Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s literary magazine, Pegasus,is now open for submissions to the 2012 issue of the magazine. If you’re a high school or college student currently enrolled in a Georgia high school, college, or university, then Pegasus wants your work. Please visit http://www.abac.edu/pegasus/submit.htm for full guidelines.
Many young writers are new to the submission process and are often unaware of the various ground rules and unspoken expectations that go along with submitting to literary magazines. Below, I’ve listed out a few of these conventions for newbie writers who might need this kind of information. Veteran writers: please correct or add to these suggestions in the comments below.
Formatting your submission: For poetry submissions, put only one poem on a page. Typographically, space out your poem exactly as you would like to see it in print (don’t double-space unless you mean it). If your poem is longer than a page, use brackets to note stanza breaks (or lack thereof). Use a standard 12-point font (no Comic Sans). Be certain that your contact information appears on each page of poetry.
For prose submissions, double space everything. Be certain that you include your contact information on the first page. Number your pages.
For art submissions, we at Pegasus require high-quality .jpeg or .gif files (300 dpi). This means that you can't send us a picture that you took with your cell phone camera. Visual and plastic artists: send us high-quality digital photographs of your work.
Cover letters: In the publishing world, some editors like cover letters and some don’t. To be safe, I always include a cover letter with all submissions. At Pegasus, we like cover letters because we want to know a bit about the writers we’re publishing—a cover letter is an easy way to see if a potential author is eligible for publication in our journal. Cover letters shouldn’t be overly-long. Something simple is much better than a long list of everything you’ve ever done. You might write something like:
Dear Pegasus Editors,
Per your submission guidelines, I’ve uploaded my story “Bat’s Belfry” to Submishmash as a submission to Pegasus. Currently, I’m a sophomore English major at Georgia Southern University. I hope to one day be a high school English teacher. Last year, the literary magazine Jump It published my poem “Robin’s Egg.”
Thank you for reading my work. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Short, sweet, respectful, and to-the-point: a good example what we at Pegasus expect in a cover letter. Submitters can feel free to address the cover letter to Matt McCullough, the current managing editor, or to me, Jeff Newberry, faculty advisor and advisory editor.
Note: some literary magazines want you to write your bio in third person; others don’t specify. If you’re really confused about how to write one, take a look at some contributors’ notes online. Mimic what you see there.
Response time: Pegasus is a yearly publication. We publish each spring to coincide with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s annual celebration of the arts and humanities. Although submissions open in August of each year, we don’t make any decisions until January, usually. This means that once you’ve submitted your work, you may not hear back from us for a pretty good while. Don’t worry; we’ve not lost your submission. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Some pieces we accept very quickly; with others, the decision can take a bit of time.
Writers should resist the temptation to email any editor about the status of a submission unless four-six months have passed with no contact from the magazine. Asking about the status of a submission isn’t necessarily wrong (though some journals expressly ask writers not to contact the editor until a certain amount of time has passed). Rather, emailing the editor might result in a quick rejection. The editor might think, “Well, we were on the fence about this submission, but clearly the writer has had some luck placing it elsewhere.”
And please, don’t call to ask about your submission.
Simultaneous submissions: As a writer, I rarely send to a place that doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions, a term that means the journal allows writers to submit the same manuscript to them that the writer has sent to others. This way, the writer has to contact all the other journals to withdraw the manuscript, should it be accepted.
Because Pegasus uses Submishmash, we have no rule against simultaneous submissions. Writes just need to log in to their account and withdraw any manuscript accepted elsewhere.
Read the submission guidelines: By this I mean, read the submission guidelines to any journal to which you’re submitting. Treat the guidelines like Gospel truth.
I hope these tips help clear up a few things for the newbie writer hoping to place her manuscript with a journal. These suggestions aren’t meant to scare away potential authors. Understand that editors want to read your work. However, as a young writer first starting out, I had no idea how to submit. I’m merely trying to make explicity what so many editors and writers assume is common knowledge.
