Monday, September 29, 2008

In the hopes of saving you some money and maybe time

... and maybe even the environment! Here are a couple thoughts:

We've had our online submissions manager up and running for almost a month now, and most folks are taking advantage of it. So far, though, we've been surprised at how many people still prefer to submit their work by snail mail. But if that's what you prefer, there's no need to stop submitting through the post. There are a couple things you might want to keep in mind, though, if this is how you want us looking at your work.

1. You don't need to submit work in a folder.
2. Neither do you need to submit work sandwiched between two pieces of cardstock, cardboard, etc.
3. Nor need you submit work in a binder (or any other binding-type device).
4. Fancy pants 100% cotton resume paper is luxurious and very impressive, but not more impressive than the written work that should be on it.
5. Expedited delivery service doesn't equal expedited consideration.
6. Unless you actually want your manuscript back, just include a SASE with enough postage for us to send our response to you.

For items 1 through 4, we are impressed by how well people protect their manuscripts. And we totally respect that. And if you all want to keep on printing your work out on resume paper, binding it, slipping it in a folder, and then sandwiching the folder between two pieces of cardboard, we welcome you to do it. But we will read the manuscript even if it's on (especially if it's on!) boring white 20 lb paper and bi- or tri-folded into a smaller envelope. Tidiness and legibility are important in putting together a submission for a magazine, but those other things aren't, really.

There's not much more to say but what's already apparent in item 5. Sometimes folks spend a whole bunch of money to send something to us overnight. Every deadline we set for submissions is a postmark deadline, so as long as the manuscript is sent on the day of the deadline, all is well.

And then there's 6. Maybe most people submitting know better than I did, but when I started sending my manuscripts out to magazines, I thought that I was supposed to pay for enough postage for my manuscript to be sent back to me. "What are they going to do with it?" I thought. Well, we recycle it. And so unless you are using returned manuscripts for your records or building art projects out of them or maybe even sending them on to other magazines to consider, just let us recycle it for you. Less paperwork. And then you only need that 42-cent stamp.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Fitzgerald!

Today, September 24, is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday. If still alive in 2008, this member of the "Lost Generation" would be the ripe old age of 112. The author of such classics as The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald wrote of the the glitz, glamour, and decadence of the "Jazz Age" aka "The Roaring Twenties," even as the world spiraled toward severe economic recession (aka The Great Depression).

Many people may have the Twenties and Thirties on their minds these days because here in 2008, we seem to be coming full circle as, once again, our economy slumps and fewer people are living on any side of paradise. In what seems like a very timely fashion, Hollywood is contemplating a new film about the Jazz Age power couple F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre. What's ironic about this film proposal is that Hollywood, in part, led to Fitzgerald's death. Anyway, Keira Knightley may play the lovely and enigmatic Zelda, but no one has been cast yet in the role of our birthday man, Fitzgerald. Maybe Clay Aiken?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Big Simile

So this past weekend I watched The Big Sleep, which made me think back to this summer, when I enjoyed reading Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. In the Philadelphia heat, there's nothing more refreshing than a hard-boiled detective story set in the frozen reaches of Alaska.

As a poet, I love similes and metaphors, and Raymond Chandler's writing was laced with figurative language that waltzed into unexpected realms:

"The General spoke again, slowly, using his strength as carefully as an out-of-work show-girl uses her last good pair of stockings." --The Big Sleep

Chabon takes Chandler's lead. He pushes his metaphors to their limits in his reimagining of the classic detective story. And he lays his similes on thick and heavy, like jam on a piece of crusty bread. (See, now I'm even in on it.)

Here are two examples (out of many) from Chabon's novel (both from page 107):

"His full ashy beard flutters in the wind like bird fluff caught on a barbed-wire fence."


"Standing next to Zimbalist, in front of the arched stone door of the shop, a beardless young bachelor holds an umbrella to keep snow off the old fart's head. The black cake of the kid's hat is already dusted with a quarter inch of frosting. Zimbalist gives him the attention you give a tree in a pot."

