Important Updates, Announcements, and More About Submissions! – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Faulk

MAN, you guys are KILLING IT with these submissions – and I’m not exaggerating. The pieces I’ve been accepting are all SO DIFFERENT from one another, but they’re poignant, fresh, and remind me of the reason I started Sick Lit Magazine just about two years ago.

Nicole Ford Thomas has not “left the building” – she and I are still working closely together here at SLM. She’s now the Creative Director, where I let her spread her wings and expand her mind, allowing her ideas and her imagination to grow and flourish. This brings me to my next point: Nicole will be writing a regular column for SLM called Letters From Left Field. 

Along with that, we’re starting our own advice column called Ask The Redheads – When in Doubt? Bitch it out! All questions will be anonymous and will be posted on the site with both mine and Nicole’s input. Any advice questions should be sent to sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com with “Ask The Redheads” in the subject line. You’ll be notified if we pick your question to be featured and also (for a few, select scenarios) enlist a group of your peers help Nicole and myself in our advice to you.

So, now, along with fresh poetry and fiction, we’ll be providing even more fun content for you to delve into!

I’m going to start posting some of your pieces for our “New Beginnings” theme either tomorrow or over the long weekend, so you’ll have something exciting and new to read. I woke up earlier this week with two fairly painful infections (of course, right? Why wouldn’t I? Ha!); I’ve received antibiotics and am hoping to be on the mend by Saturday. If not, I’ll start posting your work on Sunday.  Don’t worry, guys. We’ll get everything up and running soon.

To some of you who haven’t received a response yet: bear with me. I will get to you, I promise.

Who’s excited?

Who’s ready to write again, and actually enjoy it this time? As I’ve said before, throw out that “literary agent jargon” that’s peddled as “Professional advice.”

If I’m being completely candid, I want you to forget EVERYTHING and write me a bold, passionate piece (and then of course, send it to sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com) and if nothing else, your enthusiasm and love for writing will shine through.

Be on the lookout for Nicole’s New Column, Our Advice Column, and some excellent prose and poetry.

Nicole and I sort of have an affinity for all things “fall.” We’re excited for these next few issues and what’s to come for all of us here at SLM!

 

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Cheers, guys! And good luck submitting!

Kelly

(Above: a photo of me ‘at the office’)

 

 

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Calling All Writers! Step “Write” up and get yourself some SLM Announcements! – Kelly Fitzharris Faulk, Editor-in-Chief

Here’s to Life, Literature, and bringing the spirit of SLM back!

 

Sometimes, we’re trying so hard to open a figurative closed door in our lives that we fail to look behind us to see a brand-new, shining, glassed-in sun-room. Forget that old window analogy; this time after God has closed the door, he’s opened up the entire back of your house.

The past is done; it’s gone. We cannot change it, nor can we live there. This is why it’s so important to live in the here and the now and to do your best to see that rainbow while you’re stuck in the mud.

I’m sure you’ve noticed my name change up above – I’M MARRIED! And it is a happy time for me and my family. Soon, I’ll be Kelly Faulk.

Onto the magazine!

I will officially be re-opening shop so to speak for submissions starting NOW and staying open until the end of October of 2017 for short prose (just don’t send me 30 pages) and poetry.

I do have a few themes up my sleeve:

Good VS Evil

New Beginnings

Strength in the face of Adversity 

 

You may begin to submit to any or ALL of these themes as soon as you are ready to do so to: sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com

*Now, remember: When submitting your work to the magazine, please, please, PLEASE, write the genre and theme somewhere in or on your email, write to me as yourself, and be as frank or as candid as you’d like.

Reminder: I want YOUR work. Write as YOU; write what you write best and write the hell out of it.

My mission and my intent have never been to conform to the rest of the literary world; on the contrary, I want to serve as a guide, a mentor, a coach, and a voice of reason in a world filled with chaos and closed doors. Unless I suspect you *might* be a serial killer aside from your day job, I usually make every effort to email you back as soon as I can and to provide you with my enthusiastic feedback, critiques, praises, what have you.

I’m starting this fall with a clean slate and a fresh outlook. If you’ve sent in work before and it’s gone unnoticed and you feel that it’s good and fits one of the themes, send it again. This year has scrambled us all up a bit to say the least. So let’s just start over.

Here’s to new beginnings, a brighter tomorrow, and the freedom to express ourselves.

Cheers,

dkweddingggggggg

Kelly

September: Let’s walk, talk, and de-stress – Kelly Coody, Editor in Chief

Want To Cut in the Submissions Line? Here are a Few Tips –

 

We are not your cookie-cutter magazine; the things I’m about to share with you are only applicable to your submissions to us here at SLM.

