2014 brings many changes to our journal. First of all, we are sad to say goodbye to Sarah Gray, our Editor-in-Chief. Sarah has worked hard to get our journal up and running since its inception, and she has done an amazing job. Now, she is ready to spend some more time focusing on her writing and the Young Writer’s Workshop at Converse College.
Fortunately, the rest of our volunteers are staying on staff. In addition, several new people decided to join us: David Colodney, Kristi Hébert, Rebecca Landau, and Jacob Allard. Check out our Masthead for a complete staff listing.
Because of our growing staff, we have added several new positions to our team. We now have a Blog Editor, a Review Editor, and an Artistic Director. With these positions, we hope to provide more interesting content to our readers as well as more opportunities for our contributors to participate.
Therefore, look forward to weekly posts to our blog… Starting now! All of the editors on our staff are writers themselves, and we will share with you the joys and frustrations of being a writer. In addition, we are inviting guest contributors to share their perspective. We already have several weeks of content from talented writers planned, so we hope you will check back soon (and often) to laugh, vent, and be inspired about what it’s like to live the life of a writer.
If you would like to contribute to our blog, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our Blog Submission Guidelines for more information. And stay tuned for information about how to submit artwork or become a reviewer.
We are excited about everything we plan to share with you this year!
Debby DeRosa holds a BA in English from the University of South Carolina-Columbia and an MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College. In addition to being Editor-in-Chief of South85 Journal, she is the Marketing Manager of Five Star Plumbing Heating Cooling in Greer, SC, and she freelances as a copywriter and content developer. She and her husband, Joe, live in Greenville, SC, with their two daughters, Aimee and Ruby.Read More »
I cannot write in chaotic environments. I find it nearly impossible to focus and deliberate when surrounded by commotion, hubbub, chatter, even clutter—which rules out a lot of places. Last year I tried writing in a small college library. Initially, it offered the unobtrusive, almost soundless and studio-like atmosphere in which I work best. Then the library staff rearranged the furniture, including my favorite table, and students returned from their break, huddled and listened to pop music on their laptops, and conversed on their phones. Then came a new and improved “quiet area.” In the process, though, staff covered all the electrical outlets with seven-by-seven abstract paintings.
We’ve all heard that proverb, “The world doesn’t recognize your need to write.” When it comes to our writing, the world is uncaring, downright insolent. Before the library experiment, I found a local coffee shop with an almost contemplative atmosphere. Then the baristas discovered Pandora. Then they added a grand piano. Every time I find the ideal location in which to write, this process repeats itself. I fold up my laptop and move on to the next place.
Inadvertently, I discovered something—that a change in atmosphere can reveal our tendencies. When I went through the coffee shop stretch, I wrote an awful lot of coffee shop scenes, which is fine—to a point. Some writers, maybe most for all I know, can write at the same desk, day after day. You have to determine whether you are one of those people. I know that I’m not. I fall into a rut too easily and writing becomes like a sacred ritual that goes stale from the tedium.
For now, I’m moving forward with this nomadic approach. I keep two white noise MP3s on my laptop and carry large headphones. Sometimes it works. Then again, sometimes you find yourself at Panera Bread and every member of the table of six to your left is full of self-importance, determined to be heard above all else, and there’s nothing you can do but move on. Finally, two weeks ago, I went into one of those price clubs and bought a fold up table with a handle and a lightweight folding chair (from recycled materials) so that I can set up outdoors, anywhere with electrical access, until the Georgia heat and humidity get out of hand. Eventually, they will.
The late Harry Crews once described how he woke at 4 am and wrote until 8:30, when his gym opened. “Whatever doesn’t get written between 4:00 and 8:30 doesn’t get written,” he said.
For myself and likely for most of you, Crews’ schedule is impractical. What I’ve latched onto, though, is the phrase, “Whatever doesn’t get written… doesn’t get written.” No one cares whether you write or not. They really don’t. They’re not going to tone down their table conversations or take their cell phone calls outside out of respect for your art. You may find yourself having to constantly outrun them. Go buy a fold-up table and chair if you have to.Read More »
As I near the June graduation date for my MFA degree, people often ask me, “What are you going to do with that?”
“Write a best-selling novel, of course,” I say.
My husband nods his head and cites the success of authors such as Stephanie Meyers, Stephen King, and James Patterson. The tens of thousands of dollars invested in my education will surely pay off, and he will be able to retire from his full-time job by 50.
But let’s face it. We don’t all get to be one of the world’s highest-paid authors. Just like very few actors get to be George Clooney or Julia Roberts. So, what are the rest of us supposed to do?
A friend of mine works as a proofreader, an editor, a copywriter, and a ghostwriter. These are all dream jobs, in my opinion, short of becoming a best-selling fiction author. So, I was surprised when she told me that people have implied her profession – particularly the ghostwriting portion of it – is akin to prostitution. In their minds, writing under someone else’s name has shame attached to it.
As fiction writers, we make hardly any money on our work, especially in the beginning. We spend time writing and submitting to journals, most of which will reject us, and we will make very little (if any) money when the stories are accepted. Also, we spend many years writing novels that, when complete, could sit on our hard drives for decades as the rejection letters pile up. We can only hope that each story is better than the next, and maybe one day we will earn a living in our craft.
