Book Review: The Biology of Luck

The Biology of Luck

The Biology of Luck is a story that bursts onto the page and into your imagination, shimmering with life. From the first page I could tell it was far from just another tale set against a New York City backdrop.

Jacob M. Appel tells the story of Larry Bloom, an unattractive tour guide who is hopelessly in love with charismatic free-spirit, Starshine Hart. Larry has spent the last two years immortalising Starshine in his as-yet unpublished novel, also entitled The Biology of Luck.

Now he’s set to play his trump card. He has a date with Starshine and an envelope from a publishing house in his pocket.

The novel takes the reader on a journey through the day leading up to the date, alternating between Larry’s perspective and chapters from his manuscript. Here’s where it gets tricky. Larry’s novel tells the story of Starshine’s life on the day leading up to the date, the day he feels he will win her heart.  The result teams whimsy, grit and metafiction in a spunky metropolitan fairy tale.

Read More…

Submissions Around Town: September

Submissions Around Town - September

SUBMISSIONS open

Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about ‘waiting’ – stories of delays, postponements and pauses that explore our relationship with time. There will be a $1000 award for the best essay, but please be aware that there is a substantial reading fee. Submissions close September 22.

Kill Your Darlings is open for pitches and submissions for its print edition and online blog. A few topics the editors are particularly interested in at the moment include literary censorship vs. the use of sexual imagery to sell books, and the racial politics surrounding Nicki Minaj (writers of colour are especially welcomed to pitch on this topic).

The Zodiac Review is looking for literary fiction with dashes of dark humour, suspense, mystery, memoir, historical fiction, light sci-fi and light fantasy.

Tiny Owl Workshop is seeking Christmas-themed flash fiction by Australian writers inspired by the Krampus myth. The twelve chosen stories will be distributed around Brisbane inside illustrated Christmas crackers.

Tincture Journal is seeking fiction, scripts or screenplays and creative non-fiction for its December edition. While pieces can be anywhere from 100 to 20,000 words, 2000 to 5000 words is a good target.

Read More…

Submissions Around Town: August

Submissions Around Town - August

SUBMISSIONS open

In It For The Long Scrawl, a literary mag created by teens, is keen to publish work by writers aged between 13 and 18. Submissions close August 15.

All the Best, a weekly Aussie radio show, is looking for very short fiction in which your city or home town is destroyed in an apocalypse. An excerpt will be played on the radio and the rest will be published on their website. Send your stories to ep@allthebestradio.com before August 16 to be considered.

The Australian Poetry Journal 4.2 is open for unthemed poems, multimedia works and pitches for short articles (reviews, poetic memoirs, etc) until August 31.

The Shoe Alternative, a website designed to help women figure out what they want to do with their lives, is looking for fiction, articles, interviews, reviews, artwork and more based around the theme ‘Dare to Dream.’ Submissions are open until the end of September.

Overland is looking for pitches on several nonfiction topics, including racial discrimination in dating and payment for writers. Accepted pieces will be published on the online magazine. When pitching, you should explain your article in 50 words and come up with a realistic deadline.

Read More…

Poems of a Feather

A bird’s eye review of Australian Poetry Journal 4.1

Mitchell Welch

 photo

The recent launch of Issue 4.1 of the Australian Poetry Journal took the form of a webcast panel discussion featuring APJ’s new editor Michael Sharkey in conversation with four prominent poetry editors (ABR’s Lisa Gorton, Seizure’s Fiona Wright, Mascara’s Michelle Cahill and Cordite’s Kent McCarter). During the discussion, McCarter admitted a certain degree of editorial ornithophobia, citing an over-representation of ‘bird poems’ in each issue’s expansive slush pile. Bird poems are so prolific that they scarcely need defending, but I think it’s helpful to remember that all poems are somewhat auspicious in nature (in the Greco-Roman sense). They are, or can be, prophecies of momentous clarity bounded by gestures through timespace, and after all, there are few gestures more earthly or universally captivating than the arc of a bird in flight.

Sky gazing is a thoroughly (though not exclusively) human behaviour, and there are birds of flight on every continent. Of course, language can never contain the universal, but perhaps the experience of staring into space, deep in a thought suddenly underscored towards its epiphany by the unexpected swoop of birdlife is about as close as we can get. It’s hardly surprising that ancient sky-gazers assigned meanings to patterns of birdflight, which are as cursive as any written language. The practice of reading these meanings is older than Rome itself. Perhaps this is why Michael Sharkey, a scholar no doubt well versed in the classics, has scattered birds all through the new issue.

Anne M. Carson’s Yula: the return captures the annual repatriation of migratory shearwaters to Phillip Island, a routine auspice that is nonetheless filled with ‘so many birds their wingbeats / are palpable in the dark’. Elsewhere in the issue, birds appear in brief cameo roles: Andrew McDonald’s birds address us in exultation, while Rose Hunter conjures pelicans, and Duncan Richardson pairs ‘stirring gulls / and rusting chains’. Jenny Blackford’s penguins don’t stir or sweep or soar, but ‘beat strong wings / under the ice’. Even Philip Salom’s fond biography of the ‘major minor poet’, William Hart-Smith, can’t ignore his poetry of birds, his cormorants and herons – even a Boomerang is ‘wood into bird and bird to wood again. / A brown-winged bird from the hand of a brown man’.

Perhaps Charlotte Clutterbuck’s Post-modern, in its fittingly self-conscious way, best captures the relationship between augury and art: ‘Brancusi’s wingless birds / suspended above the water / so that art exists fully / only for the one moment / in which you kneel on the rim / of the pond’.