  1. The more we get to know about you in your email, the better! That not only tells us about you as an individual and as a writer, but puts your writing and/or art into context for us.
  2. The more specific you are in the subject line, the quicker we’ll be to open the email. (e.g., specify the theme you’re submitting to, genre, etc.)
  3. If you’re already a reader of SLM, tell us that! If we talked on Facebook via the “Facebook Messenger App” or whatever the hell that is, Twitter, either through Tweets or DMs, or have had ANY sort of interaction, mention it in your email!!! I can’t stress this enough – due to wacky usernames on Twitter, I have no way of putting it together that you’re @RandoWriter and that we Tweet back and forth all the time, therefore making my tone automatically seem cold to you.
  4. Embrace the culture here — we love the process of engaging with you. If you’ve been rejected 5,000 times and hate everyone, again, TELL ME THAT! I’m not every other editor. We are not every other magazine.
  5. Forget about trying to sound professional in your email; be yourself. If your attached artwork, story/stories, or poems have an interesting backstory or are close to your heart, this is all stuff we’d like to know.
  6. There’s no way you can get too personal in your email to us – well, yes there is, but never mind that for now- I was once rejected by an agent for mentioning how nice her curly hair looked in comparison to my ’80’s hair band-look when I rolled out of bed in the morning – and then, said agent went on to post a long letter about what crosses the line and what doesn’t. I felt like an idiot, sitting there reading that, with my cheeks stinging.
  7. Throw away your “industry-standards” rule-book or guidebook and be real. and know that both myself AND Melissa are writers just like you and that we occasionally wear our hearts on our sleeves as well.
  8. As hard as Melissa has worked with me to monetize this web site, it takes time (a long time, apparently) for us to see any money, let alone a profit, so understand that we work hard – nights, weekends, and sometimes at the expense of our health, sanity and families, in order to make sure SLM happens every day – and all without seeing a dime. Unless one catches our eye from the couch cushions – but that’s more likely to happen than the former. If you get a grouchy or grumpy email from one of us, be patient. We are still only human, after all. We’re not perfect.

Every writer has a unique process and style. Embrace that. Un-learn what you’ve been “told” to think and, instead, work with us as we all re-train our brains how to think.

Writing and reading alike need to be thought of as an adventure again, as fun, like it used to be. I’m here to revive and breathe fresh air back into a decaying, atrophying contemporary literature scene where everyone seems to be perpetually angry or perpetually snobby, eager for any reason to figuratively click the “no” button in response to our work.

I want you to have FUN writing to these upcoming themes – not plagued by doubt the whole time you’re writing, afraid you’re wasting your time. You are not wasting your time – we sincerely NEED writing for all six of our upcoming themes.

Here are our themes: (Note, we’ve chosen two per month starting in October to give you a choice!)

September: Voima Oy’s WHAT IF?

October: Jeffrey H Toney , PhD’s EPIPHANY, OR Paul Beckman’s It Began in an Elevator…

November: Carrie Redway’s ANCESTRAL GEMS or Carrie Redway’s DROUGHT

December: Penny Barratt’s AMBIGUITY or Ani Keaten’s PHOTOGRAPH

I also need to acknowledge the elephant in the room. {He’s starving – hang on – I keep forgetting about him…} We have a new staff member here at SLM! Welcome Justin Hunter to the editing team and congratulate him! Justin won an Assistant Editor position here with us because of his persistence, eagerness and tenacity. He will do a fantastic job here helping Melissa and me with SLM’s submissions process, social media, and he will be another friendly face who’s eager to learn more about you and the way we operate here.

Say hello, especially if you’re a regular contributor, get to know him – and continue to get to know Melissa, especially if you haven’t already – they are both insanely talented and I feel so lucky to have them both on my team at SLM. 

BTW, if you haven’t heard, there’s rumor going around that we are to be having a t-shirt design competition that starts in September, where YOU, the READERS are going to cast votes to choose the winning design. I am so excited about this – it’s new to us – and to the Kean University design students. This will undoubtedly challenge and enlighten all of us and I can’t wait for the process to begin, alongside our literary theme schedule. [Big thanks to Dr. Toney, once again!]

Great things are in store, guys – and it’s still only the beginning. 

Cheers, guys.

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What’s the deal with these themes?! – Kelly Coody, Editor in Chief

Let’s talk. 

Themes.

It started over the 2015-2016 holiday season when I got on a creative whim and started with flash fiction week, then poetry week, then women’s writing week, and so on and so on.

Then I turned it over to you guys to decide some themes – I turned it into a contest where each winning theme would be a month long and would be named after the winners. (Kate Jones’s Invisibility Theme, Santino Prinzi’s Perceptions Theme, Voima Oy’s What if? theme, Chris Iacono’s First Love Theme, Rob True’s The Journey Theme, etc, etc.)

The upcoming themes are undoubtedly more specific and difficult. The upcoming themes (October of 2016 through December of 2016) were also chosen by a contest and will be named after the winners just like before.

Why have I chosen such “difficult themes?”

Remember that editor’s letter where I said that I view SLM like the continuation of My So-Called Life’s Liberty Lit? It’s an episode where the substitute comes into the classroom, shakes up the way they think about writing and changes their minds; and their hearts. First, he strips everyone’s writing down to bare bones. Then he builds them back up, has them fine tune it.

That’s what I’m doing.

I started out by having you throw away the rule-book and write from your heart. Then, I added in some themes to guide you. Now, I’m choosing themes that will challenge you.

If you think of some classic / common archetypes in literature, though, such as love, war, a journey, good versus evil, the initiation, the fall, coming of age, honoring your historical past, alienation / ostracism,  etc, our upcoming winning themes ALL can fall under one of these broader archetypes in one way or another.

October: Jeffrey H Toney , PhD’s Epiphany (this is already a classic archetype in themes, but can be a sub-type of coming of age, loss of innocence, survival of the fittest, struggle with self, the power of love, the power of nature, etc.)

October: Paul Beckman’s writing prompt: It began in an elevator (Not a classic archetype, but one hell of a writing prompt. If you get writer’s block, this is a great one to go with.)

November: Carrie Redway’s Ancestral Gems (A sub-type of honoring your historical past, struggle with self, the fall, initiation, etc.)

November: Carrie Redway’s Drought (A sub-type of Alienation / Isolation, the power of nature, the struggle with nature, struggle with self, the fall, war, good vs. evil, disillusionment, etc.)

