Three Editing Tips to Revolutionize Your Editing Process

Editing often gets the bad wrap of being the worst part of writing. Writers who love to write often grumble and groan about this crucial step. As editors who also write, we have found ourselves to be just as guilty of this as anyone else from time to time.

Part of it is the amount of effort and the amount of time and work invested in the piece. Part of it is dread some of us feel about grammar and punctuation and spelling. Part of it is just the simple fact that some of us have never actually been told the best way to revise and edit our own work.

We would like to offer a few editing tips that can make a world of difference in your writing. Here goes…

 

Take a Break

Wait at least a day—preferably a week—to revisit the work. You will be astonished to see how many errors you will find. Our minds can really play tricks on us, and if you edit too close to writing, you can think you are reading what you meant to say and not what is actually written. So plan ahead and don’t sacrifice the time between writing and revising.

 

Practice Bite-Sized Editing

Divide your editing into at least three parts:

  • Grammar and spelling
  • Flow and continuity
  • Polishing touches

This process follows the same logic as the first tip. If you are looking specifically for one type of mistake, you will find them more readily. Also, you will find the process a whole lot less overwhelming if you are one of those writers who hate grammar. Always remember to take a break and wait at least a day between each of the steps.

 

Don’t Forget the Final Read-Through

Always, always, always re-read the piece after you have finished editing.

Wait at least three days to do this—preferably a month with longer pieces. Editing can become an endless process if you aren’t careful. If you edit and then wait and read the piece as a whole without looking for any errors, those last few extra spaces, missing words, and awkward sentences will jump right out at you.

 

While these steps add a little extra time into the editing process, they will make up for it in the amount of errors you find, the way you feel about the editing process, and the final product. Who knows? You may actually look forward to editing. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to be your own best critic?

April 2015 Writing Opportunities

Are you looking for April 2015 writing opportunities? Then this list will definitely be a helpful place to start. We’ve searched the web and come up with some great opportunities for April 2015 and a little further on down the line for those who like to plan ahead.

In order to make this list as easy to use as possible, these writing opportunities are divided into continuous opportunities and opportunities with a deadline. Opportunities are further divided into free and fee-based opportunities. While all opportunities are not contests and therefore do not offer a “prize,” we consider the opportunity to be published as a prize in itself.

Please understand that while we try to look into every opportunity, we are human and can make mistakes. We apologize in advance for any possible mistakes you may find in this list. We have compiled this as a helpful resource for writers. If you would like for us to add your writing opportunity, please contact us to do so.

April writing opportunities

Continuous FREE Writing Opportunities

New Verse News
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication on a website updated every 1-2 days
Opportunity: Send a genuinely poetic take on a current and specific news story or event.
Website: http://www.newversenews.com/

Fine Linen
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Pay 5 cents per word
Opportunity: Flash fiction and short poems. Fiction only 200-700 words.
Website: http://fl-mag.com/guidelines/

Lime Hawk Journal
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Looking for fiction (5,000 words max), nonfiction (5,000 words max), poetry (up to 5 poems)
Website: https://limehawk.submittable.com/submit

Yalobusha Review
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Special Requirements: Now looking specifically for female poets
Opportunity: Accept 3-5 poems or 1 short story (up to 5000 words) or 3 flash fiction (less than 100 words per piece).
Website: https://yalobushareview.submittable.com/submit

Sweet: A literary confection
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Accept only nonfiction. Writers may submit 3-5 or 1-3 essays (word total not to exceed 1500 words).
Website: http://www.sweetlit.com/guidelines.php

McSweeney’s
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Varies per piece per issue
Opportunity: Accepting on a rolling basis: fiction and nonfiction; no previously published works
Website: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/pages/guidelines-for-quarterly-submissions

Printers Row
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Special Requirements: Must be a legal United States citizen, 18 and over
Opportunity: Accepting on a rolling basis: fiction; no previously published works
Website: https://printersrow.submittable.com/submit

