January 27, 2011

Literary Magazines (or Ezines): Why Bother?

You wanna get published, right? You’ve got the short story done. You’re working on the novel. You don’t have an agent, a big publishing house. Yeah, we all want that. You may say, “Literary Magazines: Why bother?” I say the “little” guys take more risks than the slicks or higher circulation journals. Traditionalists say, get in print first—and maybe you should. Yes, the literary world is changing with the emergence of Ezines, but it’s still predominantly print. Whether or how soon the Ezine will accomplish what I’m about to show has long been true in the print world is an open question that I’ll come back to.

If past is prologue, we can learn:
  • It took Faulkner thirteen years to see his first short story in print. And he sent to the literary journals. “That Evening Sun Go Down” (Best American, 1931) was published in The American Mercury (now gone). In those early pages we are introduced to some of the Compsons who make up The Sound and the Fury. “A Rose for Emily” appeared in Forum (now gone) in 1930. Both magazines rejected earlier stories. And the rest is history.
  • William Saroyan’s tour de force of voice, “Resurrection of a Life” appeared in Story (now gone) in 1935 and then in Best American. I argue that this story could not have found a home in a commercial magazine. In 1940 his play The Time of Your Life won the Pulitzer. Both Faulkner and Saroyan mailed to the little magazine where risk is the name of the game.


  • Bernard Malamud’s “The Girl of My Dreams” appeared in 1953 in American Mercury (gone) and “The Mourners” in 1955 in Discovery (gone) both after his novel The Natural (1952) and before his short stories had been collected in a volume. “The Girl of My Dreams” ran alongside one poem by poet Kenneth Koch at the beginning of his career and another by Adrienne Rich when her bio still said, “Miss Rich is married and lives in Cambridge, Mass.”
  •  William Gass’s “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country,” a long story (another “problem” for commercial magazines—that is, length) appeared in 1967 in New American Review (now gone). This story that breaks form, was chosen by Best American and has been widely anthologized. In New American it appeared alongside Philip Roth’s “The Jewish Blues” and Grace Paley’s “Faith in a Tree.”

  • A story by Ian McEwan appeared in the final issue (1977) of New American by then called American Review. That mag. published three of his stories before he published his first novel and later went on to win the Booker. His story appeared alongside stories by Grace Paley, E. L. Doctorow and Angela Carter.

  • In 1998 Pam Houston published a story in Fish Stories (gone) before “The Best Girlfriend You Never Had” appeared in Other Voices (gone) in 2000 and was chosen for Best American and then by John Updike for Best American Short Stories of the Century
  • In 1998 Jhumpa Lahiri published a story in Salamander (circulation about a thousand) before her book Interpreter of Maladies was out, before she won the Pulitzer for that collection in 2000. The title story appeared in Agni (circulation about 2000) in 1998 and later in Best American. Agni is now Ezine and print. 
They bothered. Why shouldn’t you?

In 1994 the NEA commissioned a study of this world that concluded: “Most writers of literature, including those who go on to prominence, will [first] find their way into print through small presses.”

I received my MFA degree from OSU when I was fifty-two—the oldest student in the program—and have published ten stories in little magazines. Frederick Busch named my collection of short stories the finalist for the 2002 AWP Book Award, which Joan Connor won. When I was an MFA student, I selected one of her stories for The Journal (circulation about 1,500) where I was working as a student and assistant fiction editor. She bothered. So should you.

The list —don’t worry, I’ll get to more Ezines—goes on with many contemporary authors who use the small press route before and after they are well known:
  • T. C. Boyle, “Poison,” 1978, Hawai’i Review. His collection of short stories The Descent of Man appeared in 1979. 
  • Jane Smiley, “Jeffrey, believe me,” 1977 TriQuarterly before she had a book. 
  • Ann Beattie, “Winter: 1978” Carolina Quarterly (1980) and reprinted in Best American 1981. 
  • John Edgar Wideman, “Two Stories,” The North American Review. He published his first book A Glance Away in 1967 when he was 26. He’s now decided to self-publish with Lulu. 
  • Mary Gaitskill, “A Crazy Person,” Open City after her collection Bad Behavior and a novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin had appeared. 
  • Nicholson Baker, “Harold Munger’s Story,” Story Quarterly (1981) ; his bio, quoting him, says, “he is not working on a novel.” His first novel The Mezzanine appeared in 1988. 
For the established print mags, go to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. All have websites.