Later in the discussion, when conversation turned to the idea of themed issues, Michael Sharkey flagged his intention to abandon them, a departure from his predecessor Bronwyn Lea’s approach. Indeed, birds are more motif than thematic anchor in this issue; APJ 4.1 presents the work of more than fifty Australian poets, and only a few are augurs. Though some are prepossessed by birdlife, it’s perhaps worth noting that even when the skies aren’t filled with feathered wings, there are still the auspices of so many moths, bats and biplanes left to read. But after those, there are poems that look earthward instead of skyward, and those that gaze to the horizon. Some of the most arresting poems manage to fold these three dimensions into origami kites that remain for the most part anchored in reality, which I suspect is where Michael Sharkey’s editorial thread will keep future issues carefully tethered.

Submissions Around Town: July

Submissions Around Town in July

SUBMISSIONS open

Tupulo Press is open for submissions of book-length and chapbook-length poetry until Thursday July 31. Published works will be distributed across the United States, but poets of any nationality are welcome to enter.

In celebration of The Stella Prize, the Suburban Review will be releasing an issue called the Stellar Edition to celebrate the literary feats of women. The deadline for submissions of short fiction, poetry, artwork and photography is Sunday August 3. They’re running a Pozible campaign that will allow them to pay all contributors $100, so if you’d like to donate, see the website for details.

And of course Ricochet is still accepting submissions of poetry, short fiction, nonfiction, reviews, artwork and photography until Friday August 1.

Read More…

Freelancing? Where to Pitch

emma-stone-excited

In case you haven’t heard of it, Pitch, Bitch! is a brilliant new initiative that encourages young female writers to pitch their work for publication.

It was established as a community for female writers who may feel inadequate about their writing prowess, in comparison to male peers who, anecdotally at least, aren’t as discouraged by rejection. The first Wednesday of every month has been designated Pitch, Bitch day, and those who participate can use the #pitchbitch hashtag on Twitter to post about their achievements.

The great thing about the Pitch, Bitch! Tumblr is that it’s a stellar resource for all fledgling freelancers, not just those of the female persuasion. It’s full of interviews with editors, successful pitch examples and advice articles about how not to pitch and how to respond to criticism.

With all that on hand, it can still be hard to know where to send your pitch, particularly when you want to get paid and there are so many not-for-profit and volunteer-based publications out there. Who Pays Writers in Australia? is a good place to start – writers anonymously post pay rates for popular commercial websites and print publications, and there are notes of caution about late payers and tricksy organisations, so you can tread in knowing what to expect. It’s a few years old but the Emerging Writers’ Festival also has a list of pay rates for various magazines and websites.

In honour of tomorrow’s #pitchbitch day, we’ve put together a list of publications that do pay, and a breakdown of the subjects they are interested in (some were hard to pigeonhole, so they’ve been slotted into several categories).

Read More…

Drawing Creativity Out

Untitled image by Franz Kafka

Untitled image by Franz Kafka

During my studies, I always found that I learned best in a classroom situation if I kept my hands busy, sketching, doodling, and drawing caricatures or geometric patterns. I was always in trouble for filling my schoolbooks with (not very good) pictures, though I maintain that the practice was an essential part of the learning process, as if I was encoding the teacher’s verbal information in visual patterns that only I would understand. Drawing was a way of ordering information in my mind. Later, when I started writing, I found myself doodling once again. At first I thought its function was merely procrastination, but then I reflected more closely, and realised that drawing has a kind of meditative function that is central to the practice of writing.

When I start a story, I start with fragments: characters, plot arcs, images, settings, moods. In general, these disconnected pieces float around somewhere in the subconscious, bouncing off each other, sometimes finding edges that fit together. Some people might map the thing out, or create some kind of grand schema, but I find the act of drawing equally productive. Something about the act of visual concentration, the slow and meditative mode of creation, seems to allow those fragments to join up below the surface, eventually emerging as a solved jigsaw (or at least one whose edge pieces have been sorted).

One of my character sketches

One of my character sketches

And perhaps there’s something to it. After all, there are many writers in history who have been engaged in the visual arts to some degree or another – from the clip-art style marginalia of Franz Kafka to the (surprisingly) vibrant impressionism of Sylvia Plath.

Perhaps the most complete record of this little known practice is Donald Friedman’s wonderful book, The Writers Brush, which collects hundreds of examples: from D.H. Lawrence’s well-known paintings to Henry Miller’s watercolours; from the unique modernism of the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Kurt Vonnegut’s very collectable screen prints.

Kurt Vonnegut's "Enchanted I.O.U.'s" portfolio

Kurt Vonnegut’s “Enchanted I.O.U.’s” portfolio

The great lesson of The Writers Brush, is that creativity is rarely a beast that can be contained in one channel, or communicated across one medium. If you find yourself struggling to piece together the fragments of a story, try turning your hand to drawing – even if you’re terrible at it. My instinct has always told me that the benefits a writer can derive from the art of doodling have very little correlation to the visual result. This theory is somewhat confirmed by those writers collected in The Writers Brush whose artwork is objectively terrible, but whose writing is nonetheless inspired (Marcel Proust and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I’m looking at you).

So, next time you’re blocked – try doodling. Lose yourself in the totally mechanical process of connecting lines, and you might find, on the other side of the exercise, some unexpected narrative connections emerging too.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 187 other followers