Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lipogram Contest Winner Announced

Our imprint, Pebblebrook Press, recently held a poetry contest to celebrate the release of Mark Zimmermann's collection of lipograms, Impersonations. Entrants were challenged to write a poem using the lipogram constraint, which requires poets to deliberately exclude certain letters from their poems. Zimmermann was the judge; he read the poems blindly and selected Jason Primm's "Stoneboat" as the winner. Primm, whose short story "Light" appeared in Stoneboat 2.1, used only the letters in the poem's title to compose his work, which appears below.

Stoneboat An eon
No boots.
No boats.
No bent notes.
One soon noon?
As season
beat sonatas
on stone.
Toast taboos.
Nose ears.
Eat beast.
“O Babe!”,
“O boon!”
As oboes

Judge Mark Zimmerann says, "In the winning poem, 'Stoneboat,' the author sets to work with only seven letters to use—a very challenging constraint—and comes up with a free associative word salad of sound and image that embodies the kinds of surprises that can result from lipogrammatic writing. Thanks to all who entered the contest. Your work shows, once again, that matters of poetic freedom, creative expression, and formal constraint aren’t mutually exclusive—not by a longshot."

The Pebblebrook Press team joins Zimmermann in thanking all of the poets who entered the contest. The work was creative, thought-provoking, and fun to read. Zimmermann had a difficult task in choosing just one winner, and we're glad we weren't charged with making the decision.

Zimmermann's collection of lipograms, which was released earlier this week from Pebblebrook Press, is available here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

An interview with Mark Zimmermann

We interviewed Mark Zimmermann, author of Pebblebrook Press's forthcoming poetry collection Impersonations, to find out more about his writing process and his experiences with the literary form of the lipogram. Zimmermann is a Wisconsin native currently living in Milwaukee. He was featured in Pebblebrook's first release, the anthology Masquerades and Misdemeanors, and he has spent time teaching humanities and writing courses, both abroad and here in the United States. Impersonations is his first collection. 

To pre-order Impersonations, visit Pebblebrook Press's website

How did this collection evolve? Where did the idea come from?

Initially there was no idea. One morning in the summer of 2002 I was at home scanning the shelves for a book to read, when I just started rattling off words I could make from names appearing in this or that book title. I had no thought of even getting a poem or a few poems out of it, much less a book-length work. It was all free associating and vocal riffing—playing with language and seeing what would happen.

What happened was a stream of patter, as in these words made from letters in Napoleon: “Lo! An ape on a neon pole. Lope on, pal…” which turned out to be one of the more coherent results of that morning. Still, this was enjoyable enough, so I began writing some things down. I should also mention that ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed word search games, Scrabble, palindromes, and rearranging letters from terms and short phrases just to see what else was there. Writing lipograms is in part an extension of that.

When did you discover the lipogram form? How did it grab hold of you?

I came across the lipogram sometime around 1990-91 when a sprinkler malfunction flooded the UW-M bookstore, where I worked at the time. Hundreds of books were damaged and ended up being sold for 75% off the cover price. Employees got first choice and I took advantage, buying a pile of hardcovers that I never could have otherwise afforded. One of them was O.B. Hardison’s Disappearing Through the Skylight, which included examples of lipograms. The form intrigued me as novel, challenging, and a little crazy, but I didn’t pursue it further.

Has working with a constraint like this ever surprised you, and if so, how?

Yes, I’ve been surprised in different ways at different stages of writing the work. At first, I remember being struck again and again by how often “renegade” letters kept creeping into what I was writing: “Damn! How did the letter ‘b’ get in here?” Then I’d have to go back and take out every word that had a ‘b’ in it. This happened countless times, and occasionally it spelled the end of a poem, but as the months and years went by I noticed that this was happening less often. This was another surprise, slowly dawning though it was: No matter what poem I was working on, I was becoming adjusted to the constraint to the point where it felt natural and comfortable. Not only was I making fewer mistakes, I began to feel that the form itself afforded the kind of creative freedom that can come from working with a constraint that guides one into places they’d not otherwise go.