But the world is changing. Take a look at this link to see the many established mags among the not so well-established that are now Ezines. Some of the uber-prints like Grand Street are gone but many let you read from their archives if they’ve not gone totally online…yet!

Here are two Ezine examples:
  • Drunken Boat is an online journal of art and literature edited by the poet Ravi Shankar. In the current issue DB12, T.C. Boyle and Alice McDermott write tributes to Eugene O’Neill. More impressive is that Robin Hemley, Director of the Nonfiction (uber-famous) Writing Program at University of Iowa has a lyric essay “Twirl / Run” with photos by Jeff Mermelstein—a gorgeous layout that sings on the web as an interactive piece. 
  • More directly relevant is Defunct Magazine. Robin Hemley is the editor of this Ezine.
I am reading Colm Toíbín's new collection of short stories The Empty Family: The first story took my breath away: "Silence" was published in Boulevard Magenta--a blogger and poet Michael O'Dea gives us the scoop on this "small" pub. 

What I’ve proved is that—Ezine or print—the little mag. matters.

You can’t afford not to try both.

An excerpt from my memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story will appear in the Ezine Drunken Boat this spring. I am featured in the big circ. mag. Real Simple, February 2011.

January 25, 2011

New Post coming on the Real Simple interview process and New Orleans

Note to my readers: I'll be back soon with a brand new post on the Real Simple article, entitled "Toward a More Perfect Union," the interview process--and the miracle of New Orleans: How these connect is quite a story. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the Real Simple article--and if you want the WHOLE story get the memoir that saved my life here.
As I forge ahead like a little boat on the sea of your belief...


January 07, 2011

Interview by Louise Wise

My heartfelt thanks to Louise Wise for the interview that you can read in full here: Here's a glimpse:

(Re) Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story
By
Mary L. Tabor
     Fresh, quirky and delightful, (Re)Making Love: A Sex After Sixty Story, is brutally honest while giving hope that passion doesn’t need to end after a certain age. Tabor takes the reader from Washington, DC to Missouri to Australia and eventually to Paris, a visit that offers a stunning surprise—one that changed the author’s life.

Mary L. Tabor had been married for twenty-one years when her husband announced to her, “I need to live alone.” Already grief stricken by the deaths of her mother, sister and then father, the news threw Tabor into a tailspin of impetuous acts, the good, the bad and the foolish.

In this deeply personal memoir, Tabor wholeheartedly shares her journey, all after age sixty, proving it’s never too late to find love—and oneself.

Readers will find hope in a story that gives new meaning to romantic comedy.


The American adult woman is featured in this debut collection of stories about love, adultery, marriage, passion, death, and family. There is a subtle humor here, and an innate wisdom about everyday life as women find solace in cooking, work, and chores. Tabor reveals the thoughts of her working professional women who stream into Washington, D.C., from the outer suburbs, the men they date or marry, and the attractive if harried commuters they meet. One woman fantasizes about the burglar who escaped with her deceased mother's jewelry.

In another story, the protagonist uncovers her husband's secret: his pocket mirror and concealer do not belong, as she had feared, to a mistress but rather are items he uses to hide his growing bald spot. Revealed here are the hidden layers of lives that seem predictable but never are. Reading Tabor's wry tales, one has the sense of entering the private lives of the women you see everyday on your way to work.

Mary L. Tabor’s short story collection The Woman Who Never Cooked won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. An excerpt of her new memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story is forthcoming in the poet Ravi Shankar’s eZine Drunken Boat: http://www.drunkenboat.com/
Her memoir can be found here: http://sexaftersixtybook.com/. Her fiction and essays have appeared recently in the anthology Electric Grace, Paycock Press, The Missouri Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Image, the Mid-American Review, River City, Chelsea, Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Literary Review. She has taught at The Smithsonian’s Campus-on-the-Mall, George Washington University and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

What age group is you book geared toward?


