Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Artist Unleashed: MY MOMENT by Theresa Milstein

Thanks for swapping blogs with me, Jessica. I’m happy to be in a second anthology with you. This time, we’re both in, From Stage Door Shadows, which sheds light on the darker side of show business. Scary subject for Halloween…  

My short story “My Moment” is a mix of Victorian and 1950s ideology meets 2313. Part of the story was inspired by the appalling American television show Toddlers and Tiaras, which I wrote about on Chandara Writes blog.

The YA novel XVI by Julia Karr influenced the other part of my short story.  I actually gave Karr’s book one more star on Goodreads because I was impressed by the dystopian premise: when girls turn sixteen, they get a XVI tattoo on their wrist and any man can have sex with them. With women so sexualized in our society and some recent comments regarding “legitimate rape” by American politicians, it’s not a far leap to see women losing compete control over their bodies in the future.

The book made me wonder what women would face in the distant future. Would they be celebrated for beauty or brains? Would they be celebrated at all? 

In “My Moment”, girls attend school for domesticity and deportment. They aren’t allowed to read books, and they learn just enough writing to prepare grocery lists and party invitations. And after school, these girls practice their pageant routines.  Pageants become the only arena for females to succeed in society. “Success” means to marry well. Wives are expected to look polished and use their talents to impress their husband’s guests at dinner parties. The pageant winners will be hand-selected by men seeking arm-candy wives. 

And if women don’t succeed in pageants, the alternatives are anything but pretty. 

Dystopian pieces always stick a lens into our contemporary society and show what the likely outcome if some sinister aspect were able to run amok. I hope “My Moment” will remind us of the danger of fostering inequality between the sexes. 

Links to book:

Note from Jessica: I'm over at Theresa's blog today talking about my story in FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS. Care to drop by?

PS: My novel String Bridge is FREE on Kindle TODAY ONLY. Amazon UK | Amazon US

ALSO: Could you pretty please vote for my poetry book FABRIC in the opening round of the BEST POETRY 2012? You'll have to write it in for it to have a chance at becoming an official nomination in the second round. Would REALLY appreciate it!

Monday, 29 October 2012

The J.K Rowling Of My Time

I watched a TV movie about Enid Blyton this weekend. And I'm crushed.

The Wishing Chair, and The Faraway Tree were the first 'novels' I ever read. And whenever I think of them I get all nostalgic and mushy in my belly. I borrowed every single Enid Blyton book I could find from my local library after reading them. I became obsessed. Because they whisked me away into worlds I'll never ever forget.

But you know why I'm crushed? Because this GENIUS author, who I idolized, and respected, this author who had written over 400 books for children, who was the J.K Rowling of my time, and sold over 500 million copies (and still sells around 4 million every year) ... had children of her own ... and she treated them like dish rags! I'm devastated! 

For example, she'd spend her free time replying to fan mail, and send her kids out to play with their governess. She never spent time with them. Ever. She would invite her fans (little kids) over for indoor picnics and tea parties, and not include her own children. She'd send them upstairs to sit in the nursery until the parties were over. She wouldn't let them see their father when they divorced, despite knowing exactly how horrible it was to be without her own. Basically, she was a selfish cow who spent 24 hours a day glued to her desk and didn't give an inch of her time (nor love) to her kids. And I'm SO SAD!

So today I'm mourning the loss of my childhood idol ... I don't think I can ever think of her in the same royal light again.

Have you ever been crushed by biographies of those you admire?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Literary Magazines Should Not Charge Reading Fees

I have to say, as a literary magazine editor myself, I'm disgusted at the amount of mags and journals that ask for a reading fee, or say that subscribers' work gets priority. And more often than not, these journals that have such stipulations, have sponsors and/or funding from arts foundations which means they don't even need that money! It's ridiculous and greedy. I could never imagine charging a reading fee with Vine Leaves Literary Journal in my life.

I understand that it's hard work. I understand that there are expenses here and there that need to be paid (website, classifieds ads, donations to places like and, sponsored listings on places like and The Review Review, if you are a print mag you also have production costs to take care of), but in my opinion, if you want to run a legitimate journal, and be a respected journal, you should NOT be taking money from the writers, you should be PAYING THEM.

