Category Archives: writing

Publishing stories of sexual abuse survival

dandelion seeds

This month, I promised a writer I would gather a list of publications and publishing houses that specialize in stories of sexual abuse survival.

Offhand, I feel readers have been inundated with novels of suspense that feature sexual assault in order to justify gruesome revenge, permitting an unambiguous triumph of the victim over the assailant while satisfying readers’ preference for violent content. I’m not sure where this trend leaves quieter books about the long-term effects of incidents of sexual abuse, which often are unresolved. The mainstream of U.S. readers seems to bypass stories if they’re unsettling or don’t have reassuring, fairytale/superhero conclusions. As a consequence, small, independent presses must accept the challenge of bringing the more nuanced works to the public.

Following is a list of website, book, and journal publishers specializing in stories, education, and research about sexual abuse. Many more publishers that are not on this list offer individual books and stories of survival among the wide variety of works they publish.

American Psychological Association

Brave Miss World

HealthyPlace.com

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Journal of Child Sexual Abuse (Taylor & Francis)

Karnac Publishing

Loving Healing Press, Inc.

My Duty to Speak (Military Rape Crisis Center)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition

Robert D. Reed Publishers

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Seal Press (Hachette)

S.E.S.A.M.E., Inc.

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment (SAGE)

Surviving Therapist Abuse

TeenBreaks (Rosetta Foundation)

When You’re Ready

Also of interest

Where to Send Your Writing about Sexual Assault
a list compiled in 2015 by poet and essayist Sonya Vatomsky

Critical Representations of Sexual Assault in Young Adult Literature
The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature

Sexism and Sexual Assault in Literary Communities
Chicago Review

Survey of Current and Recent College Students on Sexual Assault
The Washington Post & the Kaiser Family Foundation

Please leave a comment if you’d like to recommend a small-press title on the topic of sexual abuse that, in your opinion, deserves more readers. If you don’t know the name of the publisher, I’ll be happy to look it up.

Litmags of Columbus, Ohio

My Delicious list of publications that include creative writing currently is undergoing its quinquennial cleanup, which takes several months. The number of resilient little magazines surprises me. Looking through thousands of listings at once, I can see that the failed ones have tended to be sites with names that were impossible to remember or spell, journals that had no social media presence, zines founded to celebrate embitterment, and startups whose editors ran out of time. Those are only the obvious among many reasons for a literary journal to fold, but if you’re thinking of founding a magazine they’re reasons worth noting.

It shouldn’t matter where a literary journal originates. After more than a quarter-century of being connected online, we’re slowly relinquishing the idea of a city serving as a crucial element of branding. Now, personalities and backstories matter more. The shift feels like progress.

Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of publications from my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, which isn’t known for its literary culture, James Thurber notwithstanding. These vigorously optimistic little magazines are endeavoring to grow where they’re planted. Let me know if I missed your favorite.

Litmags of Columbus

 

Anotherealm

Arsenika

Barking Sycamores gives preference to submissions from writers with neurodivergence, including autism, AD(H)D, bipolar, synesthesia, and other neurominority or related states of being

Betty Fedora

Botticelli

Common Threads

Flip the Page: Central Ohio’s Teen Literary Journal

Gesture

The Journal

Naked Sunfish

Pudding Magazine

ReCap

Silenced Press

Spoonful — A Happiness Companion

Spring Street & Shameless Pen

Still Crazy

The Sundial Humor Magazine accepts submissions from anyone enrolled at The Ohio State University

Turn to Ash

Also of interest to Columbusites

The Honey Jar: A Receptacle for Literary Preserves, Volume 1 (1899)

Ohioana Quarterly

Thurber House – 77 Jefferson Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Best online explanations of the creative writing advice “show, don’t tell”

It’s sound advice. A creative writer ought to show the reader what is happening in a story instead of telling or explaining too directly. Overtelling can make a novel read like a screenplay treatment.

The exception that immediately comes to mind occurs when an engaging and intriguing narrator recounts a story in a particular, even peculiar, manner that indirectly reveals parts of the hidden narrative. The narrator then becomes a significant character in the story. Too many writers unconsciously are the narrators of the books they write, when they would do better to invent more compelling doppelgängers.

