Issue 91: Loving the Lyric: A Focus on Form
Who does an entire issue on the mysterious and experimental form of lyric writing? WOW does! And we did a deep dive, so you could explore this fascinating genre with us.
When we were putting together this issue, Margo said to me: “This issue is fantastic. I feel like we’re almost on the cutting edge with talking about lyric essays and having a few classes in this genre. Makes me feel proud!”
I agree with Margo. When we came up with the theme for this issue, it was because I had been experimenting with lyric essay writing in several of WOW’s workshops with instructors Chelsey Clammer and Naomi Kimbell, and I wanted to expand my view—to see how the genre was growing and settling into the cracks of our community. I wanted to know how other writers approached the page, what types of markets were out there, and what editors of literary journals were looking for.
Lyric writing is a genre that is difficult to pin down. Some editors say that they know it when they read it; some say it’s a transformative experience—a feeling, mood, or movement—while others say it asks readers to fill in gaps and make leaps; and others have a more practical definition—it’s more about form than story.
But we’re not only talking about lyric essays. We’re talking about lyric poetry, which is also more about the inner world of the poet rather than the story. Melanie Faith says, “Lyric poetry is the private and personal world made public through each reader.” I love this definition. It’s like a secret message being passed along; and it means something different and personal to each reader, which may not be what the author intended, but it’s all about the experience.
With the lyric form, you can create art that gives each reader the gift of ownership. Maggie Nelson’s Bluets comes to mind. Her fragments about the color blue say something different to each reader. Some say it’s about loss and grief, others love and heartbreak, and others loneliness and solitude. I admit, at one point while reading the book, I thought it was about depression and suicide because that topic is important to me. We all take solace from what we need from it. That is the beauty of lyric writing.
So, enough of my definition, let’s hear it from the experts! As Margo said, we have a fantastic issue for you. This issue is not only for those interested in lyric writing; it’s also for any creative nonfiction writer, fiction writer, young adult author, historical fiction writer, poet, and anyone seeking publication in literary journals. There’s also a bit about marketing poetry books, too. So, there’s something for every creative writer. Let’s get started!
A big, warm thank you goes to our freelancers and staff members:
In “A Provocation to Sorrow and Wonder: Lyric Essays and the Power of Language to Transform,” Naomi Kimbell interviews Chauna Craig, author of the short story collection The Widow’s Guide to Edible Mushrooms, and creative nonfiction editor for Atticus Review. The two attempt to pin down the lyric essay form and engage in a lively discussion on what makes a lyric essay: voice, aura, theme, structure, and so much more. Chauna also talks about what she’s looking for as the acquiring CNF editor for Atticus Review, what she’d like to see more of in submissions, and how to catch her attention. We start the issue with this discussion because it provides great insight into all aspects of the genre.
We couldn’t do a lyric issue without asking our instructor and lyric-essay goddess Chelsey Clammer to write for it! Her lyric essay on her process of writing a lyric essay and knitting, “On Lyric Essaying and Casting On,” is brilliant; and it’s an intimate look at process. She talks about patterns—both in writing and in knitting—and how important forming connections is, as well as leaving gaps—holes—to let readers take a breath, fill in the intentional blanks themselves. She’s writing an essay that looks like knitting. She says lyric essays are all about exploring the possibilities of ideas. That the meaning is in the exploration. It’s a gorgeous read! Chelsey also provides writers with a practical sidebar at the end of the article that defines the lyric essay, shares examples of different essay structures, and even includes several writing exercises, so you can write your own lyric essay!
I recently took Naomi Kimbell’s Long-Form Creative Nonfiction MFA-Style Workshop and was so impressed with a writer in the group (all of the writers, actually!) that I asked her if she wanted to write for this issue. You never know who you’ll network with in a WOW workshop! We welcome Christy O’Callaghan to the WOW family, and thank her for her inspiring interview, “From the Desk of Elena M. Stiehler, Editor of The Sonder Review: The Lyrical Essay and Working With Authors.” Christy interviews Elena about her reflections on lyric writing, language, and craft. Elena also chats about her selection and editing process as well as her pleasure in discovering the potential in new writers. She talks about their book publishing arm, Sonder Press, and the exciting new projects they’ve taken on, including the 2019 Best Small Fictions Anthology. This interview is so motivating!
When talking about writing lyric essays, the conversation will eventually turn to where you should submit them. When regular WOW freelancer Dorit Sasson offered to interview Becky Tuch, editor of The Review Review, I jumped at the opportunity because Becky is in the unique position to be able to comment on trends in the literary magazine marketplace. Her publication reviews literary journals, talks to the editors of these journals, and does roundups on topics; plus, she has her finger on the pulse of the industry. I provided Dorit with a couple of questions for my writing accountability group partner, Ann Kelly—questions that she’d been seeking answers to for a while—so this interview’s for you, Ann! In “To Submit or Not Submit? An Interview with Becky Tuch, Founding Editor of The Review Review,” Dorit chats with Becky about trends in submitting to literary magazines, Submittable and submission fees, submission tactics, dealing with rejection, simultaneous submitting, trends in publishing excerpts/chapters, and self-plagiarism. (Yes, it’s a thing!) Becky is extremely knowledgeable, and this interview is not to miss!