If you can't afford to run the mag without sucking these gullible writers dry of their hard-earned cash, then you shouldn't be running a journal at all. I am in this business because I love to give writers the opportunity to see their work published. I love to send that acceptance letter, and imagine the smile on the other end of it, the knowing that they feel appreciated and that their work is worthy. It's validation that every writer needs. If they have paid for you to read that work, how is it a true acceptance?

As a writer, you should not have to pay to have your work read. Would you pay your husband/wife to say they love you? Would you pay a traditional publisher to publish your novel? Would you pay a literary agent to read your query letter and manuscript sample? No way! So how is a literary magazine any different? It's not.

Those of you who are looking for places to submit, please do not be fooled by reading fees. By all means, donate and/or subscribe to magazines you want to donate and/or subscribe to; it's how we stay afloat. But you should not feel obligated to subscribe to every magazine you submit to. If I did that, I would be bankrupt. It's impossible. Please, look for magazines that do not charge you to be read, because the ones that do, are taking advantage of your desire for success.

Disclaimer: I do not feel this way about contest fees. Money usually needs to be raised for the prize money, so it's generally accepted.

How do you feel about reading fees for literary magazines?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Artist Unleashed: DOING IT FOR MYSELF by Talli Roland

The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Innocence Sentenced With Guilt

I had last Friday off so decided to give myself a three-day-do-absolutely-nothing-weekend.

But the problem with long weekends and being used to working so hard all the time, is that I can't seem to overcome the feeling that I'm doing something wrong when I let myself sit around doing nothing.

It feels criminal.

The offence of innocently taking time off is sentenced with guilt.

By the time I got over this feeling, it was Sunday afternoon. What a waste. I spent the whole long weekend feeling like I should be getting stuff done and didn't relax AT ALL.

The biggest thing stopping me from relaxing was that I felt I should be utilizing this time to write. I did write, a bit, but the guilt of not feeling like writing much meant I wasted a lot of time on social media pretending to write. GAH! Why couldn't I just lap up and enjoy the three blissful days of freedom?

Mind you, I did end up watching the entire first season of REVENGE. And now I'm totally hooked. Great. Another TV show to take away from my reading time. Sigh.

Are you generally an always-have-to-do-something kind of person? How do you feel when given rare time to relax?

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Today is the birthday of Lenny Lee, an absolute light in the lives of many bloggers.

My Photo
He's 13 today!

I've known Lenny since he was ten, and I can't tell you how much I adore this young man. He is full of wisdom and smiles, and has lots of great stories to tell. I'm sure he'd love it if you dropped by his blog and wished him a happy birthday!

Lenny, keep your eye on the post! I've sent you a little package :-) Happy birthday, sugar!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

5 ways NOT to write an author biography for literary magazines

Ever read someone's author bio and find yourself zoning out? This is probably why:

OneIt reads like a job application form.

I do not need to know every single little job you have done since you were twelve and sold painted pebbles on the side of the road. Focus on the good stuff. The recent stuff. Also, avoid dates so you don't have to change it too often. If you want people to know more about you, link to your website. Easy. The idea is to make them want to click on your website.

TwoIt lists every single literary publication you have ever had.

Yeah, italics are good. It means writing credits. It means other editors have thought your writing good enough to publish. But seriously, don't over-do it. It's boring. And who cares? We want to read about YOU. Just cut it down to the two or three, biggest and best ones you have. Honestly, when I read the bios, I skip over the italics. I want personality, not a resume. And I'm sure readers do too. Most readers out there are not going to know much about the names of literary magazines, so what's the point in focussing on them? Make them want to read your writing.

ThreeIt sounds arrogant.

If it's in first person, you run the risk sounding like the girl/boy in school who everyone pretended to love. Remember them? Yeah, they were the ones who had their side-kicks shove your head down the toilet and made you feel like a turd. Then. But you, the geek, have now got your shit together. Be humble. Be proud, but don't wave your money around. Best stick to third person. And facts. A little quirky wordplay goes a long way too.

FourIt tells us all about where you live and how handsome your husband/wife is.

