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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Creative Writing – by ROB TRUE

The process of creative writing, from an uneducated, dyslexic idiot with no qualifications

 

If you’re sitting there staring at a blank screen, or piece of paper, not knowing what to write, you’re going nowhere.

Nobody gives a fuck if you have a BA, or an MA or some other qualification for creative writing; it ain’t gonna help – wondering what to write is nowhere-bound. You’re trying so hard, you get nowhere. You know where, nowhere!

Get up and go out.

Grab a beer on the way and drink it walking down the street. If you’re not tuff, act hard, if you are tuff, play the fool. Look people in the eye, so you can see through their windows, see what they really are. Start a fight, it doesn’t matter if you win, or lose. Or fuck someone, a real dirty fuck. Put some effort into it, make it epic. Do something visceral, act like a cunt, or do something you haven’t done before. Do something you’re not allowed to do. Go and steal something. Don’t be afraid.

Think differently around things, look at them inside out, upside down. Throw left, or right wing politics, or concepts of right and wrong out the window. Instead of being politically correct, noble, or moral, play devil’s advocate next time you argue. Fuck with other people’s ideals and sensibilities, twist ‘em up and get in their heads. Don’t come with a fixed point of view, but counter attack with flexibility of free thought, watching from above, taking out the weaknesses in their fixed ideas. Look for the feeble words in their arguments and swipe the ankles, like a hunter taking out the lame member of a herd. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong. Words are magic.

Look at people, their strange interactions and weird relationships. See how bizarre life is, the structures and rules we create around us for some understanding of a so-called reality which doesn’t really exist. Open up all the doors you have bolted shut in your mind, from fear, or self-preservation of your sanity, or wanting to fit in with an imagined normality, until all the monsters are released and then, let them destroy you. Laugh at sad, or disturbing events and cry when you’re happy, while listening to electronic music of a nineteen eighties video game. All this is dangerous; your magic will grow stronger.

I remember when I was a kid at school and the art teacher told us to do something based on the human body. Now I wasn’t particularly inspired at that moment, I’d already done figure drawings and a few surreal pictures with figures in. I’d even painted a half-naked nun with an upside-down cross, morphing into a cock. Anyway, I was staring at this blank paper and I knew that was going nowhere, so I put down my pencil and punched myself in the face as hard as I could. My nose burst and I let the blood drip all over the page. I called it Nosebleed. The teacher and other pupils, were quite horrified, but I was rather pleased with it. I’ve still got it.

Don’t sit there wondering what to write, just write something, anything.

Write about when you got beat up in a fight, or that time you knocked someone out with one punch, or something strange that happened when you were drunk, or high, or about what a cunt your mother is, or how you bullied some poor kid at school, or got bullied, depending on where you stood in the absurd hierarchy and pecking order of these moronic animals that we are. Write about the argument you had the other day with your brother, or the best, or worst fuck you ever had. Write about the inside out chick you found still alive after your cat played with it and how you smashed it with a brick to put it out of its dying misery and how beautiful its broken guts looked, all flattened and feathery blood mess. Write about going down on a beautiful girl and as you go to kiss her pretty little pussy, a snake suddenly shoots out of it and bites you on the face. Write about something real, or just make it up, it doesn’t matter if its bullshit, or if it makes you sound like a prick.

When I write something, it’s usually because I already had the inspiration. It could be from a dream, or real events, or just an image, a vision, or an idea that just appears in my head, like magic.

I write mostly short stories, which are about fifty/fifty fiction/true stories. In between I fuck, fight, work, steal, drink, laugh like an idiot, get into trouble, hurt, get hurt and think. I generally don’t try to write anything.

I don’t like to strain. I never squeeze out a shit. I wait ‘till its banging on the back door, so when I sit down, it just falls out with ease.

I just get ideas beamed in and the creativity spills out like magic, or vomit. I write it down as quick as I can and it feels effortless and beautiful. Making art, or writing for me is an other-world experience. The effort comes into play if I work back over it. (I don’t always do this, but sometimes it is necessary to make the best of a piece). I have a friend who is a biker and this process always reminds me of a chopper. Take a motorbike and chop it. All the fairing off, back to the basic frame and machine. Then polish it up and bolt on all the fancy accessories. I sort of do the same by chopping out the introductions, the explanations, take out unnecessary words and strip it back to raw idea, the magic. Then I fuck around with the words a bit to allow them to flow better with a rhythm of poetry and punch. This process I find equally amusing and not at all a chore. I never stare at a blank screen, or page.

I remember in a film, or maybe a TV program years ago, someone said something along the lines of don’t try, just do, or don’t do. I can’t remember the exact line, or if it was Mr Miyagi, or Yoda, or Cain from Kung Fu. Probably all three said it one way, or another. Those words always rung true to me.