December: Penny Barratt’s Ambiguity (A sub-type of anything, really; loss of innocence, disillusionment with life, good vs. evil, tolerance of the atypical)

December: Ani Keaten’s Photograph  (Love, war, the effect of scientific progress [technological advances], historical past, family, struggle with self, disillusionment with life, etc.)

We’ve chosen two per month to give you guys a choice; that way, if your writing doesn’t fall into, let’s say, the EPIPHANY category for October, you can submit to Paul Beckman’s writing prompt.

I didn’t do this to make it more complicated; I did this to add choice and variety–to add color.

But based on our recent submissions drought, I’m starting to think there are a few things I need to clarify or ask for your feedback on.

An archetype is an archetype — it’s just a thing — my book can fall under struggle with self, good vs. evil, coming of age, loss of innocence, and many more. Think of it in broader terms, not the word, but the multiple meanings the word holds.

Also, forgive me for deviating a bit here, but why is it important to stick to a “classical archetype?” Why not do something different? It almost feels as if someone read all the books that have inhabited schools’ assigned reading lists for the past two decades and then chose story-line archetypes based on those books.

So many of the books that were “assigned reading” were books that I deemed highly inappropriate for my age group. Ahem, Huckelberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, The Scarlet Letter? 

Also: there is so much censorship out there just for the sake of censorship. I read a list yesterday of literary journals that were considered “inclusive.” Apparently using curse words is something that serves to disqualify us from being considered inclusive? I’m not sure how saying the word damn does this, or who gets to say what the rules are, but we are open-minded and open for submissions.

In order to put an end to our submissions drought, as of now we are running a contest for BEST SUBMISSION in each theme category! We will be picking SIX WINNERS and naming them along with all SIX of our Pushcart Prize Nominees next month.

OCTOBER: Epiphany OR It began in an elevator…

NOVEMBER: Ancestral Gems OR Drought

DECEMBER: Photograph OR Ambiguity

Send all submissions to sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com and specify your theme in the subject line. Just as a refresher, we are open to all types of submissions, including fiction, flash fiction, poetry, essays, art and photography.

I can’t wait to read your submissions!

Let’s get inspired today!

Cheers,

Peace and Love,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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Submissions: FAQs, Deadlines and What’s Really Up

‘Tis a new year. ‘Tis the time to revamp and re-explain the submissions process. I understand it can be a bit confusing when I have monthly themes going on for most of 2016. I’m not trying to make it difficult; readers and writers alike tend to get excited when there are themes happening, so I wanted to try this as an experiment.

 

 

  1. I don’t understand how to write to a theme. How do I do that? It makes me feel so intimidated. 

 

Well, then, get the theme’s idea out of your head. Wipe that slate clean and write what YOU write and write it well. Send it in (in a word doc PLEASE ::SMILEY FACE::) to me directly at kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

2. I want to submit to a theme, but what are they? When are they? Can I submit to a later one now? What the hell? 

All valid questions, all valid concerns. Here is the theme schedule:

February: INVISIBILITY (chosen by contributor Kate Jones)

March: WOMEN’S WRITING MONTH (chosen by…me?)

April: LETTING GO (chosen by contributor Hillary Umland)

May: NOSTALGIA (chosen by contributor Gene Farmer)

June: FIRST LOVE (chosen by contributor Christopher Iacono)

July: THE JOURNEY (chosen by contributor Rob True)

August: PERCEPTIONS (chosen by Tino Prinzi)

September: WHAT IF? (chosen by @voimaoy)

You may submit to any of these themes starting January 31st until February 28th. I like to take things one month at a time. SO, I will implore you to submit for WOMEN’S WRITING MONTH and INVISIBILITY MONTH starting NOW. All I need you to do is write the theme you are contributing to in the headline.

March 15th we will re-open for submissions and stay open for an amount of time that is for now TBD, during which time you may also submit to all remaining themes.

3. Do you have a word-count limit? What about margins, etc? 

Dear Lord. We don’t have any of that shit. I refuse to stifle my artists’ creativity by setting stupid margin specifications. Ridiculous. And as for word count, it depends on the piece of work, honestly, man. Flash fiction is really popular with our writers and readers, but then again, so is regular fiction. So, write what YOU write. Attachments are fine. I don’t mind PDFs, but be prepared to send me a word doc of the same thing if we are going to publish you.

4. So, what kind of work do you publish? 

Fiction, non-fiction, essays, poetry, abstract poetry, art. Here at Sick Lit Magazine, we make it our mission for the sky to be our limit. We can do anything when we break down these walls that have been superimposed upon us our entire lives. Fuck formatting. Fuck margins. Throw it out the window and write what other people won’t. Write things that scare you and excite you.

5. Why submit to you? 

Why not? We get international traffic and have an amazing network of supportive writers and artists; and I stand behind all of my writers’ work. It may be diverse as hell, but it should be that way. I am a liberal feminist to the core.

Listen, if you’re a writer, you have a burning talent inside you that needs to get out. Put a pen to paper or put your hands on a keyboard and just go–and don’t censor yourself–not even for a second. The minute you do, you won’t do justice to your characters or your story.

Any suit-wearing moron can string words together in an e-mail and make it sound cheery and half-way motivational. But how many people can convey emotions in a way that make your cheeks flush?

I am here at Sick Lit Magazine to bring REAL writing and REAL literature back into the hands of the public; not mass-marketed, watered-down bullshit that they pedal from “Writer’s Digest.” A recent piece of advice from them to get published was: “No longer is it acceptable for a book to ‘get good’ ten pages in.” Following this advice, we wouldn’t have any of our classics that we know and love today. Following this advice, Catch-22 is out. And how many would-be classics are being passed over because of this line of thinking?