WIPs: Works (of Fiction) in Progress
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Seeking works of fiction that are part of a greater book project. In most cases that means a novel excerpt, or a short story headed for a collection, but WIPs is open to any piece that fits the bill. Pieces should be 1500-7500 in length.
Website: https://wipsjournal.submittable.com/submit

Pulp Literature
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $0.035/word-$0.07/word depending on piece length with shorter paying more per word
Opportunity: Seeking any genre fiction up to 75 pages long. No non-fiction, memoirs, or children’s stories.
Website: http://pulpliterature.com/submissions/submission-guidelines/

Beautiful Things
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Seeking flash nonfiction 250 words or less about beautiful things.
Website: https://riverteeth.submittable.com/submit/27921

New York Times Modern Love Column
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Accepting unpublished deeply personal essays 1500-1700 words that deal with relationships, marriage, dating, and parenthood.
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/21/fashion/howtosubmit_modernlove.html?_r=4&

Empty Mirror
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Memoirs, biographical pieces, essays, poetry and interviews on literature, poetry, art/photography, the Beat Generation, rock/blues/folk/jazz, films and filmmakers, counterculture/1960s, writing and publishing advice, book collecting, and others.
Website: http://www.emptymirrorbooks.com/submissions

Apple Valley Review
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Accepting poetry, short fiction (100-4000 words), and essays (100-4000 words). Novel excerpts must be self-contained.
Website: http://www.applevalleyreview.com/

Josephine Quarterly
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Submit up to 5 poems of any length. Only one set of submissions at a time.
Website: https://josephinequarterly.submittable.com/submit
Hartskill Review
Deadline: December 31, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Submit 1-3 poems at a time.
Website: https://hartskillreview.submittable.com/submit/25799

 

Continuous Fee-Based Writing Opportunities

Illuminations
Entry Fee: $2.20
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Now accepting no more than 6 poems at a time for 2015 edition.
Website: https://illuminations.submittable.com/submit/32972

Narrative
Entry Fee: It states that there is a nominal reading fee, but we could not find the cost exactly,
Prize: Some accepted pieces receive no payment, others vary from $50-$1000 depending on the piece. Submissions are also eligible for $4000 narrative Prize.
Opportunity: This site takes a wide variety of pieces on a rolling basis. Accepting short short stories, manuscripts 2000-15000 words long, novellas, serialization of book-length works, poetry, one-act plays, audio, and more. Please see the website for complete details.
Website: http://www.narrativemagazine.com/node/360

Hippocampus Magazine
Entry Fee: $3
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Accepting memoir excerpts, personal essays, and flash creative nonfiction no more than 3500 words in length.
Website: http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/submissions/

Tishman Review
Entry Fee: $2-6
Prize: Up to $75
Opportunity: Seeking poetry, art, cartoons, photography, illustrations, poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, book reviews, and more.
Website: https://thetishmanreview.submittable.com/submit

 

 

April FREE Writing Opportunities

South85 Journal
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: South85 is accepting fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. See website for details as each has specific requirements.
Website: https://south85.submittable.com/submit

 

April Fee-based Writing Opportunities

Creative Nonfiction
Deadline: April 13, 2015
Entry Fee: $20
Prize: Publication; $1000 (1st) and $500 (2nd)
Special Requirement: Must be an essay about weather.
Opportunity: They are looking for creative essays on “weather”.
Website: https://www.creativenonfiction.org/submissions/weather

Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize Contest
Deadline: April 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $20
Prize: $1000 (1st); $100 for 2 runners-up
Opportunity: Submit 1-3 unpublished poems, maximum of 10 pages total.
Website: http://www.srpr.org/contest.php

BEECHER’S Poetry/Fiction/Nonfiction Contests
Deadline: April 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $12
Prize: $200 for 1st prize in each category.
Opportunity: Fiction and nonfiction submissions must be 4,000 words or less. Poets may include up to 3 poems per submission.
Website: https://beechersmag.submittable.com/submit

Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices Annual Contests
Deadline: April 21, 2015
Entry Fee: $18
Prize: $1000 (fiction) Best of the Net Annual Contest; $500 Stephen Dunn Prize in Poetry; $500 Nonfiction Prize
Opportunity: For Fiction or Nonfiction: 23-page maximum, double-spaced; free-standing excerpts from books also accepted. Poetry: 3-poem maximum.
Website: http://solsticelitmag.org/contests/