In the meantime, most of us have to work. We could hold day jobs doing something unrelated to writing, such as accounting, sales, engineering, or teaching. In fact, any profession we might choose offers material for our fiction. Or we could spend our days doing what we love best: writing.
I choose the latter. I have started freelancing as a copywriter for businesses. My assignments don’t help me with character development or plot, but they allow me to practice meeting deadlines, organizing my thoughts, and choosing words for better clarity. Working on others’ projects has improved my writing discipline, and my own stories have gotten better.
So, think what you want. My services are for sale. I would even – gasp – ghostwrite a book if I had the opportunity. When a potential client asks me what kind of writer I am, I will lean over and whisper into his ear, “What kind of writer do you want me to be?”Read More »
It’s been a busy summer since our last blog and the arrival of our very first issue. The staff of South85 spent the summer working at their day jobs, taking care of family, and, of course, cranking out the pages. But, alas, summer is nearly over. The good news is that we get to dive back into the journal. Our fall issue will be out very soon, and we will be accepting submissions again beginning September 30. We are especially excited about our switch to Submishmash as our method of submission, which will make everything much easier and reliable for both writers and staff.
The blog will be back up and running, too, with entries from staff (and maybe some guest bloggers, too.) Which leads me to my other reason for writing: we needed to break our blog silence! After an entire summer without a single entry, I’m afraid I’m woefully out of practice. As I thought about what to write, I kept coming back to my summer reading.
I am an organized person, and I like to have a plan. The same often goes for my reading, and this isn’t the first summer that I set out with a reading agenda. The summer between my junior and senior years in college, I tried to see how many titles I could read from an MFA suggested reading list. This summer, I went on a Philip Roth binge. I had never read any Roth and always meant to, and I’ve often heard it suggested that you can learn a lot from a writer by reading everything they’ve ever written in one long stretch. You can see their growth as a writer and make discoveries about what’s important to them. Sounds great, except Philip Roth is prolific. Really prolific. (What can I say? I’m weak. There were other tantalizing books stacking up on my nightstand.) I chose three. Actually, “chose” is a bit of an exaggeration. I read three titles that a friend lent me. The best part is that the titles were from different ends of his career. I started with The Ghost Writer (1979), and then followed that up with American Pastoral (1997) and The Human Stain (2000.)
I won’t bore you with all my thoughts on the books. Suffice it to say, they left me hungry for more. The best part was the hours of discussion they created between me and the friend who lent me the books, hours of discussion that led to other far-flung topics and ideas that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. And isn’t that a big reason why we read/write literary fiction in the first place? To make us think and then share those thoughts with others?
So, if you’ve never done it before, I encourage you to pick an author and go nuts. It doesn’t have to be fiction. Try it with poetry or essay collections. Only, please take a break from your full-on immersion to check out our fall issue. See you September 30!
Sarah GrayRead More »
Do you sometimes suffer from writer’s block? Have you written yourself into a corner and can’t get past the character/scene/overarching theme behind your work? Are you obsessed with one idea that constantly permeates your writing? Do you feel like everything you write resembles marketing copy (see prior three sentences)?
If so, you are like me — desperately in need of a shape-shifting change that will stimulate your creativity, spark those synapses, and invite a different kind of muse to your brain party.
Whenever I encounter this problem, the first thing I do is read. Read more, write more, right? But if I am truthful with myself, I often gravitate (quite naturally) to the same authors, the same kinds of content, that I most enjoy. And while this practice is indeed enjoyable, perhaps it doesn’t always challenge me enough to experience the kind of break-through momentum that I need to write the mind-blowing, triple-trope abecedarian I yearn to get out.
Most recently, I have found that conversations (yes, in-person, face-to-face chats) with persons who are not writers have provided the inspiration needed for getting my writing back on track. Meeting eye-to-eye and mind-to-mind with great thinkers — no matter their discipline and/or lack of creativity as traditionally defined — typically leaves my brain reeling in so many directions that I then encounter a new problem: focus! So many new ways of thinking, so much convergence between idea and possibility and output…
And while I think there is great merit in literary artists hanging out with other literary artists, perhaps a stretch could be to talk with some visual artists, a few musicians, even a culinary artist to reintroduce yourself to some different perspectives. Need an even bigger stretch? Meet with a physicist or an economist and begin to see your work shifting into shapes you never thought possible. Have dinner with a string theorist, and you may begin seeing patterns in your work you didn’t realize were there (and if you’re lucky, you may even hear the dissonant harmonies, too!).
But if you desire to be an island (not all of us are extroverted) and not venture out to talk to new people, you can still venture out of your comfort zone: take in an indie film, visit a local art gallery, or go to a live show.
After seeing songwriter Darrell Scott twice in 24 hours last weekend (I was on a music binge), I wrote five poems, came up with an overarching theme for a book, conceived of four new businesses, started a non-profit organization in my head, and constructed a well-articulated letter to one obnoxious national talk-show host. Not bad for three hours of out-of-the-norm inspiration!Read More »