Write with passion, write what you’ve always wanted to, write with soul and stand behind your work.

If I am not a big fan of what you’ve sent me (I’m a real person, I e-mail back, I promise), I’ll tell you edits I’d propose and ask you what else you’ve got. I’m not other literary journals.

 

If you have any other questions, feel free to send them to my e-mail, which again is kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

Cheers,

Peace and Love,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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Submissions? Yes, please.

I know, I know, I originally said we were closed to all non-solicited submissions until January 31st. I changed my mind. We have a themed month coming up, Kate Jones’s “Invisibility” theme for February. If you know anything about me or SLM, you’ll know that I will encourage you to interpret this loosely, much like I interpret the bible (haha?). Invisibility can be the way you feel when you’re hurting or depressed; the way that people seem to flee when they see you coming and you’re in a bad mood. It can also be the way we’re treated as women sometimes, especially when it comes to the workplace and our children. It can be interpreted into a horror story. Invisibility is such a great theme because it encompasses SO MANY other themes. So, at this time, if you have not been invited to submit or have not been previously published by SLM, you MAY SUBMIT FOR THE THEME OF INVISIBILITY. (Please send all submissions to me directly at kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com )

It may sound comical, but I got my latest bit of writing inspiration from an episode of Arthur that my kids were watching yesterday. One of the characters, Sue Ellen, met the author of Coraline.

He told her that everyone has a story to tell; everyone’s story is unique.

She had a concern. “But some people don’t like it.”

“Not everyone will like your story,” he said. So true. “But your story still needs to be told. It needs to be heard. And it will eventually find the right audience.”

I was standing in the kitchen scrubbing old oatmeal out of not one, but THREE bowls (hell might be cleaning old oatmeal out of bowls, I’m fairly certain) when I heard this, not thinking much of it.

But the more that it sank in, the more riled up I got.

I woke up this morning with the words still stuck in my head.

As a writer myself (and journalist and editor), I’m GREAT at inspiring you guys to send in your writing and boosting you up. However, am I so great at doing the same for myself? Not really. When I see the numbers that my own fiction gets compared to some of yours, I can’t lie and say that it doesn’t bother me or discourage me, as silly as that may sound.

There’s never a rhyme or reason necessarily when a piece of art, poetry, fiction, etc, gets hardly any views versus getting a lot of views.

Most often, the hardest advice to follow is your own.

Give me a piece of writing that came from the heart that needs a few semicolons instead of commas ANY DAY over a piece of over-edited, mass-marketed CRAP. I’m serious. When I call myself the editor, I’m not saying that to self-glorify. I edit a lot of the work that you read on here; and that’s OKAY. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Don’t call yourself an editor if all you did was copy and paste it and ADD typos. (It’s happened to me.)

ALL OF YOU are contributors to a truly one-of-a-kind, passionate, transparent publication that is unapologetic for what it is. And I continuously find myself humbled and honored to be at the receiving end of your submissions. As I’ve said a million times and will say a million times more, I don’t understand the editors who seem like they hate their jobs. When my inbox is inundated with submissions, I am happy. That means that things are going well.

Having too much content to choose from is a gift from the gods! It’s not a burden. And the moment that it becomes a burden is the moment that I think the editor job is no longer the right job for you. It’s true. Even for me.

***

Peace and Love, SLM team 🙂

Cheers!

Your loving editor,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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Restless? Angry? Tired? Well, then! Come sit next to us.

(Your daily dose of inspiration, brought to you SLM-style)

 

Welcome to 2016, guys!

My last letter wasn’t positive or uplifting—and I won’t apologize for that. Pretend I’m a man, just for a second. And then re-read my letter.

WOMEN: stop apologizing for being who you are. Stop, stop, stop. Stop apologizing for writing—or saying a curse word—or for speaking. 

Women’s equality is NOT: expecting our reproductive organs to vanish or become perfect—it’s not relinquishing the proper amount of time for maternity/paternity leave, telling a female coworker she should “smile more” or calling a female coworker a moron because she giggled.

Tell me something.

Why is it that statistics show women to be scholastically superior to their male counterparts, yet as adults, we are paid less than they are and pre-judged in job interviews to “know less” than these same male counterparts?

Women writers suffer from a similar disservice. Guess who tends to subconsciously self-censor as we write? WOMEN. Why? Because we’re programmed to. WHY? Countless reasons. We’re worried about being “exposed” or “called out.” We’re worried we’ll be perceived the wrong way; we’re worried about speculation.

“Don’t publish this under my name, Kelly. It will leave me exposed.”

But all the cis gender males write unapologetically, often boastful. Oh, hello double-standard. I didn’t realize you transcended the boundaries of literature, too. Get the fuck out of here!

You know what, ladies? You know what I say? FUCK THAT.

Men are more likely to get in car accidents than women, get behind the wheel and drive recklessly, yet the myth of the “terrible women drivers” prevails! How does it do that? I mean, even despite those masculine, hiked-up, vehicle insurance premiums?

Hmmm…

ONTO our WINNING THEMES for 2016!!