Crab Orchard Review’s Annual Literary Contests
Deadline: April 21, 2015
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: $2000 and publication
Opportunity: Poetry entries should consist of one poem up to five pages in length. Prose entry length: up to 6000 words for fiction and up to 6500 words for literary nonfiction.
Website: https://craborchardreview.submittable.com/submit

Writer Advice 10th Flash Prose Contest
Deadline: April 21, 2015
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: (1st) $200; (2nd) $100; (3rd) $50
Opportunity: Submit up to 3 short fiction pieces under 750 words. Can be flash fiction, memoir, or creative nonfiction.
Website: http://www.writeradvice.com

Sequestrum Editor’s Reprint Award
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: $200 plus publication
Opportunity: Accepting previously published prose (fiction/nonfiction) that the writer holds the rights to at this time.
Website: http://www.sequestrum.org/contests

Bristol Prize
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: £8 (about $13)
Prize: 1st £1000 (about $1500 USD) plus £150 Waterstone’s gift card (usable online worldwide); 2nd £700 (about $1050 USD) plus £100 Waterstone’s gift card; 3rd £400 (about $620 USD) plus £100 Waterstone’s gift card; 17 further prizes of £100 (about $155 USD)
Opportunity: Short stories up to 4000 words long may be submitted on any subject.
Website: http://www.bristolprize.co.uk

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction and Essay Contest
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $16
Prize: Fiction 1st prize $1500; Essays 1st prize $1500; 10 honorable mentions receive $100 each
Opportunity: All themes accepted, limit 6000 words. Short stories, essays, or other works of prose.
Website: https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/tom-howard-john-h-reid-fiction-essay-contest

Raleigh Review
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: It states there is a small submission fee but does not tell how much
Prize: $10 per piece plus one copy of the magazine
Opportunity: Accepting poetry (4-5 poems), flash fiction (1 piece up to 1200 words), and short fiction (1200-7500 words, but prefer less than 5000)
Website: http://www.raleighreview.org/Submission_Guidelines.html

2015 Willow Books Literature Awards Poetry
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $25
Prize: $1000, book contract, and sponsored reading for both grand prize in prose and poetry
Opportunity: Accepting prose and poetry submissions.
Website: https://aquariuspress.submittable.com/submit

Backbone Press
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $5
Prize: Publication and author copies
Opportunity: Submit manuscripts of 24-30 pages of poetry.
Website: http://backbonepress.org/submissions/

The Kracken Awards in Fiction and Poetry
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $10
Prize: $150 (1st); $100 (2nd); $50 (3rd) and publication in a special Kraken Edition of the Devilfish Review
Special Requirement: Science fiction, fantasy, horror, and speculative work only.
Opportunity: Submit one fiction entry up to 5000 words or up to 3 poems (no more than 25 lines per piece).
Website: http://devilfishreview.com/the-kraken-awards/

Trio House Press First Book Award
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $25
Prize: $1000, publications, and 20 books
Special Requirements: Must be written in English and poet must reside in U.S. with less than two books of poetry published.
Opportunity: Submit poetry manuscript 48-70 pages long.
Website: http://www.triohousepress.org/submissions.html

Trio House Press Second Book Award
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $25
Prize: $1000, publication, and 20 books
Special Requirements: Must be written in English and poet must reside in U.S. with less than 2 books published.
Opportunity: Submit poetry manuscript 48-70 pages long.
Website: http://www.triohousepress.org/submissions.html

The Louise Bogan Award for Artistic Merit and Excellence
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $25
Prize: $1000, publications, and 20 books
Special Requirements: Must be written in English and poet must reside in U.S.
Opportunity: Submit poetry manuscript 48-70 pages long.
Website: http://www.triohousepress.org/submissions.html