How did the idea to write persona poems evolve? Were your early lipograms based on fictional characters, cultural icons, and historical figures, or did this focus develop over time?

As much as I enjoyed the initial wordplay mentioned earlier, it wasn’t too long before I knew that I didn’t want to just play around for the sake of the form itself. So, I set myself to trying to see if I could work out some material where form and subject came together in a way that I hoped would convey something essential about each poem’s speaker. As for who to write about, I went with persons and characters that interested me. My wife Carole has been a great help on this count, giving me suggestions at times when I was at a loss for who to write about. The Rasputin, Friedman, and Gaga poems are a few of the works that got started because of her.

Who are the main lipogram writers? Who else is exploring the form?

Writers who gave or are giving sustained attention to the form make for a very short list of works available in English. The most celebrated lipogrammatic work is La Disparition (1969), a French novel by Georges Perec in which the letter “e” is not used and is a key part of the story “chock-full of plots and subplots, of loops within loops, of trails in pursuit of trails, all of which allow its author an opportunity to display his customary virtuosity as an avant-gardist magician, acrobat and clown,” according to the lipogrammatic cover flap of Gilbert Adair’s e-free English translation.

Perec also wrote an essay “History of the Lipogram,” which appears in Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature, edited by Warren F. Motte, Jr.

Other lipogrammatic novels are Ernest Vincent Wright’s Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter E (1939) and Ella Minnow Pea (2001) by Mark Dunn. Christian Bok has written an unusual work, Eunoia, part novella and part prose poem, in which the constraint in each of the work’s sections is univocalic, using only one vowel. Bok further set himself to a variety of subsidiary rules pertaining to subject matter. His work won’t be mistaken for that of anyone else.

What advice would you give to other poets who are interested in using this form?

Pretty much what I’d suggest to any writer. Start with a sense of curiosity and play, but expect difficulty too. You need not have a goal at first; give it time. Concentrate. Turn off your goddam cell phone and other gadgets. Try to think of new ways or reasons to use the form. If you develop a feel for the lipogram at some point, read up on its history and authors.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Are you up for a challenge?

Pebblebrook Press is holding a poetry contest to celebrate the release of Impersonations, a collection of lipogram poems by Mark Zimmermann. A lipogram is a written work composed of words chosen so as to avoid the use of one or more specific alphabetic characters.

The words in Zimmermann's poems contain only the letters that appear in the title of each poem, and each poem's title is the name of the person or character that poem is about. For example, his poem titled "Emily Dickinson" uses only words that consist of the letters E, M, I, L, Y, D, C, K, N, S, or O.

Are you ready to give it a try? It's not easy, but it's a lot of fun!

Here are the contest rules:
  • You may enter up to three, original lipogram poems.
  • Poems can come in any of the following forms:
    1. Use only letters in the title of the poem. (The title doesn't have to be a person—it can be anything.)
    2. Pick your favorite writer and use only the letters in his or her name. (Again, the title of the poem does not have to be the author's name.)
    3. Use only the letters in "Stoneboat Literary Journal." 
    4. Writer's choice: Create your own restraint, but tell us what it is when you submit. 
  • Keep each poem under 25 lines. 
  • Poems should be submitted to our email address:
  • The deadline is April 1, 2015

The winner will receive a copy of Impersonations. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Introducing our newest intern...

Hello. My name is Kimberly Thimmig and I am in my final semester at Lakeland College, majoring in religion with minors in writing and history.  I live near Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, with my husband, Gary, where I enjoy working on my perennial gardens, establishing a native prairie on our property, and reading while enjoying a cup of tea.  I have loved writing all my life, and it has spanned my divergent interests--things such as farming, religion, cemeteries, maps, and pondering my love of canning fruits and vegetables.  I have been transcribing my grandmother’s diaries, which begin in 1946; this has fueled an interest in post-war American society and my families’ histories.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Duotrope Editor Interview Questionnaire

Co-Editor in Chief and Nonfiction Editor Signe Jorgenson recently completed the Duotrope editor interview questionnaire. We thought we'd share her answers. Check out Stoneboat's Duotrope listing here.

Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.
Literature and art.

What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?
Alaska Quarterly Review, Midwestern Gothic, Beloit Poetry Journal, Creative Nonfiction

Who are your favorite writers?
Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Jo Ann Beard, Sherry Simpson, Annie Dillard

What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?
We are a large-format publication that gives writers' work room to breathe. We are big fans of white space and believe that the visual presentation of the work is just as important as the work itself. With every issue, we strive to create a beautiful publication that will make our writers feel good about placing their work in our journal. Furthermore, we also have an imprint press -- Pebblebrook -- so we publish chapbooks, poetry full-length collections, anthologies,and novels as well. Doing both types of publishing has given us a greater appreciation for the importance of aesthetic, layout, and design.

What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?
Send us a polished piece. Novelist Jo-Ann Mapson once told me, "Send your work out in its church clothes." That's good advice. It seems so obvious that the submission should be free of typos, punctuation errors, or missing words, but we get a ton of work that commits these mortal sins in the first paragraph -- sometimes even the first line. Don't be that submitter. Please, don't be that submitter.

Describe the ideal submission.
It follows the guidelines. It requires very little copyediting. And most importantly, it's compelling -- it makes me care, it makes me want to turn the page, it makes me forget that I have another 15 submissions to read before I call it a day. It makes me want to email the other editors and say, "We need to take this NOW before some other journal steals it away from us."

What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?
Our guidelines state that we won't publish a writer in consecutive issues, yet we sometimes receive back-to-back submissions from our contributors. That's a good problem to have. We're honored that writers are pleased with our journal and trust us with more of their work. We see it as a sign that we're doing something right.

How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?
We ask for cover letters that include a brief bio. I don't look at the bio or publication credits when I first read a submission, but the info does sometimes come in handy after the initial read. For instance, if I'm on the fence about whether or not to give the submission a more in-depth look, and the editors of a journal I trust and respect have published the writer's work, that can convince me to spend more time with the piece. I wouldn't say that prior publications convince me to accept a piece (nor does lack of publications convince me to reject it), but a publication history can get me to spend more time considering the work.

How much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?
I only read prose, so I can't say anything about how the poetry selection works at Stoneboat. However, those of us who read prose have an agreement: if the piece isn't well-written, or if it hasn't captured our attention in the first page or so, we can reject it without reading any further. We are a small team and we have an enormous number of submissions to get through. As much as we'd like to, we simply can't read everything all the way to the end. I try to think about it from a reader's perspective. Readers don't slog through 15 pages to see if a story or essay will eventually get good; if a reader isn't hooked pretty quickly, he/she will turn the page or set down the journal. If I anticipate the reader turning the page or setting down the journal, I'm not going to publish the piece.

What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go though before it is accepted?
Although every submission is read by an editor, we do have our interns perform an initial screening. They then assign the piece to be read by one of our four editors. I can't speak to the process that the other editors use to evaluate their assignments, but I can tell you about mine. If the interns recommend rejecting a piece, I'll quickly scan to make sure I agree with their assessment, but I don't usually spend a whole lot of time on those submissions. (The interns are rarely wrong.) If the interns recommend accepting a piece, I'll slow down and read a lot more carefully. Our poetry editor reads all of the poetry submissions and makes the poetry publication decisions on her own, but the process is a little more complex for prose. There are three of us who read prose. We each compile a "short list" of work culled from our assigned submissions that we would like to see in the journal. Then, we read all of the pieces on everyone's short list and duke it out from there. We usually end up publishing about 1/3 of the prose that makes the short list.