Any truly creative writer can break the “show, don’t tell” rule to marvelous effect, but it won’t be easy.

For the aspiring author who is trying not to hit the reader over the head, following are a few convincing explanations of “show, don’t tell,” which, by the way, also can be effective in journalism. Read these posts in descending order if you need to grapple with the concept of “show, don’t tell.” I’ve attempted to list the simplest explanations first.

4 Questions To Ask Before Self Publishing (See questions 2 and 4.)
by Beth Bacon

Ask the editor: Trusting the reader
by Alan Rinzler

Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs
by Chuck Palahniuk

Stop Explaining Your Story (And Start Showing It)
by Janice Hardy

Don’t Explain, Don’t Explain, Don’t Explain
by Beth Hill

How to Apply the Advice to “Show, Don’t Tell”
by Nick Daws

Another reminder that, even when showing, less is more

Overtelling, Overshowing, Overselling
by Jane Lebak

For extra credit: an allusion “is not a shout-out”

The quality of allusion is not google
by Nicholas Carr

Comprehending the rationale behind “show, don’t tell” can allow a writer to feel less coerced by critics and more in control of the creation. That’s how the reader prefers to feel, too—like a co-creator.

If you find any of the listed articles particularly helpful, then by all means go thank their authors. Praise is in short supply these days.

The best and the brightest eschew oversimplification

One of the reasons I work with creative writers is so I can spend my time with people who are articulate and intelligent. We don’t always agree. We don’t always get along, but at least we’re able to communicate.

I would have disagreed with some of what H.L. Mencken wrote when he was alive, but I can’t argue with something he published in the Smart Set in 1922:

In every age the advocates of the dominant political theory seek to give it dignity by identifying it with whatever contemporaneous desire of man happens to be most powerful. In the days of monarchy, monarchy was depicted as the defender of the faith. In our present era of democracy, democracy is depicted as the only safe guardian of liberty. And the communism or super-communism of tomorrow, I suppose, will be sold to the booboisie as the only true palladium of peace, justice and plenty. All of these attempts to hook up cause and effect are nonsensical. Monarchy was fundamentally not a defender of the faith at all, but a rival and enemy to the faith. Democracy does not promote liberty; it diminishes and destroys liberty. And communism, as the example of Russia already shows, is not a fountain that gushes peace, justice and plenty, but a sewer in which they are drowned.

What was true in 1922 remains true today. Mencken’s “booboisie,” who are more vocal and visible than ever, prefer simplistic, even mystical, solutions to complex problems that have been intractable for hundreds of years. I’d much rather face and discuss the facts and with people who know the history and eschew oversimplification.

The Smart Set

  Image: The Smart Set, March 1922 (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Litmags that specialize in disability-related literature

pen and journals

  Photo courtesy of Joanna Kosinska

Online, a creative writer can find her tribe much more easily than is possible anywhere else. The following disability-focused literary publications are readily discoverable and of interest to all, but they’re especially important to writers with disabilities.

I’ll add to this list when similar publications come to my attention. Please let me know if I’ve missed any good ones.

Abilities

Breath & Shadow

The Deaf Poets Society

Disability Studies Quarterly

Exceptions Journal

Kaleidoscope

Monstering

Pentimento

Snap Journal

Spectrum Extract

When Language Runs Dry

Wordgathering

The Disability Literature Consortium and the blog DISPOET regularly post calls for submissions and other opportunities for writers. They encourage collaboration among artists.

Also of interest

Publishing stories about mental illness and recovery

Publications that specialize in the topics of illness, healing, and the medical professions

The demands of commercial authorhood today

daydreamer

  Photo courtesy of Alexander Solodukhin

Daydreaming fosters creativity. Industriousness, on the other hand, is beneficial for commerce. Rarely is a creative writer equally productive in both modes.

Everyone’s favorite writers’ conferences and how-to-get-published guides gently encourage and inspire. They wouldn’t be as popular if they presented a fully realistic picture of what it takes for an author to succeed commercially—that is, by selling lots of books. As an unfortunate, unintended result, many aspiring book authors are led too soon to believe they’re ready to compete with their idols in the publishing world. I’m conflicted about how to bring this matter up with prospective clients.