Barry Spacks Poetry Prize
Deadline: April 30, 2015
Entry Fee: $20
Prize: $500, publication, 50 author copies
Opportunity: Submit unpublished poetry manuscripts 48-100 pages long in 12 point font.
Website: http://gunpowderpress.com/wp/?p=83

 

May FREE Writing Opportunities

Heron Tree
Deadline: May 1, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Seeking unpublished poems. Writers may submit 2-5 poems via email. Details on webpage.
Website: http://herontree.com/how/

River Teeth Journal Submissions
Deadline: May 1, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication, 2 complimentary editions of the magazine, one year subscription
Opportunity: Seeking creative nonfiction, including narrative reportage, essays, and memoirs, as well as critical essays that examine the emerging genre and that explore the impact of nonfiction narrative on the lives of its writers, subjects, and readers.
Website: https://riverteeth.submittable.com/submit

Fairy Tale Review
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Accepting fairy tale pieces. For prose, you may submit up to 8,000 words of a single piece or three, linked flash pieces each under 1,000 words in a single document. For poetry, you may submit up to 5 poems totaling no more than 10 pages. There is not specific theme. Accepting fiction, nonfiction, and drama.
Website: https://fairytalereview.submittable.com/submit

Alaska Quarterly Review
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Submit via mail. Accepting fiction: short stories and novel excerpts in traditional and experimental styles (generally not exceeding 50 pages); poetry: poems in traditional and experimental styles but no light verse (up to 20 pages); drama: short plays in traditional and experimental styles (generally not exceeding 50 pages); and prose: literary nonfiction in traditional and experimental styles (generally not exceeding 50 pages).
Website: http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/aqr/guidelines.cfm

My Cruel Invention
Deadline: May 31, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $5 or print version of anthology
Special Requirements: Must be about real or imaginary invention and/or real or imaginary inventor.
Opportunity: Submit up to 3 poems, none over 100 lines. Reprints accepted if author now holds rights.
Website: http://meerkatpress.com/my-cruel-invention-poetry-anthology/

One Story
Deadline: May 31, 2015
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: $500 and 25 contributor copies
Opportunity: Short stories 3000-8000 words long on any subject in any style.
Website: http://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=submit

Cybersoleil
Deadline: May 31, 2014
Entry Fee: FREE
Prize: Publication
Special Requirements: No previously published work.
Opportunity: Please visit the website for very clear, detailed requirements for submissions. This venue accepts Art and Photo Essays. Fiction, Poetry, Non-fiction, Recipes, Photo Essays, Book Reviews, Art, and Music.
Website: http://www.cybersoleiljournal.com/index.php?lay=show&ac=article&Id=539353578

 

May FEE-BASED Writing Opportunities

The Florida Review
Deadline: May, 2015 (subscribers may submit year-round)
Entry Fee: $3.00
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Seeking fiction and nonfiction (3-25 pages), poetry, graphic narratives, book reviews, and visual arts. See website for details.
Website: https://floridareview.submittable.com/Submit

Imaginary Friends Press Full-Length Reading Period
Deadline: May 1, 2015
Entry Fee: $10
Prize: Publication and 25 copies of book
Opportunity: Manuscripts must be between 48-96 pages in length. Manuscripts must be paginated, have a table of contents and an acknowledgements section (if poems have been published individually).
Website: https://imaginaryfriendpress.submittable.com/submit

Emerald Coast Review Volume XVIII
Deadline: May 1, 2015
Entry Fee: $10 ($5 students)
Prize: Publication
Opportunity: Accepting fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photography, and graphic design. Theme is the writer as artist, but pieces are not limited to that theme.
Website: https://emeraldcoastreviewecr.submittable.com/submit

Moon City Poetry Award
Deadline: May 1, 2015
Entry Fee: $25
Prize: $1000 plus publication by Moon City Press and standard royalty contract
Opportunity: Looking for a full-length poetry collection at least 48 pages long.
Website: http://mooncitypress.com/poetrycontest/

Sellers Poetry Contest
Deadline: May 8, 2015
Entry Fee: $5
Prize: $200
Opportunity: Submit up to 3 poems. Specific details on website for entry.
Website: https://byronherbertreecesociety.wordpress.com/poetry-2/sellers-poetry-contest-rules-and-entry-form/