What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?
It's a balancing act. My "real" job is teaching composition courses at small Midwestern liberal arts college. I teach four classes in any given semester, and almost always have three different preps. (For those of you who aren't in academia: that's a really heavy teaching load.) On top of that, there's committee work, advising, and overseeing the campus writing center. So, my editorial work gets squeezed in around my job and my life. (I have a family! I have friends! I, in theory, have a writing career!) I read submissions late at night, on weekends, during spring break, in airports and hotel rooms. You get the picture.

How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?
The journal is in its fifth year, and we've moved more and more toward modern technology. At first, we were accepting submissions via email, only took cash or check payments, and used a local printer. Signing up for an electronic submission manager changed our lives. Delving into the world of credit card payments has increased sales enormously. Switching to print-on-demand has cut our budget by a ton while giving us a higher-quality publication. That said, we still see the value in hard copy submissions, and we don't do our copyediting digitally. I still look things up in a hardcopy of the SOED and Chicago manual. Technology makes many things better and easier, but there's still a place for doing things the old fashioned way.

Friday, December 19, 2014

We're taking the plunge...again!

That’s right—we’ll be taking the Polar Bear Plunge this New Year’s Day for the second year in a row, and like last year, we’re raising funds for Stoneboat while we’re at it.

Last December, our starting goal was $100, and the agreement was that if we reached our goal, Co-Editor in Chief Rob Pockat would take the epic plunge. We reached that goal so quickly that we decided to raise the stakes: if we reached $250 by New Year’s Eve, Co-Editor in Chief Signe Jorgenson would join Rob in frolicking through the icy Lake Michigan surf despite an air temperature of 14 degrees, wind chills in the single digits, and water temperatures in the low 30s. With the help of our wonderful supporters, we reached that goal, and the rest is history.

This time around, we’re doing things a little bit differently. There’s no question of if we will be taking the plunge. We’re totally, 100% doing it. (Brrrr. I’m chilly just thinking about it.) This year’s catch is that you get to decide how far we’ll go, and you get prizes in return for donating!

This is how it works: The more total money we raise, the further we’ll submerge ourselves into the water. For example, if we raise a total of $50, we'll enter the water up to our knees, $100 our mid-thighs, and so on: 

$50 – knees
$100 – mid-thighs
$150 – hips
$200 – belly buttons
$250 – chests
$300 – shoulders

You can visit our website to donate, or click the button at the bottom of this post. We’re taking donations of ANY amount, but prizes will be awarded at certain benchmarks:

  • $10 – one of our new,  handmade Stoneboat bookmarks 
  • $20 – a Stoneboat t-shirt 
  • $50 – a one year subscription to Stoneboat and a poem of your choice (the first 10 lines, or the whole poem if it's less than 10 lines) will be read in the water/at the event* 

*We will try to read as many poems in the water as possible, and we’ll ensure that all selections are read at the event.

Thanks for supporting Stoneboat! Our journal doesn't receive any university funding, grant money, or external funding, so we survive solely on your continued support through subscriptions, book and t-shirt sales, and donations. We sincerely appreciate it. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday/Winter Deals!

Just in time for the holidays (and all you last-minute gift-givers), we’re offering a couple different package deals on our two latest Pebblebrook Press releases: Marilyn Zelke-Windau’s poetry collection, Momentary Ordinary, and Erik Richardson's chapbook, a berserker stuck in traffic

We're offering two options: 
  1. Both poetry books for $25 and a FREE copy of Stoneboat 5.1 (our fifth anniversary issue!)
  2. Both poetry books and one year's subscription to Stoneboat for $30

These books can make great gifts for the lit lovers in your life, but the deals won't end after the holidays. The sale will continue this winter through February 1, 2015.

Visit our online store here to make your purchase!

The editors of Stoneboat wish you a very happy holiday season. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement regarding New Year’s Day and polar bears…