Friday, August 31, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Submissions Are Even Better Than Bacon

There are many ways to find submission opportunities. When a Facebook friend announces a success, I congratulate them, and immediately look up the journal to see if it might be a good fit for my work. has a tab for submission opportunities that is continuous. And free.

Poets and Writers Magazine is a treasure chest of information. In the back they list contests and submission opportunities. The contests usually have due dates, may have themes, and may carry a hefty price for entry. If a journal interests you, look it up anyway. Check the non-contest guidelines and see if they’re a fit for you. Check the journals and anthologies in the very back of the magazine as well.

Duotrope is another resource. For $5/week or $50/year, you will get a weekly report of new paying journals added, non-paying journals added, journals that are deemed to be “defunct” and ones whose windows have closed. They also have a long list of current themes open. For poets who write in multiple genres, they are now listing agents.

Besides the weekly report, you can log in to at any time and get lists of journals by all sorts of criteria, from those that pay to those that respond quickly, and on and on.

Read bios and acknowledgment pages. If there are poets you like, and you think their work is a good match for yours, see where they’ve been published. Read the guidelines for those journals; see if you’d be a good match too.

If a journal is not open, write the date it opens on your calendar. What else is a calendar for besides birthdays and dentist appointments?

There are blogs (like and many other ways to find places to submit. Find the ways that work for you, then do it, if that’s what you want to do.

Last week I listed a few journals and promised more this week. Remember, there are more than 23,000 literary journals listed in the United States alone. Last week you had a tiny peek. This week a few more.

Not to be “Debbie Downer” here, but rejections are a part of the writing life. Choose your submissions carefully; you will have more yes’s than no’s.  And please let me know about your successes. I will be so happy for you and will look forward to reading them.

Picaroon Poetry  (online, UK)

Closed until September 16, 2018

Poppy Road Review (online)

THAT Literary review  (print)
Department of English and Philosophy and the College of Arts and Sciences at Auburn University at Montgomery

Penumbra Literary Review  (print)
Cal State Stanislaus

Open: Journal of Arts & Letters (online)

Blue Heron Review (online)

Better Than Starbucks Poetry Magazine (print and online)

Black Fox Literary Magazine (print and online)

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sept 9 Poetry Reading & Issue 21 Release - Featuring John Sierpinski!

Our monthly magazine release party! 

September's Featured Reader is John Sierpinski, author of Sucker Hole, a hard-hitting collection of poems. He will be reading from this collection, and also reading newer material. We will also have 50 minutes of open reading! Come early and sign up! We ask each reader to read one short poem so everyone who wishes to participate has an opportunity. All participants in issue 21 will receive their contributor's copy at the reading. See you there! We welcome your poems for future issues! Poets and Writers ( are helping us to sponsor the featured reader with matching funds from our wonderful audience. Your generous financial support has given us the ability to match funds through October, 2018. Thank you!

Sucker Hole is available at all our local venues & we encourage you to shop locally - Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy & Raven's Books. Click here to purchase a copy from Amazon.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tobi Alfier - The Pros and Pros of Submitting

The Pros and Pros of Submitting Everywhere You Can 
(after you read the submission guidelines).

from my Facebook page
I love being published in print. I love to read the people I know and see how my poem looks. Make a grateful post on Facebook with a picture of the journal, and a thank you to the editor. Then I put it on a shelf, in alphabetical order, and refer back to it once in a while.

Some poets I know, ONLY submit to print journals. True - you always have your own archive copy, the journal doesn’t disappear off the net one day, many academic institutions have print journals and it is a pat on the back to be included in them. Yes, I know all that. I agree but I don’t completely agree.

I am a shy person. Really, really shy. And also insecure. My worst fear, after being paged in the airport or supermarket, is someone saying “I liked her last book, but this one’s crap!” as they hurl my book into the trash. That is all true. But really, I’m proud of my poetry, and so very thankful I can write.

I used to go to a lot of workshops with participants from all over the country. Being online gives me the chance to say hi to them for free. Not every print journal is available in the bookstore, and it’s a way to keep in touch. It also gives them a submission opportunity they might not have known about.

Shy Tobi also moderates a LinkedIn group (Poetry Editors and Poets). It has…wait for it…33,655 participants! If they can read me online, I have some credibility that maybe I wouldn’t have otherwise. It is a great group, but everyone who’s ever been on LinkedIn knows there are occasional “difficult” people who make it their life’s work to make everyone else miserable. When I delete these nasty folks, I am supported by the rest of the group. I do think part of it is because they know I am struggling the same way they are, and they can read my successes, just as I can read theirs.

Being published online also makes you visible in a way that being in a print journal may not. An editor, reading my poems online, gave me the opportunity to be in a gorgeous anthology called “Lush”, published by Rufous Press…in Sweden! Though this press is no longer in business, the book is still available. It was a wonderful opportunity and very flattering to be asked.

Recently I was contacted by artist and poet Chuka Susan Chesney. She was published in Bindweed, an online journal in Belfast. She was looking for poets for a project and thought she’d look through a few issues and find a UK poet she liked. She found me. We’re probably an hour apart, in traffic.