You’d think from the title and me that older women would be my audience, and indeed they are, but the surprise has been that young women and men of all ages respond to the book because I am interrogating myself about commitment and intimacy.

Into which genre would you say your book falls?
I’ve written a memoir that deals with separation: Woman gets dumped, craters, tries to figure out what happened and ends up figuring out herself.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?

Sure. Here’s Chapter 1 of my brand-new memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story:

I Need to Live Alone

I love romantic comedies: weep over them, quote their dialogue without attribution in conversation as when I am with a man who says he wants to be friends with me, “You actually believe that men and women can be friends?”

When Harry Met Sally: Harry: “What I’m saying is—and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form—is that men and women can’t be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.”

I collect music scores of Rom-Coms, buy the DVDs and watch them over and over again. Now sure, the appeal to me and others is this: girl meets boy and LOVE results, inexorable, indomitable, irrefutable, life-changing LOVE.

I was sixty years old when my husband—let’s refer to him as D.—dumped me—old story, I know. But wait, as the commercials for fancy French Fry cutters say.

I begin writing about my separation from D. on August 25, my parents’ anniversary. They were married fifty-four years. Can you believe it? I am alone and reading The New York Times in my condo where I live now. I find this: AP report, dateline: Chamonix, France (Isn’t that where Cary meets Audrey in Charade’s first scene? “Can’t he do something constructive like start an avalanche or something?” Reggie, played by Audrey Hepburn asks Silvie after young Jean Louis shoots her in the face with his water gun. Jean Louis shoots Peter, played by Cary Grant, as well.) The AP reports on an avalanche that “swept down a major summit in the French Alps before dawn on Sunday, leaving eight climbers missing and presumed dead along a trail often used to reach Mont Blanc . . . . One survivor, Marco Delfini, an Italian guide, said he saw ‘a wall of ice coming towards us, and then we were carried 200 meters.’ An injured survivor Nicholas Duquesnes, told Agence France-Presse, ‘There was absolutely no noise; it was very disturbing. We only had time to swerve to the right before being mowed down.’ ”

I had been married twenty-one years when D. announced, “I need to live alone.” Oh so Greta Garbo. There was absolutely no noise. I was sixty years old and had been chasing him around the bedroom—to no avail—for ten years. Bill Maher in a comedy routine on HBO not so long after he had been dumped by ABC only to arise again with Politically Incorrect, said in a joke about older women, “menopause.” Get it? Men A Pause. Yeah, I got it.

The French Fry Cutter salesman raises his voice on the commercial in my head: “But wait, there’s more”: I decide to date. I want a man who believes that men and women in love must be friends. But Harry is right that the sex part matters.

The hell with Bill Maher.
Find the rest of the interview with advice to writers, stuff about marketing and publishing at Louis Wise's blog: http://louisewise.blogspot.com/ along with other writers she has featured.

My heartfelt thanks to Louise for all the work she did here. Check her out and read the rest of the interview.


January 01, 2011

Daisy Hickman on The Way We Live

Daisy Hickman, poet, blogger, wise soul writes here as my guest. She writes on “living.”

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre asserts in After Virtue, his examination of the history of philosophy and the importance of the Aristotelian virtues, that “...a human life is understood as a progress through harms and dangers, moral and physical, which someone may encounter and overcome in better and worse ways and with a greater or lesser measure of success …” The examination of existence is central to how we live if we agree that the journey matters: for one swallow does not make a summer.

Daisy worked 20 years as consultant and staff with nonprofit organizations, devotes her life and work to all the meanings that the word philanthropy evoke: in her word and her deeds. She lives now in eastern South Dakota, a small college town—before that: Indianapolis and St. Louis—Midwest girl meets the prairie that she writes about in her book Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American PrairieWilliam Morrow 1999 and where one year ago she launched a blog that is extraordinary for its following: Because Daisy, as I have written here, defines generosity.

