I appreciated Kevin Larimer’s Editor’s Note (“It’s Working,” November/December 2017). It was just the kick I needed to get serious about putting in the time to do the work. I am sometimes guilty of the “romantic” idea of writing that Kevin Young, who Larimer quotes in his note, describes: “I feel like people have this notion of writing that it’s inspiration-based and romantic.... But I think it’s really just being there in your space.... It’s being there and writing.” That quote is spot-on. Larimer’s vote of confidence in the passion of writers is the motivation I, and many others, needed to hear. There is obviously a very good reason he is the editor of this wonderful magazine.
Nyack, New York
Encouraged and Inspired
I am an incarcerated person who, after overcoming much opposition from the prison administration, started a creative writing group. The group consists of poets, novelists, essayists, short story writers, and lyricists, and we look forward to every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. The articles are always informative and encouraging, but you outdid yourselves with the September/October 2017 issue. Being imprisoned, I find that some articles aren’t applicable to me, but this issue was filled with material I found relevant. I appreciated Marwa Helal’s piece, “The Radius of Arab American Writers.” Arabic is my second language, so to learn that there are other Arabic speakers being recognized for their work is reassuring. Joyce Maynard’s essay (“Patience and Memoir: The Time it Takes to Tell Your Story”) confirmed a point that I had been wondering about: Distance is a good thing when writing a memoir. I am writing a memoir titled “Affected,” about how I, a black queer man, survived the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s, as well as about my experiences working in the HIV prevention field. I’m not infected, but I have been greatly affected, having lost my father and scores of friends. Ian Stansel’s and Nancy Méndez-Booth’s articles (“How Deep This Grief: Wrestling With Writing as Therapy” and “Why We Write: With Deepest Gratitude”) gave me permission to mourn them and to bear witness. This is especially important during a time when AIDS is no longer considered an emergency and many have become complacent about infection rates. The issue was amazing. I don’t have Internet access, so Poets & Writers Magazine is my main source for what is happening in the writing community. Thank you for the great work you are doing.
Why do writing contests extend their deadlines? As someone who submits to contests often, I already know that journals and presses make money from contests, charging up to $25 in entry fees and giving only a portion back to the winner and rarely publishing any of the finalists. It’s silly, I know, but I play by the rules. I abide by theme and word count guidelines, and I don’t submit on pink, scented paper. Above all, I meet the deadlines. So I don’t share their enthusiasm when, after they’ve added me to the mailing list, they gleefully announce that the deadline has been extended. I feel disrespected. They wrote the rules, so they should stick to them. I accept my losses and rejections repeatedly. If I had any power in saying so, I would reject their extensions. If a publication fails to get enough submissions, money, or variety, it should accept its own failures.
Brooklyn, New York
The editor responds:
Thanks for your letter, David. While not all journals and presses make money from contests—the costs associated with sponsoring a contest are not limited to paying the winner, as contributing editor Michael Bourne reported in “The Economics of Competition: An Overview of the Contest Model” (May/June 2012)—you raise some good points that will inform our decisions about coverage in the May/June 2018 Writing Contests Issue.