 

  1. Kate Jones: INVISIBILITY (FEBRUARY, 2016)
  2. WOMEN’S WRITING MONTH (MARCH, 2016)
  3. Hillary Umland: LETTING GO (APRIL, 2016)
  4. Gene Farmer: NOSTALGIA (MAY, 2016)
  5. Christopher Iacono: FIRST LOVE (JUNE, 2016)
  6. Rob True: THE JOURNEY (JULY, 2016)
  7. Tino Prinzi: PERCEPTIONS (AUGUST, 2016)
  8. @voimaoy: WHAT IF? (SEPTEMBER, 2016)

 

That’s right, guys. An entire MONTH. Get yourself some. Submit, submit, submit. Now is your time; it’s everyone’s time. Write from your gut; write like your life depends on it. But never, never sell out or change who you are or how you write for anyone. Ever.

Oh, one last thing I almost forgot to mention. THE LAST TWO PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEES FOR 2016.

 

  1. OWEN CLAYBORN, “DUTY OF CARE”
  2. CHUMKI SHARMA’S COLLECTION OF POETRY, including “Making Room for Light/Dirt Builds a World/Adjourned Sine Die/The Disappearing Act/Rescue Operation/Futile/Writer’s Block/Stranger in an Autumn Forest”

Everyone, make sure to congratulate the hell out of Owen Clayborn and Chumki Sharma for their outstanding work! And, please, keep congratulating our other nominees: Annabel Banks, Kate Jones, Prerna Bakshi, Chris Milam and Ron Gibson.

Who’s ready to start fucking writing?! I am. I can’t wait to see your submissions when we re-open on January 31st, 2016.

A FEW SMALL GUIDELINES: All I ask is that you please put the theme you’re submitting to in the subject line of your e-mail. And if you’re not submitting to a theme, then just write “non-themed submission.” 

Make sure you’re sending them to kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com since I changed the submissions e-mail address. 

Happy New Year, readers, writers and Sick Lit Mag enthusiasts. You rock. We kinda like having you around.

Peace and love,

Cheers!

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

Editor

Sick Lit Magazine

 

*Landscape photography courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*

 

Coming of Age Week, Another Pushcart Prize Nominee, and more…

What are you all about at Sick Lit Magazine? I don’t get it. 

We are about feminism, equality, inclusion and have a continued focus on making strides as a human race toward erasing lines and hierarchies. We support the LGBTQ community, WOMEN, along with all races and religions. I don’t care if you’re black, white, Hindu, Pagan–we’re all breathing the same air, walking on the same Earth and striving toward (hopefully) the same goals. I want health and prosperity for myself and family, but also for my neighbors and fellow humans, no matter their “race” or “religion.”

We may be starting small, but that’s how all things must begin. We’re also about encouraging and coaching writers; we find the rare, few gems on that beach full of broken glass and jagged rocks. It’s what we’re good at. 

We’re the first literary journal/magazine to actually stir up EXCITEMENT among our writers and readers about themes, fiction, poetry, etc. And that’s part of what I set out to do originally–I want to make reading and writing exciting again–it should be!

We are the first to TALK TO and ENGAGE WITH our writers. We are the first to develop such a strong and loyal following after only TWO MONTHS in existence. And this is no coincident or accident–I am a human being, too. I am a writer, too.

I know what it is to feel sad and hopeless. I know what it is to be a depressed creative-type and have no one to appreciate or understand your work. I appreciate ALL of your work. Because you are fucking talented. 

If I’ve seemed off or quiet since Thursday, December 10th, it’s because I have been. Some personal, family issues have come to a head and for lack of a better expression, shit has hit the fan in some important areas of my life. So my heart is broken and I am not myself at the time. In fact, all day Thursday, as I was getting e-mails about what I needed to fix on certain pieces, I was wiping away tears and in between phone calls and telling my two small children that I was fine.

I am not fine. And It’s okay to admit that sometimes. I’m tired of pretending–and I don’t have to pretend with you guys. 

The U.S. has this other ill-conceived notion that everything always has to be POSITIVE and HAPPY. And if it’s not and said person expresses sadness or negativity, said person is weak and attention-seeking.

I don’t quite remember when this started, but all it has done is make people who are sad, sadder, because they have no one to corroborate their own experiences or feelings. Friends are supposed to mirror a healthy reflection of yourself back to you; and also be there to say, “Hey! Me too!” when you tell them that you have a weird, lonely freckle on the bottom of your left foot. Or, to empathize with you when something really sad happened. That kind of bond has been, well, kind of killed.

Facebook is one of the places I can name as being “bullying” when someone posts a negative thought or health condition.

Why…why on Earth would you kick someone when they’re down?? 

Twitter is a whole different animal. I love Twitter. It’s always been fun, engaging and has truly allowed me to network.


 

ANYWAY, back to the topic at hand. I can’t think of a better way to ring in Sick Lit Magazine’s “Coming of Age Week” than having an infestation of head lice break out in our 2600 square foot, carpeted home, with two children and a dog. If you’ve ever wondered what hell might be like, it’s somewhere between 10 loads of laundry and anti-lice shampoo.

So between that and my three-year-old son’s recurring staph infections, my seven-year-old daughter’s three-month-long bouts of bronchitis and my husband’s job change, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and…gross. And itchy. And non-human (And not in a cool, glittery, vampire way. More like a smelly chimp with bugs kind of way.)

So if you’re feeling grouchy this holiday season, just think of me and the two identical holes I ripped in my new jeans the first time I put them on the other day. You’ll feel better in no time ;).

But in all honesty, this is what life is like. Sometimes so many ridiculous things happen in a row that we have to just sit back and laugh.

I read an article recently that said, “Quit waiting for your kids to be ‘a little older’ or for ‘what’s coming next.’ This is now. You can either hate it or embrace that you have a toddler and find the joyful moments.”  This applies to SO MANY areas of our lives, guys, not just with having a toddler: things will be better when…. If I can just get through this, then…

How many of us have been guilty of thinking this way?