So there it is, don’t force it. If you’ve got it in you, it’s in there somewhere. It will come to you when you’re not expecting. While you walk the street, or at work, or something. I work in construction and I come and go when I please, but if you work in some shitty office when this happens, up end your desk and jump out the fucking window, run all the way home and hit that keyboard hard, let it all flow out the way it comes in on a beam of golden light and don’t stop for nothing, or no one ‘til it’s all run out. Even if you have to shit in your pants, just keep going until its done with you, because you’re no longer in charge, the idea has taken over, possessed you.

You are just the vehicle, the pathway for it to enter this dimension.

***

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***Rob True was born in London 1971. He left school with no qualifications, dyslexic and mad, in a world he didn’t fit into. He got lost in an abyss, was sectioned twice and spent the best part of a decade on another planet. He returned to earth just in time for the new millennium, found a way to get on in life, married a beautiful girl and lived happily ever after. She taught him how to use paragraphs and punctuation and his writing has been a bit better ever since. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/robjtrue  ***

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*

 

Christmas, New Year’s and all that other stuff in between.

 

Sometimes as women, we take a lot more flak than we ever deserve to take. The other night, since my daughter was the district “Reading Bee Champ” for 2015, we were invited to Crowley ISD’s school board meeting so that they could honor her.

After the event, Ernie, the man who coordinated the statewide Reading Bee competition for Texas, spoke with my husband and me. He asked us where we grew up and what we did. (Well, he asked my husband what he did. I simply interjected what I did.)

It was becoming apparent that he had no interest in what I had to say or what I did and was, instead, very interested in my husband’s work and background, as he tuned me out and asked specifics about Michael’s job and specifics about where Michael went to high school.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if the next day when we went to Michael’s work Christmas party, if everything I said wasn’t “shushed” or ignored as I sat in the corner feeling like “Oh” from the movie Home. As mothers (specifically stay-at-home moms) we already struggle with losing our sense of self. So to finally have a few hours out with other adults and be ignored the entire time felt…demeaning. Sad.

The thing about me is that I genuinely enjoy other people-and I can’t stand to see another person suffer or think badly about themselves. Sadly, that’s considered a weakness. And not just by the corporate world.

So when I get attacked by another woman for the way I look, I am baffled. If I had 17 piercings and rainbow-colored hair with ironically short bangs, I’d be seen as someone who was deep and thoughtful. Yet, since I have none of those things, I’m seen as some vapid, shallow asshole, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Why do we do this to one another? 

The truth is that I have been bullied at school my entire life. At one school it got so bad that it was actual harassment and I had to switch schools. I was called ugly on a daily basis, girls would whisper about me as I walked past and then yell something I’d said while mimicking my accent as I walked down the hallway. I got punched, pushed into lockers, chased across campus while a boy repeatedly called me a “faggot” among so many other things. So when someone insinuates that they know me or know what kind of woman I am within moments of meeting me or speaking to me, of course I’m insulted.


 

I will be scheduling pieces to run for the next two weeks and e-mailing all of you individually as to when your work will be published. We won’t be running any themes during this time period; but we will start back with themes by the end of January, when we re-open for submissions.

Right now I am open to suggestions–in fact, I kind of want to make a game or contest out of it. I’ll pick six themes for random weeks throughout February, March and April–and I will name that week after the person who thought of the theme.

So far, I’ve gotten one suggestion from Jamie Andrews: Fairy-tales.

E-mail me, DM or tweet me on Twitter at @sicklitmag or @kellycoody to make your suggestions for themed weeks.

Peace and love during your holiday season.

Cheers,

Kelly Fitzharris Coody

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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. 

A Word on Submissions, Women’s Writing Week…and the Pushcart Prize!

Throw ALL THE RULES OUT; forget grammar, syntax, sentence diagramming (If you didn’t balk at sentence diagramming in school, then we cannot be friends), and I’d say spelling, but I kind of like a writer who can spell. But I will implore you to turn off or ignore that auto spell-check on Word or on your phones. It’s correct a lot of the time, but it also can distract you and suggest corrections that take away from your original intent.

Please, please KNOW that I don’t give a shit about what the literary magazines next-door are doing.

Oh, they publish monthly?

Okay, well we publish all the time.

They only accept X, Y , and Z?

This is Sick Lit Magazine. Not the next-door literary journal.

I don’t believe in automated DMs and automated rejection letters.

I also don’t believe that I’m somehow better than my contributors; if you spot a typo or an error in your work that we’ve published, SPEAK UP! E-mail me! I don’t give a shit who you are–you don’t have to be of the male gender to feel confident enough to reach out to me. STOP it with the self-doubt. PLEASE.

And like Prerna Bakshi, I, too, am a feminist. With that being said, I NEED to see more female contributors.

I can’t believe the lack of women who have sent in their work to me; I’ve read studies on it, et al, but to see it in real life is completely different.

It makes me upset.

One female contributor first sent me her AMAZING submission with the body of the e-mail stating, “I am keeping my expectations low, but here is my work.”