The telltale promise that exposes naïve writers every time is, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes for my book to succeed.” They feel compelled to say it, because they haven’t begun to envision and haven’t yet started whatever it takes. Technically, it’s a failure of their imagination. It shouldn’t happen.

My job is to screen out the dilettantes and hobbyists and to coach the thoughtful, devoted, solid professionals who have chosen writing as a career path. Following are some of the questions I try to remember to ask prospective clients when we’re deciding whether we’ll be able to work together.

Takeaway: If you don’t have good answers to these questions, then there’s no need to pitch your manuscript to me. You’re not ready.

How much time can you invest in building your writing career, knowing you’ll simultaneously need to spend significant time earning income? Holding down a day job is not an issue if you have enough passive income or savings to support yourself for more than a few years. Will any of your commitments over the next several years prohibit you from being in the public eye and from devoting a lot of unpaid time to your author platform and your writing? *

Have you already proven you’ll be able to market yourself as an author? Have you developed a following or any sort of name recognition among a sufficiently large group of people who are likely to buy your book? Consider that selling books primarily to the writers in your social circle isn’t an ideal marketing strategy, unless your book happens to be a writers’ manual.

Can you show me articles, essays, or stories you’ve written that were published in journals and magazines or on websites with some traffic? While unremunerative, collecting publication credits can be a quick-start learning experience. By the way, I tell new writers that it’s likely to take sixty submissions to get a first short story or essay published in a selective journal or magazine, including the digital ones.

Do you write a column or blog for a print or online publication? Landing that sort of (typically low-paying) gig demonstrates your ability to network and collaborate with an editor.

Do you have a professional-looking website and an active, engaging presence on significant social media sites? Which authors’ websites are your benchmarks? Don’t think of emulating but learn from the living authors you most admire.

If you’ve made no initial progress on your author platform before contacting me, then I’ll be forced to assume you never will. It takes a great deal of time to acquire the technical and social skills and then to execute a long-term publicity strategy for a career. Many, in fact most, writers aren’t terribly teachable or motivated to work on their techniques for self-promotion, without which their chances of succeeding as a commercial author are just too remote. I’m obligated to choose clients who are prepared to knock it out of the park, not those who have never shown up for batting practice.

I do my utmost to prepare a new client to collaborate successfully with a publisher and with the people who will offer opportunities for good publicity that might increase book sales. The actual work is up to the writer. Some might prefer to find and hire freelancers to help with some of their responsibilities. I don’t recommend delegating tasks, because no one will care more about the success of a book than its author. Usually it’s obvious when there’s no practical possibility that a potential client will follow through on vague promises to hire someone to do the work they don’t want, or don’t know how, to do.

Once a book is under contract, a publisher’s timeline is unyielding. Authors sometimes are asked, for example, to turn around revisions or proofs in as little as two weeks. No one will worry whether those two weeks happen to fall during the author’s annual vacation in the Florida Keys. Grace under pressure is an enormously valuable trait.

I emphasize to new clients the benefit of rolling up their sleeves. If a publishing team begins to sense that their new author isn’t working as hard as they are to launch the author’s book successfully, then the publisher’s staff will shift their focus to another book by another author. Conversely, if an author is going above and beyond anyone’s expectations to generate amazingly creative publicity for a book, then the publishing team will be enthusiastic and motivated, at least to care, even if they don’t have a spare moment to act. The caring part matters. It ripples out. The word spreads. You’ve got to read this one!

Debut authors get one chance to establish their commercial viability. It doesn’t matter whether their first books are self-published or traditionally published. The sales data are inescapable. To the largest trade book publishers, an author was a financial risk who cautiously was given an opportunity to become a profitable investment. If readers didn’t show their approval by purchasing thousands of copies of the author’s book, the record of poor sales becomes all but impossible to overcome. When a book flops, according to the trade book publishing industry’s definition of failure at the time, then commercial publishers won’t invest in the author’s future works. It doesn’t matter how gifted the author is or how much I believe in and like the person. A first-time author is viewed as a more strategic risk than one whose published book hasn’t sold well.