I know I have.

Fuck that line of thinking. This is now. This is today. And we get to choose how we live.

So, welcome to Coming of Age Week. To mix things up, SLM staffer Cori Hackworth decided to turn the tables on me and wear the interviewer hat this time. So, below, check out our glorious interview. And after that, stay tuned for our 4th Pushcart Prize nominee. 

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Corinne Hackworth: What was your favorite outfit in middle school?

Kelly Coody:  Oh God, that spans three years of dressing in the ’90s. One outfit that sticks out in my mind that I LOVED was wearing black tights with these faded denim shorts over them with a black, short sleeved, jersey (that’s a material) turtleneck top. It sounds awful, but I remember it looking spectacular. So there was that; and a lot of crop tops and Calvin Klein.

CH: What is the first book that changed you?

KC: Definitely when I first read the book “Rebecca” by Daphne DuMaurier. I became swept up into this novel more than I ever had with any novel before; and that’s coming from an avid reader. I remember thinking, “Now that is how you write a compelling story. I want to be like that.”  Oh, and guess what, Writer’s Digest? This book took a bit more than ten pages in to “get good.” 

CH: If you could be a bird, which bird would you be?

KC: Hmm…birds are freakishly smart creatures, which makes them both intriguing and terrifying (don’t ever buy a Cockatoo). I’d be a Cockatiel–they’re sweet birds, they can talk, and they have cute little orange cheeks.

CH: What is your quest?

KC: Well, at the moment my quest at Sick Lit Magazine is to try and open everyone’s minds and get them back into the passion and spirit of writing, instead of focusing on all of these “HOW TO SELL YOUR NOVEL” articles spouting bullshit. I have to comment, though, how surprised I am at all of these literary journals with SUCH STRICT formatting requirements. This is the ADULT WORLD of literature–what are you, a grade-school teacher? WHY do you insist on 1-inch margins?? That shit drives me crazy.

Largely, though, I want to inspire people and change the way we view ourselves and our work as writers. Enough with all the snarky comments and pretentious editors focusing on being pedantic. Lighten up and look at the spirit of the work in front of you, not the fucking 1-inch margins. Christ. 

CH: What is your karaoke “go to?”

KC: As a former actor and singer, I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that I haven’t Karaoked since I was in college and at a Korean bar, singing a Linkin Park song at 1 A.M. And, then, as though that wasn’t enough, I insisted on rapping the ENTIRE song ‘Bombs over Baghdad’ by Outkast to the guy who drove me back to my dorm. SO EMBARRASSING. I’m pretty sure I slurred, “Yeah, well, there’s plenty more where THAT came from,” as I sloshed my way up to my dorm room.

CH: Black or blue ink?

KC: Black. Unless the blue pen writes really well.

CH: What is the first thing you pack for a weekend away?

KC: Twenty-five outfits that are ALL for the climate of where I live, rather than the climate I’m travelling to. EVERY. TIME.

CH: Least used Crayon: Black or White?

KC: White.

CH: What’s your stupid human trick?

KC: My double-jointed fingers and elbows–and the fact that I can click my heels in the air. And my tap-dancing.

CH: What was the moment in life that shocked you the most?

KC: The first time I got [inexplicably] ill from the Gardasil vaccine that my OB-GYN INSISTED that I get and how I was treated by the world of health care afterwards. And pretty much every adult moment in my life thereafter.

CH: Where are your car keys….right NOW?

KC: I hope they’re in my briefcase. If not, then Jackson’s probably got them in his sweaty little palms, clutching them while he sleeps.

CH: Who is your favorite vampire?

KC: Oh, damn, no, the vampire question! After much thought and consideration, I have to say Lestat from Interview with the Vampire. His character is charismatic, manipulative and delightfully evil.

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CH: What’s worse: wet socks, or water running up your forearms when you wash your hands?

KC: Wet socks!!

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AND…ONTO OUR FOURTH NOMINEE FOR THE PUSHCART PRIZE:

(DRUM ROLL PLEASE…)

Congratulations to our very own KATE JONES for her short piece of fiction titled, “Taking up Space.” 

And, honestly, congrats and hats off to all of the women who submitted and participated in SLM’s first-ever Women’s Writing Week. It felt the way it was supposed to feel; like a celebration. And since it turned out to be such a success and inspired so many people, we WILL be definitely having another Women’s Writing Week.

So let’s recap our Pushcart Prize nominees thus far! (Remember, there are two spots left open!)

Pushcart Prize nominees for 2015:

  1. Annabel Banks, “Harmless”

Pushcart Prize nominees for 2016:

  1. Prerna Bakshi’s collection of poetry, “Coming Out, What will be left behind?, Thirst, A recurring question, My grandparents’ letters and Gone and buried”
  2. Chris Milam, “There is Wreckage”
  3. Ron Gibson “After the Storm”
  4. Kate Jones “Taking up Space”

***OPEN SUBMISSIONS close just around the corner, on December 31st. Make sure to get your work to me in time; but even if you don’t, we’ll re-open for submissions at the end of January. And as I’ve said a hundred times, WRITE WHAT YOU WRITE. But write without boundaries. And send all submissions, questions, etc, to kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

Cheers!

Peace and Love during this Holiday Season,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody / SLM

 PS: Know that I am getting to each and every one of your e-mails, even if I’m a little slow to respond. I appreciate all of you–all of your brilliant words, your brave submissions and your SPIRIT. Sick Lit Magazine is what it is because of the content that we publish. MY WRITERS AND SOON-TO-BE-PUBLISHED WRITERS FUCKING ROCK. If anyone thinks otherwise, they can shove it. 