Ploughshares 2015 Emerging Writer’s Contest
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $24 for non-subscribers, which includes a year’s subscription; FREE for current subscribers to Ploughshare’s
Prize: $1000 for each genre and publication
Special Requirements: Only open to emerging writers defined as someone who has yet to publish a book, including chapbooks, eBooks, translations, and any self-published works, in any of the content genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. No book should be forthcoming before April 15th, 2016.
Opportunity: Submitted work must be original and previously unpublished. Fiction and nonfiction entries should be under 6,000 words. Poetry entries should contain 3-5 pages of poems. Only one entry per year.
Website: http://www2.pshares.org/submit/

2015 Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $16
Prize: $500 and publication
Opportunity: Submit up to 4 poems per entry, 8 pages maximum.
Website: https://crabcreekreview.submittable.com/submit/38412

Breakwater Review The Perseroff Prize
Deadline: May 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $10
Prize: $1000 and publication
Opportunity: Submit up to 3 poems. There are no restrictions on length, content, or form.
Website: https://breakwaterreview.submittable.com/submit

 

June FREE Writing Opportunities

Hospital Drive Poetry and Prose Contest
Deadline: June 15, 2015
Fee: FREE but you are required to subscribe to the free online edition of their magazine
Prize: $500 for best prose; $500 for best poetry
Special Requirements: Must be on the topic of Identity within the context of healthcare
Opportunity: You may enter prose and poetry, but only once each. Submit online. Five poems or 5000 words of prose. Not to exceed 10 pages total.
Website: http://news.med.virginia.edu/hospitaldrive/contest/

 

June FEE-BASED Writing Opportunities

Tiferet 2015 Writing Contest
Deadline: June 1, 2015
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: $500 each for best poetry, best short story, and best essay or interview
Opportunity: You may submit up to 6 poems, a short story up to 20 pages long, or non-fiction up to 20 pages long.
Website: http://tiferetjournal.com/2015-writing-contest/

Emerging Voices Poetry Contest
Deadline: June 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: (1st) $500 and publication; (2nd) $100; (Honorable Mention) $50
Opportunity: Send between three and five poems per entry. There is no line-limit. Poems may be any length, any style, or any subject. Please, no translations for the contest.
Website: https://thetishmanreview.submittable.com/submit

Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize
Deadline: June 15, 2015
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: $300, 20 author copies of print book, 1930s depression glass trophy and published book as print and e-book.
Opportunity: Submit 17-24 pages of poetry not including title page, Table of Contents, and end notes).
Website: http://twosylviaspress.com/chapbook-prize.html

 

NOTICE: We are not affiliated with these writing opportunities or the websites that sponsor them. We can therefore not assure you as to whether or not they are reliable and trustworthy. The information here is not always total and complete. We try to include enough information for you to decide whether or not you would like to pursue the opportunity more. While we have made every effort to visit the websites listed on this page, check links, and read briefly into the events, there is no way for us to know whether every opportunity is the right one for you. Please visit the websites and read all information regarding the event before you make the decision as to whether or not the opportunity is one you are interested in pursuing.

Our April Featured Author – James Penha

jp batik

 

For National Poetry Month’s featured author, Durham Editing and E-books has reached around the globe to target the unique writings of James Penha. We have had the pleasure to work with James on Summer Shorts II: Best Kept Secrets, It’s About Living, and Snowflakes and Memories.

 

A native New Yorker who now makes his home in Tangerang, Indonesia, James Penha is a poet, fiction writer, and teller of tales. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. His earlier chapbooks of poetry were Greatest Hits (Pudding House: 2001) and On the Back of the Dragon (Omega Cat Press: 1992). James also edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.

 

po reading2

 

A member of the Poetry Society of America, Poets and Writers, the Academy of American Poets, and THEMA Literary Foundation, James is a newly-retired literature and writing teacher who works steadily on his own online journal, The New Verse News. We were glad to have James Penha take time out from his busy schedule to tell us a little about his writing practices, inspirations, and his unique take on what makes a poem.