And now, I have a new, very nice Facebook friend, and an opportunity to write for two stunning projects – “100 Vibrant Artists of Los Angeles and Poets”, and “Lottery Blues”. And if it weren’t for an online publication clear across the ocean, none of this would have happened.

Note: I hesitate to list my favorite journals. Everyone writes differently and everyone has their own opinion. I know the journals who will NEVER publish me, but that doesn’t mean they won’t publish you.

I’m not special, people. Being published online in some of the journals today is a great opportunity for the submitting poet. And you may end up in the right place at the right time. It is definitely something to consider as you grow your submission experience.

With over 23,000 literary journals listed in the United States alone, this small list is only a teeny peek at the different types of venues available for your work.

Cholla Needles  (print)

Bindweed (online & print)

Peacock Journal (online)

Stay tuned for next week for more submission opportunities!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Etiquette for Editors

Acceptances and Rejections – Etiquette for Editors

      Most of my blogs are written for poets. This one is for the other side of the submitting poet situation: The Editor! Although this is about “submitting poets and the editors who are less than polite to them”, if you choose not to submit your work, you are still a poet! 
      Submitting poetry is time intensive, requires a great deal of organization, and it’s not for everyone. That’s okay. I am a submitting poet. I would rather do that than almost anything. You may have other priorities and that’s fine.
      I was having a discussion with an editor who has published my work once and rejected me four times. We have great conversations on social media even though I don’t seem to match the aesthetics of his journal. He was talking about editors who don’t send out rejection notifications.
      How many of you have submitted to journals who have this practice? How many of you remember to keep checking to see if you’ve been accepted or not? 
      How many of you find this practice of an editor not responding positively or negatively incredibly rude?
      As an editor, my feeling, and I know Rich feels the same way, is if you have taken your time to review our guidelines and do a submission to our journals:

      We owe you a complete review of your submission, and
      We owe you an acceptance, or declination.
     If a journal does not allow simultaneous submissions, they are holding your work hostage and making you responsible for knowing the status of it. That’s not right, in my opinion.
      And if a journal allows simultaneous submissions but makes you responsible for knowing the status of it, your work is being held hostage anyway. You can’t submit it anywhere else unless you’re prepared to withdraw it. Why should the status be your responsibility?
      There’s nothing you can do about journals that charge a $3 fee for submitting. We don’t do it. Don’t submit to them if you don’t agree with it. But journals that don’t send out rejections? I just don’t think there’s any excuse for that.
      Our journal has a very short window. We post the back cover, which lists the contributors, the day after the window closes.
     Before that cover is posted, every submitter has heard from us. If they’ve submitted toward the end of the window, they are reassured their work was carefully reviewed.
Aretha 1942-2018
      Editors are not gods. We would not have journals without submitting writers. It is rare to receive comments back on your submission. That’s what a workshop is for. But the very least we can do is check for typos, check for consistent tenses, ask questions if necessary, and promptly respond
to your submissions with a “yes” or a “no”.
      Submitting is a two-way street. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

August 12 Poetry Reading & Magazine Release - Featuring Greg Gilbert!

Our monthly magazine release party! 

August's Featured Reader is Greg Gilbert, author and High Desert Renaissance King. Greg Gilbert is the brain behind the creation of Howl, the first High Desert Literary Magazine, which continues to publish yearly; and the Copper Penny Journal, a home for scholarly work.  Besides having a wonderful family to keep him busy, Greg gets a perverse joy out of beating the crap out of other poets playing scrabble. He will thrill us on August 12th with his carefully placed words aiming to provide triple word score to everyone listening closely while enjoying the summer warmth. All participants in issue 20 will receive their contributor's copy at the reading. See you there!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Tobi Alfier - A One And A Two

How do you feel about music when you’re writing? Does it soothe you into a mood where you can coax words easily onto the paper? Does it drive you nuts?

Do you have specific writing music? Or do you put on noise-cancelling headphones and pray your writing coffee shop isn’t playing show tunes?

I cannot listen to music while writing. I have no problem with conversations going on around me, but songs? I either start singing them or listening to them. Or writing about them.

I love Joni Mitchell, but put her on? My poem changes:

The Blind Woman Hears Music as She Reads Her Love’s Face
                                    You are in my blood like holy wine-
                                                JoniMitchell, “A Case of You”

She knows when dim light throws shadows across them
she’ll wake from a dream of color as he grasps her hand,
brings it toward his face. He’ll sleep deeply those last few minutes
as the hedgehogs of his bristles pleasingly scratch her knuckles.

She knows by his breath-beat when he wakes, turns her hand around,
cups his face toward hers to kiss him with every good morning
of promise, quiet and simple. The coffee pot churns
in the kitchen to verify this, their morning truth.

She adores that face, knows in an instant
he will do a quick shave, comfort for him,
sadness for her. Tomorrow this will happen again,
so the sadness is bittersweet, and short-lasting.

