Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Editors — Who We Are

The editorial board of Floating Bridge Press waved goodbye to three stalwart and stellar editors this past year: Peter Pereira, Jeff Crandall, and Ted McMahon. Peter and Jeff were founding editors and Ted came on not long after. Peter and Ted have shifted to the Advisory Board and Jeff has become our first Executive Director in charge of creating a Floating Bridge Foundation that, once achieved, will allow us to operate with security into the long future.

We are delighted to announce two new editors have joined our board—Tatyana Mishel and Devon Musgrave. Their new enthusiam and energy and excellent ideas for our future are very welcome.

Here is a brief introduction to our new Editorial Board:

Kathleen Flenniken’s first poetry collection, Famous, won the Prairie Schooner Prize and was named an ALA Notable Book for 2007. Her poems have appeared most recently in Poetry Daily, The Iowa Review, High Desert Journal, and Prairie Schooner, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and Artist Trust.

Tatyana Mishel coaches writers through Write Now!, peddling the principles of high-adrenaline writing, risk and surprise. Her poems have been published in numerous publications including two Pontoon issues. Along with her literary life a second passion is doing sports. For more info: www.tatyanamishel.com

Devon Musgrave is an editor who has lived in Seattle since 1992. He was schooled in Los Angeles, upstate New York, and every other place he’s had the pleasure of visiting. His next editing job is the installation of a composting toilet in a log outhouse in the eastern Cascades.

John Pierce is a freelance writer and editor living in Seattle. He has worked in the publishing industry for more than twenty years, including time at Marquand Books, a Seattle-based book-packager; Microsoft Press; and SmallChanges, a distributor of magazines and other periodicals.

Susan Rich is the author of two books, Cures Include Travel and The Cartographer’s Tongue Poems of the World which won the PEN USA Award and the Peace Corps Award. A recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and an Artist Trust Fellowship, her poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Quarterly West, and Witness. For more info: www.susanrich.org

Ron Starr does technical writing for money and other writing for pleasure. He is sometimes confused and writes programs instead of poems, but not infrequently something interesting happens. His work has appeared recently in LOCUSPOINT and Drunken Boat. Ravenna Press published his Oulipian-inspired book, A Map by a Dim Lamp, this fall.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Third Time's a Charm: The Secret Life of a Chapbook

Many times when we see a book in print, we don’t think about how long it took to write that book or how many times it was submitted before it was accepted. Many times we just see the success—a book that’s made it to publication—and we return to our own writing and submitting feeling discouraged because we’ve sent our manuscripts out a couple times and no one has published it…

My chapbook Geography was not accepted by Floating Bridge Press the first time I submitted it, but the third time—five years after I wrote the first poem in 1998. In between the first poem and the acceptance, Geography went through many versions. Mostly, time and revision are what helped change my okay chapbook to a much stronger one.

The first time I submitted my chapbook to Floating Bridge Press, I was excited—too excited. The chapbook wasn’t complete, but I was the mother of new poems and off my children went without their raincoats or galoshes. Two poems were selected for the Washington State Poets Anthology,Pontoon, but the chapbook was not a finalist. I was thrilled to be part of Pontoon, but realized there was more work to be done.

The next year, I had improved the chapbook greatly through lengthy revisions. It had come a long way—the children were dressed for the weather—but still it wasn’t ready to be published. I submitted it anyway knowing it was a stronger manuscript than the year before—that year it was not only rejected, but none of my poems were accepted for Pontoon. I was discouraged, especially because I knew it had improved. Still, I felt in my heart it was a good manuscript and I wasn’t ready to abandon it yet.

In 2000, I had received Artist Trust GAP grant for some of the individual poems included in the chapbook, which gave me hope to keep trying. I enrolled in a chapbook class with Ann Spiers where we looked at various chapbooks, discussed the history of chapbooks, and talked about what a chapbook was. We discussed how a chapbook focused on a very specific theme or story and she reminded us to only use poems in the chapbook that stick with that theme.

I felt I was beginning to understand my chapbook more. I could see what poems weren’t strong enough to be included in it. I knew what I had to remove from my manuscript, but still, the chapbook didn’t feel complete and I wasn’t sure what I needed to do to improve it. Ann said something during the class that changed the way I viewed the making of my chapbook, she said, “Look at your chapbook and figure out what poems need to be written.”