 

 

When did you first start writing?

In the fifties and sixties, I was educated in great New York City public schools where teachers encouraged creative writing and rewarded students willing to post and perform their pieces. Having my stories spread out on bulletin boards . . . reading my poems at assemblies . . . these educators encouraged me to seize freedom and the confidence to write not just for myself, but for audiences.

 

Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your writing?

I still identify myself as a New Yorker; the City’s invitation to make choices from all it offers made me who I am in so many ways, literary and personal. My high school and college friends and I did not spend much time on basketball courts or baseball diamonds. We visited the great Manhattan bookstores of the era—Scribner’s, Brentano’s, Doubleday—to grab books and magazines and pieces of floor and read to each other. We walked Central Park to imagine where Holden Caulfield sat watching the ducks. And we heard great writers reading their works in cafes and galleries. Yes, writing is a solitary occupation, but literature in New York has always been an event.

 

Where do you write? Describe this area for us.

At home in a suburb of Jakarta, Indonesia, with windows opening on the garden is my office. That’s where the laptop and the printer and my books reside; I work at the desk here to revise and perfect drafts. But I tend to draft poems and rough out stories by hand in notebooks (or sometimes on the iPad) away from the desk . . . in the garden . . . or, most frequently, on location as I travel.

jp, dog, bali sunset

 

When you aren’t writing, how do you spend your time?

After a forty-five year career teaching literature and writing at universities and secondary schools in the U.S. and Asia, I am newly retired this year and so am writing more rather than less than ever before. When not writing, I spend hours reading poems and stories, listening to them, watching them . . . and, always, dreaming them up . . . especially while traveling the islands of this amazing archipelago.

 

What inspires you to get out of bed each morning?

At my age, just waking up is inspiration enough to see me through the day! But then I have always been a morning kind of guy. I can’t wait to have my first cup of coffee, feed and walk the dog, see what birds and butterflies are poking around the garden.

 

What are your five favorite books, and why?

When novelists are asked which of their own books their favorites are, they typically say, “The last one” or “The next one.” I’m that way with all my favorite books because great new ones not only teach me something about life, they reinvent literature and so influence me holistically. So let me name three recent books that knocked me out: in Brewster, the novel by Mark Slouka, the politics and culture of its setting subtly underscore the profound dramas in the lives of its protagonists; Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric—which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry on the very day I am answering this question—is not at all subtle in its politics and culture and just as boldly defies definitions of literary genres; in Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk, one can witness, in the gossamer helixes of its structure, narrative nonfiction evolve.

My two canonical favorites are Hamlet and Heart of Darkness because they contain everything there is to know about literature; I have yet to plumb it all.

 

Tell us a little about The New Verse News.

In the months and years following 9/11, I found myself writing more and more poems objecting to U.S. foreign policies and adventures and to what I saw as a frightening disregard, in instruments like the Patriot Act, for the American tradition of rights and liberties. But because of the lag time between submission and publication for most literary journals, and given their general disdain for political poetry, I saw no possible outlet for such newsy verse . . . unless I established one. Beginning in February 2005, www.newversenews.com solicited from writers around the world poetry as current as the day’s headlines. Soon we were receiving enough good material to post one new poem per day by well-known writers as well as unknowns. What all our writers share is a passion for progressive politics, the environment, human rights . . . and poetry.

po_read1

 

 

How does writing poetry differ from writing prose?

I’m glad you didn’t ask me the difference between poetry and prose. My answer to that would be as full of conditions as to make it unbearably long and, likely, absurdly reductive. But I can explain how writing poetry differs from writing prose quite simply: to write poetry one must worry about every word. One must cut any word that undermines the whole. Each word that remains must be just the right one to move the reader. The goal of a poem, after all, is not just the transference of understanding or empathy. A poem seeks to create or recreate an experience in—not for, in—the reader. To accomplish this miracle, no word can mislead . . . unintentionally.

If a piece of prose is short enough to allow its writer to worry over each word in this way, it deserves to be called a poem.