I've never thought of a snow-covered hat being like a frosted cake, but I'm right there with Chabon (and I'm suddenly hungry for dessert). I've always been at a loss for explaining the fine line between making a wonderful, unexpected metaphor, and one that's just too weird to be understood. A successful one seems to gesture toward something fundamental, an unspeakable connection that's written in our blood.

My favorite simile, by the way, is from Jeffrey McDaniel's poem, "D":

"[You were] seductive, like watching an archer
untie her bow."

That's what similes can do: perfectly describe the indescribable. And if McDaniel's lines aren't a spot-on vision of the seductive, I don't know what is.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cheers from the crowd!

Congratulations to Rae Paris, whose story "The Girl Who Ate Her Own Skin" (Issue 29.2) will be listed as a Recommended story in the PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories 2009!

Congratulations also to Peter Selgin and Ryan Van Meter. Peter's essay "A Pre-Victorian Bathtub" (Issue 29.1) and Ryan's essay "Lake Effect" (Issue 29.2) are listed as notable essays in the Best American Essays 2008!

David Foster Wallace

Our hearts go out to the friends and family of David Foster Wallace. Laura Miller remembers him at and asks, "What will we do without him?" More information about his death can be found here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ooh ooh ooh, what a little windstorm can do

Yesterday, I was in my hometown in southwestern Ohio. My fiance and I were printing out menus for our upcoming wedding, and my dad was also preparing for the wedding, installing a new mirror in the bathroom, in front of which all our guests can now primp. I heard a bang. "Dad, are you all right?" He calmly answered, "I think a tree just fell on the house."

I went to the enclosed porch and looked out at the front yard. The menu printing had been taking hours, so I had no idea what was going on outside. The trees were bowing at the waist I imagine for them, and indeed, a big limb had fallen off a neighbor's silver maple and right on to the house, apparently rolling off so that it could hit my dad's car.

Over the next several hours, we played a board game, and it seemed that nearly all the limbs from our neighbor's tree were slamming on to the house. And probably a limb from our own, too. When the windstorm had mostly passed, we were blocked in to our house by all the debris in front. And, with the power having gone out, there was nothing to eat except Cheerios. At least we could sneak out a back door.

My fiance called business after business trying to find some place that was open that would sell us items for sandwiches or that would take our pizza order for pick up. But either the phone would keep ringing or we'd just get a busy signal. Finally, we found a place. Dewey's seemed to be the only restaurant left in town that had any power. All the drive there, every stoplight was broken.

In spite of all the limbs that fell on my parents' house, the damage was more limited than we probably could have expected it to be: dented siding, a few missing shingles, gutters that were now pulled away from the house. My fiance was also lucky: only an awning had been pulled off his house. And most lucky of all was the fact that none of us had been harmed.

Driving back to Indiana early this morning, I watched as the amount of debris and damage quickly lessened the farther I drove. Nearing the Bloomington exit, a couple construction signs were tipped over, and then just one stoplight was out. But my apartment has power (whereas over 200,000 of my southwestern Ohio natives may be without power for days), and I've seen just a few twigs, small branches, and leaves scattered about.

Nevertheless, there has also been some consequence here at the office. During the wind and rain, it seems that one of our outlets gave out, and oh what damage one little broken outlet can do! Our refrigerator has leaked a puddle across the floor, any messages left on our answering machine have been obliterated, and only now, after jamming all our plugs into a series of power strips, do we again have access to the Internet, and all of you. Please bear with us over the next couple days as we try to get back up to speed!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Of Octopuses and Eight-Year-Olds

I've only been the Fiction Editor for a couple weeks now, but already I've noticed particular trends in the work folks have been submitting to Indiana Review. And I'm not the only one here noticing trends. The other editors--in both fiction and poetry--have noticed certain literary fads as well. These days, everyone seems very interested in writing about the following:

1) Nomads--Stories featuring bands of wanderers trudging either the northern tundra or the wind-swept desert.

