What’s Old is New Again – Or Something Like that… – Kelly Fitzharris Coody, Editor in Chief

New Teachers, Classes, Students, Routines – New Look?  

I’ll go with New Beginnings.

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I say that what’s old is new again because, as a natural redhead, I’ve been dyeing my hair blonde off-and-on since I turned 18.

And…uh…so, that’s been a long time. A friend from high school commented on my “new” color saying, “Oh my God! This is how I remember you!”

The truth is that I went to dye my hair blonde, like I’ve been doing every six weeks, for two years now, with the SAME HAIR DYE I’ve always used – except they changed up their formula.

After the timer went off and I sauntered back into my bathroom, I looked in the mirror and screamed. I expected light blonde – Instead, I was greeted by bright neon yellow hair with bright neon orange and pink stripes.

So, I did what any normal person would do.

I PANICKED! I FREAKED THE HELL OUT!

I scrambled around my bathroom, emptying every cabinet, looking for a hair dye that was darker than what I’d just put on my head for a stupid forty minutes. I found an “Old Faithful” that I used to use back in high school when my hair got to looking dull in the winter months – L’Oreal’s Reddish Blonde. I crossed my fingers and said, “I don’t care if this turns out purple. It’s better than this disaster.”

I’ve had a rough few weeks, as most of you know, but what you may not be aware of is the fact that the Sick Lit Magazine staff has changed once again – it’s back to being a staff of two, myself and Melissa. 

The bottom line is that we value, treasure and cherish our contributors. Our regular contributors are the pillars of this publication – and I cannot corroborate hypocrisy when someone is representing SLM. They may have a different editorial eye or style / aesthetic standards than Melissa or me, but they signed up to be on THIS team. They signed up to be a part of THIS literary magazine. And this literary magazine comes with a culture, a kinship, and an extraordinarily supportive team of writers who come together every month and make this thing happen.

Someone once approached me about SLM and called us “the literary equivalent of the island of misfit toys.”

My reply? “I’m glad that you woke up today with us on your mind. We must have struck a chord somewhere within you. Thanks.”

By the way, who set this standard of “literary excellence” that is supposedly out there? Literary excellence is reading something and having a reaction to it – an emotional reaction.

Not using words like pedantic, incipient, or eutaxy – or describing something as chartreuse or vermilion (I mean, I do like *colorful* adjectives, haha) – but in all honesty, picking someone’s work apart one sentence at a time and describing exactly what’s wrong with all of it is soul-crushing. It’s enough to make people stop writing and stop reading.

Melissa and I tend to think we have a habit of “accepting too much” – but our system isn’t broken. It doesn’t need to be fixed or to fit in with the standards of other literary magazines.  The fact that we love so much of your work is what makes us love working here. We’re enthusiastic and over-eager when it comes to cutting edge writing.

We want you to know how much you are valued here – and how much you do for our literary movement.

By the way, to those of you who expressed concern about my mother, she is doing better. She went to see a GI specialist the next day, who helped her with some long term solutions and also corroborated the fact that Harris Methodist Southwest’s Emergency Room staff is lazy and inept – and that they have sent people to her office before who still had a bowel obstruction. They actually let these people leave the hospital in that condition.

But I digress – she and I thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement, as well as your outrage on our behalf. It meant the world to us and we want you to know how special you guys are and how much you truly mean to me. And Melissa. And my mom.

Peace and Love, 

Cheers,

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PS: Keep writing!!

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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You’re a Writer, Damn it! Own it! – Assistant Editor, Justin Hunter

You may have seen me on Twitter or in the emails you’ve received recently. That’s because Kelly was kind enough to let me join this amazing journey.

Sick Lit Magazine has a goal of truly helping writers and finding those underrepresented voices. I want to be a part of that mission, and I’m excited to be on the team now.

I’ve been a writer my entire life, but I’ve only recently taken it seriously. Well, that’s not true. I took it seriously for a time back when I wanted to be a screenwriter. Then I let that dream die. Luckily, I came back to writing, and I’ve found my niche in prose.

I want to be a part of something that helps writers NOT let those dreams die. You’re never an aspiring writer if you’re writing. You’re a writer, damn it. Own it. Send us your work. We want to read it.

I’m currently working on my MFA in creative writing at Arcadia University.