 

 

What is the best writing advice you can give another writer?

1. Listen to what you write. If you can’t hear it in your head automatically, read your drafts out loud and listen to your sentences, your rhythms, the way your narrators, speakers, and characters talk.

2. Have a few gimmicks to force major revisions. My own favorites: Question why any sentence written in passive voice shouldn’t be more active. Search out every adjective-noun and adverb-verb combination to wonder if it can be replaced by a more precise noun or verb that does not require modification.

 

 

What are you working on now?

Having just finished two long stories and a series of ekphrastic poems, I am about to get to work on a new story based on an ancient Chinese legend. And, of course, I work on The New Verse News every day.

 

 

You can find out more about the very talented James Penha and his works at:
http://www.jamespenha.com
@jJamesPenha
http://www.newversenews.com
http://www.amazon.com/James-Penha/e/B001JS1CP4
http://www.thelostbookshelf.com/p.html#JamesPenha
http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/18-james-penha

From the Inbox: Formatting a Text Message

from the inboxformatting a text message

Recently, a wonderfully talented writer that we know asked us a very interesting question: how do you format a text message in a book?

 

Ahhh, the text message, that elusive creature that has taken over so much of modern communication and is now wreaking havoc in the lives of writers everywhere. When many of us were learning the ins and outs of grammar and punctuation, text messages didn’t exist. Italics and bolds didn’t either, for that matter! So for many, formatting text messages within a larger work is unknown territory. Luckily, the answer is pretty simple.

 

When formatting a text message, the easiest way to think about it would be to treat it as if you were having the reader reading a passage in a book. That means that it would be given its own paragraph and would simply be italicized. You do not need quotation marks unless someone is reading the text message out loud to someone else. As long as you are just trying to show that it is the message on the screen or being read in one’s head, it would simply be italicized.

 

Here’s an example:
John sent a text to Bob.
Hey, man. What are you doing?

 

The second line is italicized since it is the body of the text message.

 

Also, please notice that text message is actually spelled out. A book is a form of communication, and not everyone is accustomed to text-speak. Things like “ROFL” (rolling on the floor laughing) may not be familiar to everyone. The easier you can make it on the reader, the better— especially if you are a writer who is just starting out.

 

There are, of course, always exceptions. If you have a specific audience with a high likelihood of understanding text-speak, such as young adult, then it would probably be okay to use text-speak. The best thing to keep in mind is your audience: if there’s a chance that you may turn readers off to your book by flooding it with text-speak text messages, then spelling things out properly is definitely something you will want to consider.

 

We hope this article will help you along your writing journey. Keep writing and be sure to send us your questions as you run across them. We’re happy to help!

Almost Another Adjective

Grammar Basics Adjectives

 

It has been said that adjectives are like gravy. Nouns and verbs are the meat and potatoes of your manuscript, and you pour on the adjectives to add interesting tastes. But you have to be careful. They can add just the right flavor, but use too many and you can drown your manuscript the same way that too much gravy can drown your biscuits. Some people like to use lots of adjectives just like some folks like to coat their entire meal in savory gravy. Others like only a dribble with just enough to moisten the potatoes. One must be careful not to overturn the gravy boat, though, or you end up with runny goo splashing over the sides of your plate.

 

Adjectives describe nouns. In other words, they describe people, places, things, and ideas. The Romantics reveled in this often overdone part of speech. The Victorians carried on this tradition in a highly verbose manner. When we got to the Moderns (and even more so with the Post-Moderns), the adjective was almost a faux pas. There is no need to follow any hard-fast rules on this matter, but you do have to be careful with the adjective. Mashed potatoes can just be mashed potatoes, or they can be smothered in hot, thick, peppery, scrumptious gravy. One sounds a little plain. The other is drowning the crockery. It is best to find a happy medium. Adjectives add good flavor, but when you add another and another and almost another, then you run the risk of mixing too many flavors in your manuscript. Let your nouns and verbs be strong and bold. Let your adjectives add just the right amount of flavor to spice them up. But don’t overdo it, or you might just end up with a runny, gooey mess.