This is a Joni Mitchell moment, as are the times he
quietly lets her read his face, the way he reads
his beloved books. Her supple fingertips savor a start
at eyebrows bold, thick brushes for sun protection.

His nose compass-straight tells of an unaffected adolescence,
his lips, the upper hidden under an enviable mustache,
the lower plump and delicious to bite, to gently suck,
together they aid the formation of a voice masculine and true. 

She checks the pirate scar on the side of his neck,
and other scars older, well-healed, hardened to touch,
still felt and remembered by them both,
her by the stories he’s told her.

She knows his “devils and his deeds” as surely
as she has fingerprints. As surely as she heard
his whispers. She could most definitely drink
a case of him and still be on her feet, no question.

(previously published in Suisun Valley Review)

I have no idea what I was writing before that. Quite honestly I don’t care. But it is sabotage in a way, and I can’t write all my poems about songs. So even though I like everything from Dire Straits to Kugleplex, and have an affinity for instrumental video game music, I keep my speakers off and do not have an iPod.

Below – some music I love but cannot write to. It does cheer me up so maybe that means my poems aren’t all depressing. I could argue that’s a good thing.

My husband is just the opposite. His go-to writing music is Hearts of Space. It’s at  The artists he primarily listens to are Steve Roach, Harold Budd, Marconi Union, Constance Demby and Loscil. The type of music goes by several names, but it’s usually called ambient atmospheric music, or soundscapes, and he especially loves the haunting pieces.

He can, and often does, write all day to it. I can read, and I can edit, but I cannot write. How do you like to write? With music, or without?

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Tag You’re It!

Why do you write? I don’t mean presentations for work, or papers for school. Why do you: ignore the pile of bills on the table, the reality show you recorded last night, the fact that you need milk and maybe that you’re out of clean socks, and sit down to write the literary writing you love to do.

It could be poetry, micro-fiction, the novel you’ve been working on for six years, or a jacket blurb. It could be a blog. Why do you do it?

I write because I can’t not. I used to say that I crunched numbers during the day, and wrote at night, and the whole thing balanced me out. That’s not really true. I want with my whole heart to connect with someone. If I can make just one person feel like they’re not alone, that is what I hope to accomplish.

I’m no saint. I get cranky. I get snarky. I have pain and I feel envy. What I try to do, besides drive my husband nuts which I’m sure I do anyway, is write that crappy person. Write a character study about a woman who hates mammograms and loves nitrous oxide. Write about some jerk who should have his name engraved on a stool at the local bar, who eats breakfast there so he can have a beer and a shot with his bacon and eggs. At least I can also write some redemption into it, and it’s not the real-life me. If someone recognizes themselves, maybe they’ll change. Maybe not.

There is no room for ego in my writing arena. If you need to make people feel small in order to feel accomplished, we will not be friends. But you can be an accomplished, well-known, well-published successful writer, and still be a good human. Then you will connect – with one person, with a thousand people, whatever. Write about someone with that ego, but try to remain personally kind.

This is part of being a good literary citizen, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

In April of 2013, my son went to France with his High School band. I gave him two assignments: go to Berthillon and have ice cream (he had vanilla, and salted caramel), and stop by Shakespeare & Co. to get anything for a friend of mine. I didn’t care if it was a magnet or a business card, just anything.

Separate from that, he had taken my newest chapbook, “Lit Up”, with him to read. He texted me from the band bus to tell me he’d forgotten how much he liked my work (what????). Then he texted to tell me when he got to the last poem, written about him, he was sobbing on the bus. I was thankful he had enough confidence to cry in front of all his friends, and thankful I’d connected with him.

But just to make sure my head didn’t get too fat, the next day when he went to Shakespeare & Co., he took “Lit Up”. And he put it on a lit display right next to Ezra Pound. I’m sure it was found and thrown away before he ever got out of the store. Of course it was.

Think about why you write. Someday, you may really have a book on display at Shakespeare & Co. I hope someone cries when they read it. Now go order more socks online and write something.

* * *

To My Son, the Day After the Storm

The wind yowls outside like the sound of caged circus lions.  It makes me think of when my son was born, though really no sound like that came from me, rather a quiet conversation and a lie to the doctor about how no, the spinal didn’t hurt at all. The body should not have to feel the way a champagne bottle sounds, the cork flying in celebration, but there is no other way to describe the pop of the spine as it is pierced.  And now my son is thirteen and the wind is a howl.  The water heater sounds like propellers of a ship channeling past a diving bell, or whalespeak recorded by men braver than I.  I remember my newborn curled inside my flowered sleepshirt.  He slept cradled in one arm, his breath and my breath together in calm and methodical dream.  And now he is taller than I.  I open his door twice each night just to hear him stir.  He is not like me, though part of me.  Not like his father though part of him.  And the lions bellow the trees sideways, clouds like stop-action scenes from old National Geographics on the shelf that used to be pale blue, and we get older.  This is our breathing now.

 Previously published in Sugar House Review

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Back cover of "Lit Up" by Tobi