I give you Daisy Hickman:

Caring for Life
by Daisy A. Hickman

“The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.”–Pablo Picasso

I’ve given this guest post for Mary a great deal of thought – detecting a number of viable paths to reflect on writing, her memoir, and life, in general.  But let me back peddle for a brief moment.

o   I’m not yet 60, nor am I writing about “sex after sixty.”

o   I met Mary L. Tabor via various social networks and found her honest approach to life compelling, so when reading her memoir, was not surprised by her “open heart.” Nor was I bothered by her book’s content. Frank in places, yes, but since (Re)Making Love: A Sex after Sixty Story is about a critical life passage, whatever is relevant is relevant.  

o   I launched a site February 1, 2010, called SunnyRoomStudio with a primary goal of providing a sunny, creative space for kindred spirits. This has not only offered a wonderful opportunity to connect with kindred spirits, but the site is also a great venue for others to share ideas, literary and artistic talents, inspiration. 

o   Since my first Studio Guest had to be a special one, I invited Mary Tabor to write about her memoir and her path to writing. Graciously, she agreed. So, now, it is my distinct pleasure to share a few thoughts on Mary’s blog and have decided to write about a subject that is of vital importance these days: caring for life.



But why on this cold, blustery winter day would I choose this topic—what does it have to do with anything, right? A couple of reasons come to mind, but first and foremost, the need to “care for life” explains so many things we do. Things that others may not “get” without a bit of thought and reflection.

For instance, we almost lost our beloved schnauzer, Noah, recently, and Mary L. Tabor recently published a memoir about a difficult transition in her life—one of lost love, one of found love. But what do these experiences have in common? Everything.
  •          By caring for others, including our pets, we care for life.
In going to great lengths to get help for Noah, we honored the life force within him (and within each of us). And, Mary, in going to great lengths to share an extremely personal story that rocked her to the bone, is caring for life.

You see, the illusion of separateness that is still at work in the world can prevent us from
seeing and understanding that our primary mission on Earth is simply to: care for life.



Whether it is towering evergreens, a family pet, the planet, a cause you believe in deeply, or a relationship that is most meaningful—caring for life is at the core. Obviously, caring for ourselves is part of the equation.

The beauty of this approach is that life makes sense from this perspective. Everything is an expression of a divine light, and by honoring that glorious light, whenever or wherever it shines, we honor our spiritual essence and extend our creative hearts into the realm of the universe itself.

Mary sets such a great example with her book and her life journey, one she willing shares with the world. And bravely so, I might add.

In caring for life through literary achievements that capture what it means to struggle, to endure, and to eventually arrive in a better place, Mary is living proof that caring for life is what makes us human—it is the very heart of the matter.

So let us remember to honor the life force that abounds around us on implicit and explicit levels, always taking time to appreciate the depth of wonder life provokes in us. Behold: the magnificence of life in all its many variations.

Even a crooked tree points to something more.


As Eckhart Tolle writes in Stillness Speaks:

“The interconnectedness of all things: Buddhists have always known it, and physicists now confirm it. Nothing that happens is an isolated event; it only appears to be. The more we judge and label it, the more we isolate it. The wholeness of life becomes fragmented through our thinking. Yet the totality of life has brought this event about. It is part of the web of interconnectedness that is the cosmos.”

Ah, yes.

“This means: whatever is could not be otherwise.”

Of course!

“In most cases, we cannot begin to understand what role a seemingly senseless event may have within the totality of the cosmos, but recognizing its inevitability within the vastness of the whole can be the beginning of an inner acceptance of what is and thus a realignment with the wholeness of life.”

·      So when you feel the need to question your purpose in life or its overall direction, remember to care for life in whatever way tugs at your heartstrings–it’s all good. 

Best wishes from SunnyRoomStudio for the year 2011—
may it bring you wisdom and spiritual joys beyond measure.