Friday, February 8, 2013

Writing and Getting Published: Editor Claudia Sternbach speaks to LCW about Memoir Journal

Here's a long overdue post from a talk in September by Claudia Sternbach, Editor in Chief at Memoir Journal. The guest speaker at Left Coast Writers, a monthly literary salon hosted by Book Passage bookstore in Marin, Sternbach was a columnist and feature writer for 15 years before she became an editor at the literary journal.

Learning the ropes in her new position at age 59, she says overseeing the journal, formerly called Memoir (and), felt like having a second child: 'Is it getting out of control? Is it behaving?' she'd wonder as she lay awake at night, worrying.

Memoir: Prose, Poetry, Photography and More... publishes both established and emerging writers twice a year, but Sternbach's goal is to double that number. The journal now receives 6,000 submissions a year (!) with room for only 12 in what she calls a "slim collection." Publishing monthly would be ideal, she says, but they'd need enough subscriptions to defray the cost. So, subscribe! (Recent past issues included interviews with renowned writers Cheryl Strayed and Pam Houston -- both whom I've blogged about.)

The author of Now Breathe and Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses, Sternbach takes issue with those who claim that although you may have a story, it may not be worth writing.

Based on the belief that "everyone has a story to tell," the journal hosts the (In)Visible Memoirs Project, a grant-funded program of workshops in the SF Bay Area that, according to the website:

nurtures, publishes, and circulates memoirs that are too often excluded from dominant literary discourses. Our focus is on communities traditionally underserved by literary programming and underrepresented in contemporary literature. We recognize that the exclusion of so many voices from literary programming limits our understanding of the world in which we live and deprives us all.

Here's an excerpt from one participant, which I just love (for its irony and economical language):

"But I have one big problem: Language. I only said, "Good morning" and, "Good bye," but he gave me the job. Janitor, you know, easy job, sweep and mop."
- Eduardo Riviera
The Fortune Society, Long Island City, NY (Volume 6: I Carry With Me)

Memoir Journal's submission period is open now until noon on Feb. 16. Unlike most literary journals with an online submissions manager, there is no reading fee. Considering your stiff competition, make sure your subject matter - and style -- is original.

Sternbach says they're inundated with essays about cancer, bad breakups and being on the brink of a nervous breakdown -- and some submissions treat an editor like a sounding board or a therapist.

"It isn't always about chasing the publication dream, but getting it down on paper," she says, acknowledging that the act of writing can no doubt be cathartic.

Keep in mind that if your writing still expresses "a lot of angst," your work may not be ready for publication. If unsure, you can get a critique of your writing for a reasonable fee (ranging from $30-100 for 1,000-10,000 words of prose and $50-100 for 5-10 pages of poetry).

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...