Um ... need I say more? Seriously. It's like listening to a new mum tell you about how proud they are of the texture of their baby's poop.

It's toooooooooooooooo loooooooooooooooooong.

You are not writing a memoir. Stick to 50-100 words. The key to a perfect biography for me is when you utilize the three SSS. (Short, Smart, Sassy). The purpose of a bio, is not to list everything about you. It's to make people want to know more about you. Make them want to click on your blog to find out for themselves.

Here are a few good examples:

Karina Sims is a 26-year-old writer from Beaver Falls, British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of many short stories and an unpublished novel. Her interests include: long walks on the beach, candle lit dinners, world domination and cannibalism.

Alaine Benard’s publishing credits include; Louisiana Literature, The Rose & Thorn Journal, The New York Quarterly, blah, blah, blah. Benard is known as the ‘silent poet,’ writes and paints from dimly lit caves (currently in Baton Rouge), away from snakes and all liars. She loves bacon.

Kevin Ridgeway's work has most recently appeared in Golden Sparrow Literary Review, Quantum Poetry Magazine and Thunderclap! Press. He resides in Southern California in a shady bungalow with his girlfriend and their one-eyed cat. Check out his blog: blah.

Matt Hentschel was once a hired gunman, working in the comic industry, but is now more of a writer and illustrator pursuing his own ideas. His works (both written and illustrated) can be found at [website].

What other no-nos can you think of for writing an author biography?

*For more insider lit mag tips, check out the links HERE

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The answer to Friday's riddle ...

Congratulations to Luca Marchiori for guessing last Friday's riddle correctly!

Yup, it was MILK BOTTLE. The old-fashioned kind.

Here's a breakdown:

Translucent (a milk bottle is glass and see-through), thin like a swan’s neck (yup, when it's filled with milk I think that comparison works)

I sit in a box—waiting. (on the doorstep) Waiting for

someone to pop my protector—silver

boom gate. (that bit of aluminum foil that seals the opening) My juice is creamy, pure (milk is creamy and pure)

—seasoned with grass (cows eat grass). In the past,

I tempted infidelity; ladies’ revolt. (when the hubbies were at war, the cliche is that the women slept with the milkman.)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

What Am I? Answer correctly and win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Read the poem. Can you guess what I am? First person to answer correctly  wins a $10 Amazon Gift card. Will reveal answer on Monday.

Translucent, thin like a swan’s neck
I sit in a box—waiting. Waiting for
someone to pop my protector—silver
boom gate. My juice is creamy, pure
—seasoned with grass. In the past,
I tempted infidelity; ladies’ revolt.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Artist Unleashed: LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON, by Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples was one of those Lucky Press authors whose book was left in limbo after the company closed down this year. But thankfully, Madeline found another publisher, and they have put her wonderful book out again in paperback. So today, I'm re-posting my review of her amazingly brilliant memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. This book is one of the most amazing books I have ever read, so please, read on, and help Madeline get her sales momentum back! ~Jessica

Leaving the Hall Light OnLeaving the Hall Light On by Madeline Sharples
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This memoir pins you down and never lets go. There wasn't one moment where I wasn't thinking about Madeline's heartbreak, and Paul's suffering, and anticipating the time I could sit down and read it again in peace. You want to immerse yourself in total silence while reading this extraordinarily powerful story. I'm not sure why I felt this way. Perhaps it was a subconscious act of respect. Perhaps I felt as if Madeline, Paul, Bob and Ben, needed my undivided attention. Actually, I think that is the reason. It was as if I wasn't even reading, but watching the story unfold right before my very eyes. Who wants background noise when someone is pouring their heart out to you? I certainly don't.

I cried. Three times, in fact. The first time straight after the very first paragraph. The second time during one of Bob's (Madeline's husband) journal entries describing the scene of finding their son, Paul, dead, in a pool of blood, in their bath, throat and wrists slit. And the third time after reading a poem called "A Stone Called Son".

I don't think I can justifiably describe how I'm feeling about this book. Tears are welling up in my eyes as I'm writing this, trying to figure out how to express myself. My gosh, I'm a writer and I can't find the words to tell you how much I wish every single person on this planet would read this book.