Please, send your work to Pegasus. And please, spread the word to other writers. We’d love to read your writing. Visit http://www.abac.edu/pegasus for more information.
I first read Philip Levine’s poetry in a creative writing workshop I took as a community college student in the fall of 1992. I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to write a generation-defining book, something like Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I had no idea how to write poetry, and I cared little for it. In the creative writing class, we had to write poems, and my first effort is laughably forgettable. I don’t have a copy of the piece (thank God), but I do remember that it was about a rainstorm caused by Odin working at his forge (I don’t think Odin even has a forge). I had a vague idea that poetry was supposed to be about big, epic things like gods and storms and mythology.
My teacher, Lynn Wallace (a Gulf Coast writer whose work I still admire) passed out copy of Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” one night in class. I didn’t know anything about Levine, and I had no real idea about how to respond to poetry. Growing up in the bayous of North Florida, I didn’t read much poetry, save what was taught in school: Beowulf, Shakespeare’s sonnets, the occasional piece by Poe. We read the poem aloud, talked about it, a bit, and moved on. I spent the next few years in college, trying to learn how to write and trying to write a novel.
I encountered Levine’s poetry again in graduate school. I’d taken a few poetry workshops along the way, and I had begun to think of myself as a poet. I was drawn to the Beats, to Arthur Rimbaud, to T.S. Eliot, and a host of other writers whose work I considered “nonconformist” (a word I treated like a mantra back then). My graduate thesis was going to be a book of poems, but I didn’t read a lot of contemporary poetry. My thesis adviser, Laurie O’Brien, regularly berated me for my lack of knowledge about contemporary poetry, telling me rightly that if I didn’t read any contemporary poetry, I didn’t have a heck of a lot business writing it. How could I expect readers if I didn’t read anyone else’s work? So, one night, while my then-girlfriend and now wife, Heather, were browsing at the Pensacola Barnes and Noble, I picked up a copy of Philip Levine’s New Selected Poems, a book I took from the shelf only because I remembered Lynn Wallace’s workshop.
I distinctly remember being simultaneously entranced and excited by Levine’s work. It wasn’t his diction (a plain-spoken line I’d never seen) nor his images (beautifully drawn and accurate) that drew me in. Instead, I was taken with his subject matter: working-class people in the factories of Detroit, where Levine came of age and later worked. The realization that I could write about my life, too, now seems facile. Of course poets write about their lives. But I’d never encountered a poetry so honest about defeat and regret. Only later did I read Whitman and discover where Levine drew his epigraphy for “Silent in America”: “Vivas for those who have failed.” I’d never written a poem about bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly, where I worked throughout high school. I’d never written about unloading a produce truck at 6:00 a.m., the work I did in junior college. I’d never written about working the midnight shift at a coastal convenience store. I’d never written about flipping burgers at Hardee’s (my first job). In a very real way, Philip Levine’s poetry gave me permission to write about those things. Gone were my Beatnik fantasies. I didn’t need to live some life on the road to write poems. I had a life worthy of poetry. Or, in another way, maybe I began to write poetry that made me see that life as worthy.
I began writing poems that imitated his plain-spoke, narrative style. I tracked down most of his books, going so far as to order copies from Subterranean Books, a local Pensacola used book store. I even wrote Levine a letter and enclosed some of my own work. Graciously, he responded and gave me some advice about my writing. He invited me to write back, and I regret that I never did. I was too much in awe of my poetic idol; I didn’t know what I’d say. But, now, I continue to write poems filled with the images of my coming-of-age on Florida’s Gulf Coast: the dead-end mill towns, the shrimp trawlers, the limestone church parking lots, the boys with mosquito bites scarring their legs, the gray-faced men and women who pull 12-hours shifts working demeaning jobs. All of these images are now politically-charged, but when I first began writing these poems, I wasn’t trying to make any statements about the working class. I merely wanted to explore what I knew. I discovered that what I thought I knew opened the door to the unknown, a lyrical terrain that still sustains me.