2) Twins--Usually, these twins are brothers, all grown up, and they must deal with the echoes of their troubled childhood, or one must help the other through some crisis such as a failed marriage.

3) Precocious Eight-year-olds--Often told in first person, these precocious kids are usually female characters, and are too smart and too cute for their own good. Every now and then, we get double the fun with precocious eight-year-old twins! Now, we've always received stories about children, but lately the specific age of eight seems to be popular among writers submitting to IR.

4) Neighborhoods terrorized by cats--These felines are out of control, digging through trash, mating on characters' front porches, and meowing shrilly at all hours of the night.

5) Bears--Yes, bears seem to be everybody's favorite mammal. Brown bears, green bears, and sadly, caged bears have frequently shown up in the poetry and fiction we're reading through now.

6)The Octopus--Who doesn't love octopuses (or is it octopi?). No one, apparently, because our eight-legged, oceanic friends keep swimming into our poetry slush pile.

7) Lazarus--This biblical figure is resurrected again and again in the pieces we've seen lately.

8) The End of the World--The writers out there are becoming prophets, and our futures are bleak, yet beautifully lyrical.

Now, please don't misunderstand us. These trends aren't necessarily negative at all. (Heck, I've written a twin story myself.) We've enjoyed and accepted poems and stories featuring all of these characters and themes. Still, once you notice so many people writing about similar things, you begin to wonder: Where's this trend coming from? Is it our collective conscience? Maybe it's the year--2008--and everyone has eight on their minds, leading to the fascination with the eight-legged mollusks and the youthful age of eight. Who knows, maybe next year--2009--cats will survive another year with their nine lives and poets will call out to the nine muses. Whatever the trends, we think we're ready and we're happy to read them.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Our starting lineups...

Hey everyone! I'm Ryan Teitman, IR's newly minted Poetry Editor.

I recently watched Bull Durham on DVD, so to put things in perspective, if the IR staff were a minor league baseball team, Jenny would be the gruff but loveable manager who's seen it all, Nina would be the hot-shot pitcher ready to prove herself, Chad would be the infielder with a sixth sense, Andy would be the catcher with an awesome nickname, and I would be the outfielder who keeps a piece of lettuce under his hat to stay cool during summer day games.

Some things you should know about me:
1. I used to be a Philadelphia newspaper reporter before I made my expedition to Indiana.

2. I take my job of reading unsolicited submissions very seriously. I know that submitting to a literary magazine means putting yourself on the line, and I respect everyone who slides their work into an envelope, licks the seal, and sends it off into the world. I'm going to try to get responses to you as quickly as humanly possible. But keep in mind that I am human, and giving every poem the consideration it deserves sometimes takes a bit of time.

3. My favorite cake is carrot cake.

Issue 30.2 is coming together and looking great, so keep your eye out, it's going to be a great year!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spoiler Alert!

Now that Labor Day has come and gone and school is back in session, summer is officially over. To celebrate the end of the season I present to you, dear readers, the 100 Best Last Lines from Novels compiled by the American Book Review. (You can also check out the entire, alphabetized list of nominated last lines.)

The final 100 covers everything from classics, modernists, post-modernists, experimentalists, traditionalists, and everything in between. My favorite is #22 from William H. Gass' Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife: YOU HAVE FALLEN INTO ART - RETURN TO LIFE.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Indiana Review Submissions Manager Launched!

Tada! It's finally here. For those who prefer to submit online, you may now do so here for Indiana Review. We're still accepting snail mail submissions, and there are a number of snail mail submissions that we will need to read before we start reading the electronic submissions. But we're excited about this change.

As with other submission managers, you'll be able to keep track of your own submissions. Our submissions guidelines, however, will be just as true for the electronic submissions as for the snail mail submissions, so please do review them before you submit. In particular, when submitting to Indiana Review, please only send one submission per genre, and then wait to hear an answer before sending the next.

On your mark!