I’ve been through this fantasy-wrecking process with writers who thought they could either a) embark on degree programs, internships, alternate career development, or other major new endeavors while simultaneously building a career as a book author, or b) immediately discard all of their practical plans in favor of a career as a book author, without realizing how slim the chance that writing ever will generate an income sufficient to live on. The illusion of overnight success is the de facto gate beyond which most aspiring authors can’t progress.

These demands might seem unbearable or unfair, but as long as a few good writers are finding imaginative ways to put in whatever effort is required to succeed commercially, they will be the ones setting the bar so high.

How do you plan to manage all of the work ahead of you?

* In case you haven’t noticed, these expectations have an unfair and disparate impact on writers who are not wealthy but desire careers in the arts requiring many hours of labor with little likelihood of financial gain. I already do a lot of pro bono work as an agent, as I’m sure most authors’ representatives do, because we believe in trying to mitigate the existing disadvantages. At least one nonprofit literary agency exists in the U.S. Check it out. Individual publishing houses and arts funding agencies contribute much more to solving this persistent problem.

Give it time

Slow down is not advice any writer wants to hear, because the goal of being published is so alluring. Give it time. Learn how to do it well. Wait until the cake is done before you take it out of the oven. The results will be so much more satisfying.

Nine years ago today I started this blog, coincidentally the same year I met David Sanders at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival. This year, his collection of poetry Compass & Clock was published by Swallow Press, just in time for the celebration of National Poetry Month. If you listen carefully, you can hear my old neighbor and dear friend describe the necessity of patience as he explains his writing process to WOUB Digital’s podcast host Tom Hodson: “It’s a book that I’ve been working on for thirty years or so, and these are the poems that have risen to the top.”

Congratulations, David! Salut.

Encouragement for aspiring authors: foolishness will eliminate most of your competition

Aspiring authors eager for encouragement can be glad of one thing, which I can promise will never change: human nature. Most of their competitors—other writers vying to win readers—will fail to capitalize on the opportunities they’re given. They will consider themselves too talented to be overlooked, too intelligent to take advice, and too exceptional to fail.

Day after day, I receive queries from authors whose books were published, either traditionally or nontraditionally, but then languished without appreciable sales. These writers took or were given their chances and did not make the most of them. Usually, they haven’t recognized or tried to rectify the problems that kept their books from reaching or appealing to readers. When it’s too late, they want someone else to repair the damage.

I don’t often hear from unsuccessful authors who know exactly where they stand. I’m contacted by those who are mystified by book buyers’ disappointing reactions to their work. Oblivious to the reasons, these particular writers remain confident that fairytale success will find them if only they believe in themselves.

No amount of testimony by successful authors whose years of struggle and relentless practice enabled their careers will convince a writer who doesn’t want to face the unpleasant aspects of the business of creative writing. The obstacles include endless revisions and rejections, critical scrutiny, meager pay, and a market robust enough to cater to readers’ every whim rather than every writer’s wallet. Unwavering perfectionism, sincere humility and willingness to learn, and the ability to connect with audiences are rare qualities even in the most talented writers. That’s why there are so few success stories, compared to failed attempts, in book publishing. The coincidence of necessary personal and professional qualities is truly unusual.

Occasionally, good writers do recognize how much effort and time it will cost them to achieve the careers they envision, and the realization paralyzes them. They may believe they can’t handle the pressure or the demands on their time, that the market isn’t fair, or that their aspirations are self-indulgent. I have more sympathy for them than for the failed author who is hobbled by a big ego. The fact remains that authors today have more choices and resources than ever before to enable their success. Along with those choices and opportunities goes the personal responsibility to make the best use of them.

Sounds true, you say, but where should a writer who honestly wants to improve seek reliable, free advice? Here are a few good sources.

Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published by Jane Friedman

Online Critique Groups for Writers

A Flowchart For Diagnosing Self Publishing Problems by Morris Rosenthal

Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Lion of St. Mark

  Lion of St. Mark