Do you know how many MEN have said ANYTHING remotely close to this?

ZERO.

And what’s even worse is that at least she had the gall to send something in, even if she was self-deprecating about it. Other women just sit back and think, she won’t publish this. 

This line of thinking HAS to end somewhere. 

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I’m not saying these things to shame you. I want this to change; even if it only changes here at SLM, that’s okay with me. YOUR WRITING IS GOOD ENOUGH; we are all writers here. If your writing is rough, I will send back some proposed edits or guide you in the right direction and implore you to send in another piece of writing–this is more than just some quirky lit journal. This is a literary revolution. I don’t care how many rejections you’ve gotten; or how many “Jessica Faust”s sent you angry e-mails about how and why they hated your work.

I AM NOT THOSE PEOPLE.

I WANT YOU TO WRITE. I WANT YOU TO LIVE.

Look, I know I’m mouthy, I curse a lot, and I can come across as tough or unfriendly, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once I submitted a novel excerpt of mine to a “quirky” journal that described itself much like we describe ourselves here at SLM. They sent me the coldest rejection letter: “Um, no thanks.  Why don’t you take a moment to read some of the work we’ve published?”

I did.

And it was a bunch of discombobulated, half-legible, nonsensical bullshit.

Imagine an ENTIRE PAGE filled with 20 thousand words that don’t connect into one sentence. EVER.

That’s not quirky. That’s a literary 9th circle of hell.

Anyone can sit down and write a string of words. But how many people can convey that feeling of longing for someone so badly that it hurts, in that place down deep inside, the one where we feel nervousness, heat and passion? 

“She’s eating a caramel. I want to challenge that caramel to a street brawl for the right to be in her mouth. Be warned, delectable foe, my left hook is a funeral….She unwraps another one. Please stop, I don’t say. Quit chewing so enthusiastically, I don’t say. Get focused and analyze me, rip my inner-walls apart with dictionary words and textbook insight. Conversation is a plunge into affectionate waters. Let go and let me in.” – via Chris Milam’s “There is Wreckage” that we published on Friday, December 4th.

Now THAT is real.

THAT makes you FEEL something.

DON’T WRITE WHAT you THINK I want you to write; write what YOU WRITE.

Un-learn that regimented, grade school, mandated type of thinking that we are so programmed to gobble up and continue to implement into every facet of our lives; and on into adulthood.

I will help you to shatter that mold. And together, I think we are beginning to really see some signs of life here at SLM. Together, we are doing some amazing work.

I want to see more of it. I want to see less societal influence on our everyday behavior and the way we think as women; we aren’t basic bitches or whores or bitches with resting bitch face. 

Write what you really want to but have been afraid to; because of some fear that you may be called a name or exposed somehow. Write about how that bulge in his pants made you flutter and squirm. Write about the way you felt when he said your name. Write about violence and passion and write without hesitation. Put the words on paper and don’t look back. Write about that revenge fantasy you have but have never had the guts to say out loud. 

Shatter the mold with us.

***Our OPEN SUBMISSIONS CALL will officially close on DECEMBER 31st. (IF you have been previously published by us, then you may continue to submit during this time.) We will re-open for submissions again on January 31st, while we take the month to revamp the web site a bit and publish some experimental, edgy pieces that have been sort of waiting in the wings.***

PUSHCART PRIZE! So, as a new publication that just started publishing consistent work from writers (e.g., poetry, fiction, flash fiction, essays, etc.) in November, we missed the cutoff for this year’s nominations for the Pushcart Prize. HOWEVER, for those of you with whom I have spoken about being nominated for next year’s Pushcart Prize; that still stands. And, in fact, I will now announce who I have chosen so far

  1. Prerna Bakshi‘s collection of poetry, including “Coming Out, What Will be Left Behind?, Thirst, A recurring question, My grandparents’ letters and Gone and Buried.”

  2. Chris Milam‘s short story, “There is Wreckage.”

  3. Ron Gibson‘s poem, “After the Storm.”

CONGRATULATIONS!! There are still three spots left open that we have time to fill. I’m confident that between the pieces we have already published and our yet-to-be-published works, we’ll easily fill these three spots.

And a very huge congrats to our only Pushcart Prize nominee who was able to make it to post in time this year, ANNABEL BANKS’S story “Harmless.”

Congratulations on the nomination, Annabel! KEEP up your phenomenal work and that gracious, giving, energetic spirit of yours; I see some great things happening for you.

Don’t forget that next week is Women’s Fiction/Workplace Tell-All week, and the week after that is our Coming of Age week. KEEP SUBMITTING! We dig what we’re reading and publishing. Send all submissions to kelly.fitzharris@gmail.com 

 

Peace and love,

Cheers!

Kelly on behalf of SLM

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

Kelly Coody on rejections, why she stands behind her authors and why she wants to kick some ass.

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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