Okay, can we be honest? The literary magazine market is tough to crack! Even the best writers I know have received thirty rejections for one single piece. Becky talked about the reasons why a bit in her interview. But let’s move forward with a solution on how to combat it. We welcome Kimberly Lee to the WOW family and thank her for her article, “Switch It Up! Literary Magazines Seeking Unusual & Uncommon Stories.” Kimberly has had eighteen short stories and essays accepted for publication over the past year. Eighteen! In this article, she shares her submission tactics and over fifty markets that are seeking specific work. She shares what each journal is looking for and how she broke in, plus a list of unique markets to try. If you’ve written a creative piece about grief, animals, rediscovered objects, travel, music, chronic illness, technology, or just about anything else, check out this article and submit! There are even journals for rejected manuscripts, so there is truly something for everyone.
Ah...now we move into poetry with a beautiful article from our resident poet and instructor, Melanie Faith. In “Three Types of Lyric Poetry to Fire Up Your Writing Practice,” Melanie takes a deep dive into three poetry forms: the ode, the elegy, and the persona poem. Melanie examines each form, shares examples, and provides tips and takeaways for writing! This is so exciting for me since I am a poet novice, but her article makes me want to try one of these genres. It’s clear that lyric poetry offers a rich, evocative ground for focusing on specific details and narrowing out extraneous information, as well as a chance for introspection through melodic language and human emotion.
Young adult and historical fiction writers will appreciate this roundup! Did you know that in 2018 two novels in verse made it on Publisher’s Weekly Top YA list? YA historical fiction in verse seems to be on the rise! We welcome back freelancer Katherine Higgs-Coulthard and thank her for her interview, “Seeking the Soul of the Story: Historical Fiction in Verse: A Conversation with Marilyn Nelson, Stephanie Hemphill, and Melanie Crowder.” These three young adult authors have impressive bios and have written multiple historical fiction novels. They chat about writing “truth” in historical fiction, crafting details that aren’t in history, writing about sensitive issues like lynching for a young adult audience, creating the structure of poetry in their stories, using form as insulation for the reader, and writing believable historical characters.
If you’ve recently published a poetry book, you’re going to love this advice on marketing it! But these tips also apply to anyone marketing a book. In “Utilizing the Media with Marybeth Niederkorn,” Shana Scott interviews Marybeth about media and marketing, specifically how she launched her poetry book, Times Knew Roamin’. (Don’t you just love that name?) Marybeth shares some fantastic tips—including a lengthy section on press releases, who to send them to, what promotional materials you may need, and what local news outlets are looking for. She also talks about social media, networking with fellow writers, and how she landed her publisher. If you’re promoting a book right now or have one coming out, read this!
Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank WOW’s managing editor, Margo L. Dill, for her excellent editing skills, attention to detail, and for making this issue such a pleasure to read! Working on these e-zine issues is a joy because we motivate each other; and we hope that when you’re reading this issue, you’ll catch some of our excitement.
The process of putting together an e-zine issue is very much like writing a lyric essay. You start with a question: What is the lyric writing genre and how does it fit into the industry? Then we contract pieces blindly, really, because we only have a vague idea of what an interviewee might say or what the writer will turn in. Once we receive pieces back, connections start to form organically, research takes shape in fragments, one idea flows into the next until they all get braided together. At the end, we create the theme—one that makes sense with the content we’ve compiled. We don’t do it the other way around like other magazines do. We let the content shape and mold our theme as it comes in; and in the end, it’s more about the journey, and the content forms an experience in each reader that she interprets in her own way. And this method works! Every single time. In essence, we are lyric e-zine-ing.
Calls for Query Letters and Submissions: E-zine Themes and Deadlines
We are seeking fleshed out query letters and submissions for the online magazine. Themes and deadlines are below. We may add more themes, but this is what we have planned now.
Please send your query to submissions[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com. Please type the issue/theme you are querying in your email subject line. If accepted, pay rates are $50 - $150 per article, depending on length, topic, and how many experts are included. We are looking for how-to articles, interviews with industry professionals, market profiles, round-ups, and craft articles (NOT essays). We look forward to hearing from you!
Theme: Self-Publishing Topics
Issue 92: July/August 2019
Deadline for queries: May 8, 2019
We’ve published e-zine issues on self-publishing before (like this one: DIY Self-Publishing; and these two fabulous articles we recently published on Self-Publishing here and here), but there are so many topics that need exploring and publishing platforms are frequently changing. Ideas include: Mastering Amazon, self-publishing services reviews, book formatting, metadata, and more. We’d love some round-ups with authors who’s self-published successfully for this issue.
Theme: Dark and Twisty (Mystery, Thriller, Speculative, Horror, and More)
Issue 93: October/November 2019
Deadline for queries: July 16, 2019
Gillian Flynn is the master of the twist, but how does she (and other authors) do it? We’re looking for how-tos on writing the twist, plotting twists and turns, red herrings, diversions, suspense, writing horror, mystery/thriller, true crime, and more. We’re mostly looking for craft articles, but round-ups with authors on these topics would be great, genre trends, interviews, and anything else you can think of. Reading a jaw-dropping, unexpected twist is one of my favorite things to do, and twists are so hard to write!
On to the issue . . . enjoy!