Reasons to read this, off the top of my head:

  • Because it will teach you not to judge.
  • Because it will teach you how to behave around people who are grieving.
  • Because sometimes you need a reality check.
  • Because Madeline has written a book about one of the most difficult experiences in her life and it should be rewarded.
  • Because you want to. Believe me, you do. No matter how heartbreaking the content, you want to read it. You will become a better person afterward.

I tip my hat off to you, Madeline. You are a survivor. You are an inspiration. You make me proud to be a woman.

Purchase on Amazon.

What books have you read recently that have made you feel proud to be who you are?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Why Literary Fiction isn’t Boring

Have you ever sat down for a meal and wanted to savor your food because you’ve never tasted anything so good? Well, if you’re new to literary fiction, or can never seem to “get into it,” this is how you should try approaching it.

Think of the book as a meal with intricate scents, flavors and textures that you can’t quite recognize unless you spend a little more time with it, and give it a little more of your attention. Because, trust me, sitting down a little longer than usual, to enjoy your meal, can be liberating.

Sensory information is, more often than not, a huge focus in literary works. Literary fiction, unfortunately, gets a bad rap for all the description it uses. This makes me sad because I adore it. I never used to. But then I realized I wasn’t reading it for the right reasons.

I’m convinced that some people think it’s boring because their expectations are all wrong. Most literary works are not heavy on plot. It exists, but it is not usually the main focus. Primarily, the focus is on character and theme. So you cannot expect to pick up a literary novel and become so caught up in the story that you can’t bear to put it down. But so what? Each reading experience should be different, and should inspire you in different ways. So, before you dismiss the idea of reading another literary novel, because the last one you read was so boring you couldn’t keep your eyes open, try taking a different approach.

Try to focus on the small things, page by page, rather than the book as a whole. Allow yourself to not finish the book “this week” because you’ve signed up to the Goodreads Book Challenge and need to maintain your momentum. Life is not about numbers, folks. It’s about quality. Give yourself that extra week to read a literary novel and you’ll discover the abundant beauty and importance of unique phrasing, character development, theme and symbolism, and how all these elements can effortlessly blend together to create a masterpiece; to create an atmosphere rarely found in the commercial works that can be gobbled up in one sitting. Focusing on these things is going to make your writing better. And you can learn to entwine, even if in the smallest of doses, a little more magic into your prose. And you never know, by not focusing on the story line, you may find you’ll actually enjoy reading something that lacks the pace you’re used to. If you give your brain the opportunity to accept the difference, you give it room to enjoy the difference.

Take this amazing line from Marilynne Robinson’s, Housekeeping, which is well-known among my peers, as my most favorite book of all time:

It was the kind of loneliness that made clocks seem slow and loud and made voices sound like voices across water.

Isn’t this just so beautiful?

Read it again. Slowly. Out loud. Now, picture it. What other senses does this conjure? Can you hear the loud and slow clock ticking? Its echo crossing a flat lake trying to reach the disappearing voices of loved ones you wished existed? The still and stifling warm air at dusk? Your heartbeat in your ears? The emptiness in your chest? The melancholia you can’t seem to place? An amazing comparison to loneliness, don’t you think?

You can do this in your work. By reading a bit more literary fiction, you can discover small beauties like this one. You can then practice taking someone’s breath away in your own writing. Give your manuscript that extra touch of character, of magic, of prose so well crafted that others will wish they could write like you. Now … wouldn’t that just be an amazing accomplishment? To write a page turner that makes a reader’s mouth water too?

Tell me, do you read literary fiction? Why/Why not? If you’ve given up on literary fiction in the past, do you think you might like to give it another go now?

Note: This article was first published in Writer's Digest, March, 2012.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Top ten pet peeves of a literary magazine editor ...

Issue #04 OUT NOW!
1. "Please choose from the images at the following URL." Erm ... no.

2. Okay, we say no cover letter is necessary, but when we receive subs with the text ONLY, no bio, no by-line, we're going to assume the author's name is the one in the email address. Whoops ... I guess we used your husband's name in the magazine instead of yours. Sorry about that. Please tell us who you are. It's pretty important.

