarily making political art yet. I just wanted to have fun. I love pop and I love thinking about how pop is a canon of sorts. I really don't need to invoke classical art. What I'm invoking is Diana Ross. It's important to think about my life and my politics but also and to not leave out these things are considered more low brow.  

 

AN: Do you have a specific writing practice? Are you lying on the couch drinking wine and a poem pops into your head?  

 

MP: I mean, a little bit of that. I like have several jobs, and I'm crazy. There's no daily practice in the life that I'm living right now, but I do think a lot about a kind of constant writing. I take notes in my notebook or on my phone. I usually mull over things. I'll write down down a phrase, and I usually kind of just collect for a long time. And that includes sitting on the couch at the end of the day and I'm not really writing a poem. It's a lot of collecting until I do actually have the time to sit down and construct a thing. When I do sit down, I have all these notebooks and listening to music. It's almost like collaging or sculpting. I have the materials, and I'm shaping it. That goes on for a while. I just don't sit down and write.  

 

AN: Your career is prolific. Do you feel like an MFA helped contribute to that and make you more disciplined in writing? 

 

MP: What the MFA did for me was allowed me to see my voice in opposition, in conversation, up against other people's voices. It was a matter of seeing what other people are doing and it helps to understand a little more of what you're doing it and how it's different and how you might not want it to be different. Those types of things and the honing of my own voice. That was helpful for me especially since I did come to poetry so late. I didn't know what I was doing. I was just fooling around. Forging my identity as a writer and my voice was really important to me. I knew that period of my life was all about reading and studying and writing poetry. My goal was to create community, and I did that. My other goal was to conceive of a manuscript that would become my first book, and I did that. I learned more about myself as a writer. I don't think it's a thing that is like you have to or you don't have to do.  It really is what you make it. Having those very specific goals and accomplishing them were important to me.  Sometimes I kinda of miss it. That time in my life was just about making the art. That was my biggest priority. That is a very cool thing.  

 

AN: Do you consider There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé a love letter to Black women?  

 

MP: Oh, for sure. A love letter but also a living document for and on behalf of [Black women]. I think that I'll always be doing that. In doing that, the work becomes a love letter to self even when I'm talking about hating myself. It still is about acknowledging that and still finding beauty in it. Even in the title, I really wanted to point out that we can find and create our own beauty. We don't have to align with what is classically or contemporarily beautiful as proclaimed by the masses. It can be up to us to define what's beautiful to ourselves and sometimes it's not what you would expect. It is that kind of permission giving to be like messy, to be flawed and for that to be beautiful.  

 

AN: Five books to read and five albums to give a listen to?  

 

MP: Omg ooh let's see ... 

 

Books 

Black Girl Mansion by Angel Nafis 

Book of Light by Lucille Clifton 

The Collected Poems of June Jordan  

Kitchen Table Series by Carrie Mae Weems  

Hollywood Forever by Harmony Holiday  

 

Albums  

Ego Death by The Internet  

The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus  

Adventures in Paradise by Minnie Riperton  

Any album by Sade  

Greatest Hits of Earth, Wind & Fire

 

 

Source: http://www.vidaweb.org/vida-reads-with-wri...

Remembering David Antin

On October 11, the writer, David Antin, died at the age of 84. Antin's "talk poems", criticism, and prose always defied conventions. You can watch Antin in this reading (from 2015 in LaJolla) here.

The Motivator

Writing is facing your deepest fears and all your failures, including how hard it is to write a lot of the time and how much you loathe what you’ve just written and that you’re the person who just committed those flawed sentences (many a writer, and God, I know I’m one, has worried about dying before the really crappy version is revised so that posterity will never know how awful it was). When it totally sucks, pause, look out the window (there should always be a window) and say, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.

Rebecca Solnit, "How to Be a Writer"