Welcome to Tragedy/Comedy Week!

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Welcome, welcome, welcome to Sick Lit Magazine’s Tragedy/Comedy Week!

We will have a wide array of work for you to peruse, ranging from poetry to flash fiction all the way over to some truly epic art.

Prerna Bakshi, who bravely kicked off our first Poetry Week, will also be the first up for Tragedy/Comedy week. Dee Lean, Ron Gibson, C.C. O’Hanlon, Cathryn Campbell, Toby Penney (and her breathtaking art), Gavin Hedaux, Rob True, and many, many more artists will be participating this week.

As always, if you are sitting here reading this letter and think you have a piece to submit for this week, it’s NOT TOO LATE! Send it on over to kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com 

I have also decided (LAST MINUTE) to include a three-week long ADDITIONAL, running theme of FLASH FICTION. Again, if you are sitting here reading this and have some flash fiction for me, send it on over. 

Back to Tragedy/Comedy Week! 

Once a theater major at the University of Texas at Austin (I know, I know, I’ve dabbled; I’m sort of all over the place) and long time theater enthusiast, I’ve acted in many plays, one-act plays, excerpts, performed monologues, sang a cappella in a silent room to two people; I have auditioned my ass off. But some of my favorite times onstage were during my two years at Wichita Falls High School (Old High), with whom I deem to be the greatest theater teacher and director on the planet, Doc Wood.

I came to know that Tragedy and Comedy come in many forms. I know that they mean different things to different people.

Tragedy doesn’t always have to mean absolute and utter devastation; in fact, there is one school of thought that delineates that Tragedy and Comedy can be one and the same. In one way it makes sense; I guess it’s like when you laugh at someone who’s just rolled down the stairs. It’s tragic for that person, but comedic gold to you. And, yes, I’m one of those assholes who cannot contain themselves when someone hurts themselves. I can’t help it! (Unless their leg has just been severed. I’m not evil.)

Comedy comes in SO MANY different forms as we know all too well; (“Hey, check this movie out! It is so funny!” I’ve said to my husband a million times. He watched it. He did not laugh) and is made up of so many layers. Timing is oh-so-crucial and it isn’t something that can be taught. Whether it’s slapstick humor (a la The Three Stooges) or dry humor (Seinfeld), laughter will always, indeed, continue to be some of the best medicine. 

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When I was performing in the play The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman, playing the villainous Mary at a Theater Camp in Nacogdoches, Texas, I had to really look inside myself, because this was an extremely difficult role for me to play. Our director said it was why she’d picked me; with my bubbly personality and youthful optimism, she had wanted to challenge me. Mary’s character is destructive, sociopathic, manipulative and sneaky.

There was a scene where I was, of course, the petulant, angry, overbearing child, answering the other character (Rosalie)’s line with, “A lot of people are just ugly.” (This is not an exact quote, by the way). Which, to my surprise, elicited an eruption of laughter from the crowd. What? This was not a funny play. This was not supposed to be a funny line. Oh no! What’s happening? 

It was simply theater happening. 

That was it.

Later in the scene I actually had to slap the other girl in the face. During the performance, I slapped her so hard I busted her lip, eliciting a horrified gasp from the audience. So, there it was. The same audience that laughed, only a few moments later, gasped in disgust.

Tragedy and comedy, together. And as a cast, we had made it happen. 

And that’s what we do here at Sick Lit Magazine: We make things happen.

I truly love the network of authors we have created here. This is a very exciting magazine to be a part of. I’ll say it again after reading all of my Tragedy/Comedy pieces, damn, do my writers have soul.

They do not disappoint.

For any of you who watched the short-lived series My So-Called Life in the 90s, I kind of think of Sick Lit Magazine as the adult version of Angela Chase’s English class’s publication Liberty Lit. I despise censorship for censorship’s sake. I can’t stand pointless rules and “one-inch margin” specifications. Throw it out the window, readers and writers. And write what no one else will. 

So, curl up by the fire (if it’s cold where you are) and don’t forget to…Enjoy the Show! 

Cheers!

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

Sick Lit Magazine Editor-in-Chief

PS: One of my favorite quotes is from Jane Magazine back in the 90s, merely an afterthought that hung in the air above a fashion editorial. It read: “Not famous? Who cares? Star in your own damn show.” And it’s kind of been my motto ever since. 

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR – DECEMBER, VOL. 1, ISSUE 3.

December’s Letter from the Editor

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

As you may have noticed, SLM has become quite theme-happy as of late. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun–we’ve expanded our team, publishing talented writers’ excellent, diverse work, officially dubbing SLM an “eclectic and quirky” publication.

Bravo to all of my “Poetry Week” poets and my “Flash Fiction Week” writers!

Since November’s open-submissions-call was such a success, I’ve decided to keep it open through December 31st. Submit to: kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

I will get to the themes in just a minute. (I know, I know, I’m keeping you in suspense; but I really do have a few important things to say.)

Once when I was 15, on the way to the movies with some friends, the mom driving us there asked, “What’s your name?”

“Mary,” answered the girl to my right.

“No, no, not you. The mouthy one. You! What’s your name?” she asked, meeting my gaze in the rear view mirror.

“Kelly. Kelly Fitzharris. Why?” My voice was steady. My red hair was in its natural state of glossy curls that day as I cocked my head calmly to the side at her question.