It was the advice I needed. Instead of always taking away from my chapbook, starting with thirty poems and pulling out the weakest poems until I ended up with a number between eighteen and twenty-four pages, Ann had suggested the opposite. I was to look at my poems—my strongest poems—and decide what poems needed to be written to make the chapbook complete. For me, this was the suggestion I needed to hear. I realized that I needed to decide what poems were missing from the story I was trying to tell and to write them.

In early 2003, I was awarded a residency at Soapstone Writers Retreat in Oregon, where I focused solely on my chapbook for a week. I remember in the middle of a rainforest reading each poem again and again until I knew if it was right for the chapbook. I walked in the forest and in my mind went through every poem in the chapbook. When I returned home, I submitted my chapbook into the 2003 competition telling myself I’d give it try one last try. (Note: Knowing what I know now, I realize most poets submit their manuscripts many more times than just three before it’s accepted, so this was a bit of naiveté on my part.)

On a quiet afternoon, a Thursday I believe, I received a call from one of the editors at Floating Bridge Press telling me that my chapbook had been selected for publication. Five years after writing the first poem in the series, I would see a finished product. I was thrilled, thankful, and a little overwhelmed!

If I have any advice for other poets working on a chapbook, my mind returns to my class with Ann Spiers:

1) Focus on a strict theme or telling a story
2) Look at your chapbook and instead of taking poems out to make it stronger, start with your strongest poems and write the ones that are missing.
3) Write, Revise, Repeat.

Let the story or theme emerge in your chapbook then focus on it completely. Decide what needs to be written and when it comes to poems you’re not sure are strong enough I follow this advice—when in doubt, leave it out.

Good luck and good writing.


Kelli Russell Agodon
Author of Geography, Winner of the 2003 Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Prize

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Inside the Competition - Part Two

As the deadline for our chapbook award creeps steadily closer — February 15th is just three weeks away — we will be bringing you a series of postings on the nuts and bolts of our competition. Watch this space for our editors insights as well as stories from former chapbook winners.

This week we invite Kelli Russell Agodon to share her ideas on the chapbook process, production, and product. Kelli's book, Geography, won the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award in 2003. She has since gone on to publish a book length collection, Small Knots, with Word Press, 2004 as well as accruing many other honors.

We've asked Kelli to offer her personal insights into the publishing process. One thing you may be interested to learn is that Geography traveled the rounds of several contests before it found a home with Floating Bridge and, in fact, the editors here saw the manuscript more than once as well - but let's let her tell the tale in her own words . . .

Susan Rich
Editor, Floating Bridge Press

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Inside the Competition

Every once in a while the editors will be posting a few comments about Floating Bridge Press's annual poetry chapbook competition. You might even call these suggestions.

I thought I'd start things off with a couple of minor points that make a difference to those of us who read many manuscripts.

1. Please pay close attention to all competition guidelines. It is very tedious to accomodate manuscripts that are not three-hole punched or labeled with title on each page, etc. Manuscripts that arrive straight-jacketed in fancy binders and sleeves must be "disrobed" and that just means more work for us. Keep things simple and follow directions. Don't you want to start with your best foot forward?

2. You might not realize that extra-fancy bond paper or an unusual, eye-catching font actually detracts from your work. Our idea of a beautiful manuscript is one that is full of beautiful poems.

Here's one a little more substantive.

3. During my years as a co-editor and co-judge, I have often poured over the acknowledgments sections of our submissions after the competition is concluded and done some Monday-morning quarterbacking.

I've noticed that the quality of the chapbook manuscript is not correlated to the number of previously published poems it contains. It is much more important that the manuscript be cohesive, either because of a strong (and consistent) voice, sensibility, or theme. A chapbook is different animal than a full-length book. It needs to establish its "reason to be" within the first handful of poems.

If poem A was published in Poetry but doesn't fit the theme, and poem B is unpublished but compliments the poems around it, choose poem B. Not only will B make your manuscript stronger, there's a good bet the manuscript will make poem B shine.

More chapbook ideas in the coming weeks.

Kathleen Flenniken, Editor

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year, New (Digital) Home

Or a new road to our home on the web. You can now get to the press website using http://www.floatingbridgepress.org, thanks to an editor who secured the domain name.

The old URL still works—but this one will always get you to the press. We're looking for a new hosting service so that we can provide better, more flexible information, and have better email service amongst the board. Suggestions welcome.

Reading in Port Townsend

In the meanwhile, if you're in Port Townsend on January 11, stop by the Northwind Gallery to hear Pontoon readers Ronda Broatch, Patrick Loafman, Michael Schein, and Annette Spaulding-Convy.