3. Please read the guidelines. If we say NO ATTACHMENTS in capital letters, it doesn't mean PLEASE SEND US ATTACHMENTS in capital letters. Why no attachments? Simple really. Do you open attachments sent to you from complete strangers? Why do you not open them? VIRUSES. We're just keeping a healthy balanced diet, folks. In general, the guidelines make our reading period run smoothly. They ensure things don't get lost in the sea of submissions and enable the editors (who all live in different countries) to navigate the inbox with ease.

-Hello, could you please replace my author biography on your website with the following?
- Absolutely. No problem.
- Hello, could you please replace my author biography on your website again?"
- Absolutely. (grits teeth) No problem.
Tip: Avoid including dates and book titles in your bio. Make it something more general and include a link to your website for people to access your latest info.
5. "I know you have a word limit of 800 words, but I'd love it if you'd consider my 2500 word short story, entitled BLAH."
Tip: Our word limit is 800 words. :-)
6. Please don't send your email to ALL of our email addresses AND via the contact form on our website. *sigh* For reasons I think I can deem obvious.

7. Please don't reply to a personal rejection with insults. We took the time to offer feedback. We don't get paid to spend time reading your work. In fact, any money that goes into the magazine comes from our own pockets, so we SPEND money to read your work. You got a rejection. Life sucks. So? Submit again. Or, if you feel bitter, submit somewhere else.

8. Do not send an email with the title of your work in the subject line if the title is "10509375900340804802847508508220348023494729374028402582057025"
That kinda looks like spam. Sorry. We might delete it by accident.

9. Don't send emails asking us for tips on how to write a vignette. That's why we have the "Vignette writing tips" page on our website. I hate to break it to you, but reading it in your email, instead of on the website, isn't going to make it any easier to comprehend.

10. "Dear Sirs ..."
-Dawn, do our bio head shots look tomboyish to you?

Speaking of literary magazines ... 
Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue #04 is OUT NOW! :-)

Pushcart Prize nominees have been announced.

Want Vine Leaves updates straight to your email? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Artist Unleashed: FROM TOLKIEN TO TURKEY, by Deniz Bevan

The Artist Unleashed posts have moved to a new domain. Please click HERE to read the rest of this post and for the opportunity to comment. Just search for the title of the post in the search bar on the new site.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Oh music, where did you go?

Me, 2008, supporting Holly
Golightly at Rodeo Club in
Athens, Greece.
All this business of writing is distracting. I've forgotten that there are other things I love to do too. One of the biggest things is MUSIC. Not only have I forgotten that I can actually write it (I haven't picked up my guitar since writing the String Bridge soundtrack), but I've forgotten it even exists. I haven't turned on the stereo in so many months I've lost count ...

-Jessica, that's disgusting.
-Yes, yes it is. I'm so ashamed.

Yeah, look, don't tell me it's natural, that there are only so many things that we can fit into this short time-slot of a day, because there's no excuse for forgetting that something enjoyable and relaxing and vital to my well-being exists. No excuse. At all.

-You have seemed a little absent lately. Maybe you're having withdrawals ...

In all fairness, it doesn't help that all my CDs are stored away in a massive case, coverless, hiding in a drawer, still from ten years ago when I moved from Australia to Greece. Maybe it's time to buy a big CD rack, stick them into jewel cases at least, and label them with stickers or something, to remind myself that they are there.

-You're an idiot. Just open up the flippin' case once in a while!
-(silent stare)

Oh, and you know what's funny? My partner has THOUSANDS of albums. And I see them in front of me every day on the bookshelves. But it doesn't register that there is music in them. All I see now is a blur of colour embedded in our walls as if they are somehow a part of the walls themselves.

-Are you kidding? I saw something catch your eye there the other day.
-Yeah. Dust.

It also doesn't help that every time I do listen to music I end up in tears. Even if it's heavy metal. Must trigger some weird hidden psychological hurt, regret, melancholy, who knows ... *sigh*

I need to fix this. I need to make some sort of pact with my partner: one album every two days (?) until we've listened to every single one in our house ...

You think it'll happen? I guess if you see my crying, you'll know ...

What have you forgotten about since becoming a writer?