Now it’s no big secret that I’m mouthy! I’m passionate and I believe in what we’re doing here, both for authors and for  writing. With the sky as our limit, we are crafting truly brilliant and one-of-a-kind literature that our readers feel a kinship with.

I’ve never been one to “go with the flow” or recede from our cruel world like a shrinking violet. I’ve been questioning the world around me and my own existence since I was old enough to utter my first words; snot-nosed, mop of red hair, chubby legs, clutching a teddy bear. I’d ask my dad, “How long has God been here?”

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He’d reply, “God always was.”

To which I then sat and quietly pondered the possibility of eternity.

As I grew, my questioning of authority became constant: “But why do we have to draw it that way?”

“Why? Why not?”

“Tell me why. Tell me why not.”

You can see why I despise automated rejection letters, canned company jargon, why I quit my job at a large corporation as a peon making no money despite my good degree, and why I chose to start Sick Lit Magazine in the first place.

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I quit my job at the end of August to stay at home with my kids; I’ve never done the Stay-at-Home-Mom thing before. Being a parent can make you wallow in self-doubt—it’s hard not to get stuck there. And the same can be said for us creatives and us writers. If you’re a fiction writer, especially, all you see, hear about and read about is “What NOT to do,” “Why Your Writing Sucks,” etc, etc, etc….

Here are a few gems I’ve found over the last few years:

  • Don’t use adverbs. (Well, why don’t you go fuck yourself?)
  • No longer is it acceptable for a book to “get good” ten pages in. (Courtesy of Writer’s Digest. Thank you for this amazingly shitty advice!)

Am I the only one sitting here thinking, “WHAT THE HELL?”

Whoever makes these lists must also own the publishing industry and control whose work gets seen and heard and whose does not.

If writers had been held to these ridiculous rules 50, 60, 70 years ago, books like Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  would have never been published. Or my favorite novel, Rebecca, by Daphne Dumaurier, would have been veritably tossed out the window by some kid in a suit, sitting tall, proud and brave behind their laptop. Why are we now expected to dumb our writing down and follow guidelines that only exist because of numbers and sales?

Back on December 4, 2014, I received an automated rejection letter from literary agent Jessica Faust from the agency BookEnds. You can bet your sweet ass I wrote back to this automated letter, asking as nicely as I could, and I will actually quote myself here, saying, “I know you’re insanely busy. But I would love some tips on how to present myself in a better light. Sincerely, Kelly Fitzharris.”

Jessica Faust wrote back an irritable letter that might as well have included an audible huff of disgust at the beginning. It starts with: “I’ve been writing about just this on the blog.”

The blog? Is this akin to the “The” in The Bible? 

It gets better. I continue her letter below: 

“I think though your idea is interesting, but your writing, not just the summarizing, didn’t feel that strong to me. In my mind it gave me the idea that your book might not be strongly written. If you wrote it fast my suggestion is that it might not be ready to submit and instead needs 30 days, or longer, of revisions before its ready.”

These are direct quotes; and I left her grammatical errors in there on purpose. That last line just kills me—its instead of it’s? And you’re the person in charge of my literary destiny?

It’s so maddening. It’s enough to make you want to throw your computer or punch your laptop screen—or, like our most recent contributor, Dee Lean, did, delete your entire hard drive.

This is why I started Sick Lit Magazine. I’m so fucking tired of this—I hate these rules. I hate that we’re made to hate our own writing. How is fitting into some sort of impossible mold groundbreaking or unique? Or extraordinary? At all? 

At Sick Lit Magazine, I am creating an environment like no other editor has done before me. I am no Jessica Faust; nor do I ever want to be.

And, guess what?

Dee Lean, who was actually told her writing was “hideous,” has gotten a ton of likes, and more reads and views on her Flash Fiction Week piece, “Fire,” than most of our other offerings.

Through believing in one another, we are fostering a community of powerful creativity that then leads to true literary excellence, in all forms. 

To be able to write in an environment that celebrates you rather than one that picks you apart and only provides DESTRUCTIVE criticism, is why I am here. And I will always, always, always stand proudly behind my authors.

OKAY, ONTO THEMES FOR DECEMBER!

The week following Thanksgiving will be Sick Lit Magazine’s first-ever genre-specific theme, which is: Tragedy and/or Comedy! I chose this genre because it encompasses other themes, such as revenge, romance and even tragic comedy (or tragicomedy for those of you out there who are inherently cooler than I am).

The second week of December, we will be running two themes (for obvious reasons): Women’s fiction & the writing genre of the Workplace Tell-All. For Workplace Tell-all submissions, you MAY SUBMIT ANONYMOUSLY AND SUBSTITUTE COMPANY AND INDIVIDUAL NAMES. 

For the third week, our theme will focus on Coming of Age. Feel free to interpret this loosely–You may see it as difficulties and challenges faced during adolescence, but it can also be interpreted as the struggles, pain and beauty of adult life that we face every day. 

I expect to see all of you challenge yourselves and submit during these three weeks! This includes all forms of writing, poetry and art pieces or photography. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with. Oh, and please state the genre of your submission in the subject line.

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***Very important: During this time, you can continue to submit your regular, non-themed work to me. Again, my goal is to put out a special edition issue for January. But as of right now, I’m enjoying scheduling them during our “off-weeks” to give our readers some unique pieces to delve into.***

Come join the party and our publishing revolution. 

Drop me a line at kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com

Cheers!

Peace and love,

-Kelly on behalf of SLM-

(And like I said to our regular contributor, Hillary Umland, “Let’s kick some ass!!!”)

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