Want to get published? Barely South Review’s reading period is underway

NORFOLK, Va. — Barely South Review, the online literary journal of Old Dominion University, wants submissions of new short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and artwork.

The submission and reading period ends Nov. 30. Accepted works will be published in the April and September 2012 editions, as well as the January 2013 edition.

Barely South Review is edited by students in the MFA Creative Writing Program, part of the English Department at Old Dominion. Past contributors include Bonnie Jo Campbell, Brian Turner, Patrick Rosal, Joanne Diaz, Jill McCabe and Karen Schubert, and the review this year featured the College Poetry Prize winning work of Wendi White. Interview subjects have included Blake Bailey, Dennis Lehane and Seni Seneviratne, among others.

Full disclosure, for those who don’t know — I’m a student in the program and was on the editorial staff this past year.

Submission guidelines are located at this link. Worth checking out.

I sent Valarie Clark, managing editor of Barely South, some email questions this past week — what the pub is looking for, where it may go as it evolves, etc. The poet Luisa Igloria, director of the MFA program, also responded to the first question via email. So here’s a quick Q&A about a promising outlet for writers and artists. It has been edited for clarity.

Q: What are you looking for in submissions?

Clark:

We want the best stuff people have,  regardless of whether or not it’s considered ‘traditional’ or experimental.  If someone’s written a lovely ‘modernist’ short story, we’ll consider it. If we got some funky postmodern stuff that lacks a linear timeline or a typical narrative thread — if it’s well-written and appeals to our editors — we’ll consider it.

Igloria:

We have a wonderful opportunity to take stock of our regional and geographical positioning in the ‘south’ — with its rich history and traditions — but also recognize that such markers can mean many things to many different people. We are drawn to works that have a strong sense of their own relevance in time and place, but that are not afraid to take risks or interrogate the sense of limits, in genre and in other areas.

We are looking for works that speak to our own desire to find riveting expressions not only speaking to place and identity, but also bringing these conversations to new levels.

The following responses are from Clark.

Q: What genre would you like more submissions for, if any?

Of course, we’re happy to see all kinds, but we’d love to see more creative nonfiction. We’re talking about essays especially. If people want to send us part of their memoir, that’s great, as long as it can stand alone, apart from the greater work. The submitter can’t think to herself, ‘Well, I don’t need to explain that because it’s somewhere else in my book.’ Well, we aren’t reading your entire book. Make us want to, though, by sending us some terrific piece that can exist on it’s own.

We’re also now accepting art — photos, drawings, even small animations if they’re meaningful.  We don’t want a bunch of GIF files of folks from Jersey Shore.  That’s what message boards are for. But a GIF file of a political figure that makes a statement of some sort by using the animation —we’d consider that.

Q: Would you talk about the themes of the issues this year and how work might address them?

We’re still working on hammering out themes, but we’d do a special call for them if we decide to go that route, and editors are considering establishing themes for issues in 2013.

Q: How has Barely South done so far? Where does it go from here?

Not only are we seeing an increase in submissions already this year — including an increase in nonfiction — but one of the nonfiction essays from the inaugural issue in April 2010 was nominated for a Pushcart by a member of the Pushcart Prize panel.  Many publications nominate their own content, and we’re thrilled that someone from that prestigious contest read our humble literary journal and found quality there. And what a thrill for the author!

In the immediate future, we’re shooting for having the journal put into a downloadable PDF file that people can put on their e-readers. We hope that happens as soon as the January 2012 issue. That means we get to flex our creativity by designing an issue as if we were sending it to print — choosing layouts, fonts, all that good stuff.

We’d like to be able to do some print issues in the future, whether that’s just for ‘special issues’ like the January literary festival craft interview issue — which we’ll be doing again for 2012 — or maybe it’s a ‘limited run’ kind of thing for each issue. This is the year where BSR is starting to plan for the future and how successive ODU students are going to leave their mark on the journal.

One of the most important things for me, as managing editor, is to make sure that BSR is not only a quality publication that keeps up with changing technology trends and how the public wants to spend their time and money, but I also want the experience of putting BSR together to be an amazing one for the students. The staff is made up entirely of students in their second and third years, with some administrative assistance from first year students. This is an outstanding opportunity for the staff to learn not just how to read critically, but how to make choices about what works well together, how to make tough decisions regardless of the biography or the name associated with the piece. Soon they’re going to need to learn all the deign aspects of a print journal as we move to the PDF format.

And in the future we’d like to move to our own separate website instead of being dependent on a blog-type platform that restricts our creativity somewhat. That means we’ll have a constant need for a wide range of talents, and students who are good with technology can find a place alongside those who are more comfortable with traditional journal formats. So far this year we’ve made some terrific decisions together that are already reaping benefits — such as the choice to start accepting art as a regular type of submission.

Wow, submitting to this whole Barely South deal sounds wicked great! What do you think, Vinny?

What are you thinking of sending, Vin — a chapter from the memoir?

Yo, Vin. That’s pretty much your only move, huh?

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