That program has benefited me in so many ways. One benefit that I hope to pass along here is feedback. I’ve never gotten the type of feedback on my writing like what I get in my MFA program. If we can, we try to be constructive if any piece we read is rejected. The literary community could use more of this. You’re (very likely) writing for free, so it’s only fair that we’re providing critiques for free. Of course, this is something we can’t always promise, but I can personally promise to try to carve out as much time as possible to provide feedback if I am rejecting a piece.

On a more personal level, outside of writing, I love my family and baseball. When I’m not writing, I’m probably playing with my kids, watching movies with my wife, or watching baseball. I live in Dallas, TX, and I’m slowly growing into the Metroplex community after bouncing around for a few years. If you are interested in my writing, feel free to check out my website. My publications are all listed there: http://justin-hunter.com

I look forward to reading your submissions, so bring them on.

Stop thinking of yourself as aspiring, and start seeing yourself like we do: as writers.

Best, 
me
Assistant Editor, 
Justin Hunter

New Beginnings and Pumpkin-Spiced Everything! – Senior Editor, Melissa Libbey

 

Hey there Sick Lit Mag readers, it’s back to school time!

 

That might not mean much to many of you.

Either you are out of school (and have been for years) or you don’t have kids in school or maybe you do, but they are done with school.

I get it, why should you care that it’s back-to-school season?

Here is why.

Back-to-school is a feeling; not an actual event. The summer winds down, the days grow shorter and the air gets a bit cooler. There is this sense in the air of change.

Every year when I went back to school I felt like I had a clean slate.

A chance to be different or do things differently. That is still true this September. Because you know what? I’m going back to school. But this time the tables have turned! Now I am in front of the classroom instead of sitting in a desk.

And I’m freaking out!

Will the students think I’m too young? Will I be an effective instructor?

I have changed my syllabi many times and done tons of research on lesson plans and how to effectively teach grammar and syntax. I think I am a great writer but how do I translate that to the classroom? These are the questions I have been asking myself.

But then I thought, I have been doing this all summer!

I have been reading your work. I have been giving the contributors advice and feedback on their writing and I have personally worked with a few of you to turn your submission from a rejection to an acceptance. I have become really proud of that!

That’s what I want to do with my students, encourage them to keep trying. I learned that from all of you and for that I want to say thank you!

So although this year back to school actually means me walking in to a classroom as a teacher for the first time it can mean anything for you. Maybe you want to change your look. Maybe you want to read that book you have been putting aside for months. Maybe you want to write that flash fiction piece that has been in the corner of your mind forever. Get it out on paper, pick up that book, and cut your hair or go shopping for a new wardrobe. There’s nothing else like September that screams, “TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Fall isn’t just about buying school supplies, buying a new pair of jeans and consuming pumpkin spiced everything. I personally will be drinking tons of pumpkin tea and making my famous pumpkin butterscotch cookies; I LOVE pumpkin. Fall is about taking yourself more seriously now that the fun summer months are over.

Sit down and write a poem about the change of the season. Write a fiction piece about going back to school or starting a new job. Write a creative non-fiction piece on a major change in life. Whatever it is just remember that September can stand for so much more than dropping your kids off for their first day of school.

 

Happy fall everyone and get writing!

 

Best,

 

Melissa

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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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GENE FARMER’S NOSTALGIA THEME – MAY

Another theme that hits close to home for me!

At times, I feel as if I live my life looking through the rear-view mirror, wrapped up in the past, mentally stuck somewhere in between nostalgia and reliving an unfinished moment. 

That being said, it’s sort of implied that nostalgia is unique within each person.

Remember when I wrote another letter about us, as human beings, as a whole becoming a sum of our experiences? We are. Plus, what about perception? My God! That makes a world of difference. My dad saw Germany and France through vastly different lenses than I did when I was just a grumpy mop of red ringlets, wearing white tights and plaid dresses to school.

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You can grow up in the same household as someone for your entire child-teenager life, yet recall different fond memories.You’ll also inevitably remember the same events in a different light than one another.

When I came down with food poisoning in Paris, my dad remembers taking me to a French doctor’s office, where he spoke fluent French for the first time in years with the staff, accessing a dormant part of his brain. I just remember the stomach pains and being a crying lump on my dad’s shoulder at The Louvre.

And that, SLM readers, is why I love this theme so very much.

Laughter, adversity, friendships (both good and bad) all have a purpose somewhere in our lives.

We’re each walking pieces of art, being sculpted and molded by these things every day.

I hope you enjoy our pieces.

Cheers,

Kelly Coody

Kelly Fitzharris Coody