All of which is to say I couldn’t be more happy that Philip Levine has been named our nation’s poet laureate. His is a gritty, honest poetry, accessible and true-to-life, all traits that has caused some to dismiss him. Others like me, however, find a home in Levine’s work. His voice is the voice of my father, telling me that it’s time to get up and go throw papers at 1:00 a.m.; his voice is the paper mill whistle sounding at 11:00 p.m.; his voices is the south breeze off the Gulf of Mexico, a salted wind that cuts and soothes.
The first time I set foot into a Borders store was in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1997. My roommates and I had made the crazy decision to drive to New York City for Spring Break. Since we were all undergraduates at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, that meant we’d be in the car for a little over 20 hours. These were the days before Google Maps or Mapquest, so we were armed only with the overconfidence of youth and a road atlas. We crashed on couches up and down the east coast on our sojourn. We’d stopped in D.C. to visit a friend who was attending Georgetown.
To me, then, Borders was a Mecca containing everything I valued in life: good books, good music, and good coffee. I distinctly remember wandering the aisles, dumbstruck at the sheer number of books. I’d been in only one big-box bookstore, a ratty Booksamillion on Davis Highway in Pensacola. Borders trumped Booksamillion by far. When I found the poetry section in Borders, I nearly fell to my knees. I’d never seen so many volumes of poetry for sale in one place. I think I purchased a copy of Jim Morrison’s The Lords and the New Creatures, a choice that reveals a lot about me back then—and a choice that, frankly, I’d like to forget. Morrison is a terrible poet, but I’m not writing about him.
Rather, I’m interested how Borders filled a niche for me—and maybe it filled a niche for the readers in our country back then. It’s hard for me to imagine a time before Amazon and Powell’s and AbeBooks, but in college, I didn’t have access to these websites. No one else did, either. Visiting a Borders was visiting a place that shared your obsessions. You could meet fellow readers, talk about books in the coffee café, or pick up the latest album. What Borders offered me then seems quaint and old-fashioned now. I can sit down in front of my computer, and with a few keystrokes, I can have coffee beans delivered, order a used copy of a book, and download an entire album’s worth of MP3s. With this kind of at-your-fingertips convenience, Borders seems like a hindrance rather than a convenience. Small wonder, then, that despite a valiant attempt to stay relevant, Borders closed its doors permanently in July of 2011.
The question is why. Why did Borders close? Poor business practice? A failure to fully engage the e-book market? Perhaps it’s all of these reasons—or some combination thereof. However, I think there’s a bigger issue at play. We live in the customizable culture. Everything we want is not only right at our fingertips, but also completely customizable to our tastes. Online, you can create playlists, order custom coffee beans, print your own book, and order custom skins for your laptop or cell phone. You can even order customized jeans and Converse shoes. The customizable culture elevates individual expression to capitalistic commodity. You are what you buy.
And maybe that’s always been the case, even when bookstores like Borders didn’t seem like relics, the shopping malls we once roamed. But roaming through a bookstore, glancing down at the rows and rows of titles, and soaking up the atmosphere of coffee and bookbinding glue reminds me that while I love the convenience of shopping online, I miss the adventure of browsing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. For me, shopping at Amazon or Powell’s or any other online book merchant inverts the book shopping paradigm: when I go online, I discover books; when I shop in a bookstore, books discover me. Online, I type in a title or an author and I get a list of what’s available. I’ll also get a list of recommendations, based on my choice. However, shopping in a bookstore, I wander row to row, each aisle opening up endless possibility with each outward-facing spine.
Am I being a little Romantic about this? Most certainly. I have some serious reservations about the way that big-box bookstores ran small, independent bookstores out of business. I’m also bothered by the way that big-box bookstores summarily ignored small, independent publishers. Big-box bookstores in many ways turned art (writing) into commodity. Maybe big-box bookstores are a part of the customizable culture, too. However, at the same time, I mourn the loss of any bookstore, small or large. And I miss the wonder I had that first time I visited a Borders in Washington, D.C., when I walked the aisles, mystified by all the possibilities.
O for a muse of fire,