Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Garden of Forked Paths

We're still accepting submissions for our "Garden of Forked Paths," issue. We're interested in literary and artistic contributions that explore the diversions in life, the moments of indecision, of paths that go in unpredictable ways--and the gardens that are spawned from it. What are you growing in your life? What paths did you take to get here? 

We allow you to interpret the title, and not all the work will fit into this frame. But rather consider it as a point of reference. We'll do the rest. In the end, as with all our issues, we're seeking work representing a variety of "voices," that speak out, offer compassion, and seek answers and solutions, rather than dwelling in a state of inertia and inactivity.

A few things we've seen a bit too much of: reconciliation of shooting an animal; cancer; dead, dying, deathbed, funerals; stories that begin with waking up.

A few things we're always looking for: A strong piece for our America Talks column--something that speaks to our times; pieces about an endangered species; stories of compassion; slices and moments of life, where you've had a realization or insight.

See website for full details. http://www.swordandsagapress.com/

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pushcart Prize nominees for the 2013 season

We are pleased to announce this year's Pushcart Prize nominees for the 2013 season. The following stories/essays/poems have been sent to the editors of the Pushcart committee, where they will be be reviewed with a chance of winning a Pushcart and published in a forthcoming edition. Congratulations and thank you to all our contributors for such wonderful work!

American Athenaeum’s Pushcart nominations for 2013



by Murzban F. Shroff
Published in Front Porch issue,
Spring 2013, American Athenaeum

by Richie Swanson
Published in Front Porch issue,
Spring 2013, American Athenaeum

by erica l. kaufman
Published in Things They Carry issue,
Summer 2013, American Athenaeum

by Rachel Routier
Published in Things They Carry issue,
Summer 2013, American Athenaeum

by Rachel Kadish
Published in Wayfarers issue,
Autumn/Winter 2013, American Athenaeum

by Katharyn Howd Machan
Published in Wayfarers issue,
Autumn/Winter 2013, American Athenaeum

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wayfarers All issue of American Athenaeum

Welcome to the Wayfarers All issue of American Athenaeum! This issue will take readers through a variety of literary contributions asking the questions: where have you traveled and where will you journey next?

As our literary journal publishes “voices,” set up like a museum—a museum of words--you’ll encounter orators from the past, right alongside contemporary ones, including: a blind photographer; a Goth girl; a father coping with Asperger’s; a Voodoo queen bent on redemption; a naturopathic doctor; a Pagan editor; a Vermont gardener; the voices of Chernobyl; an American learning Shodô in Japan; an Israeli Jew, whose face is being used by anti-Semitic protesters; an American ex-pat living in France; and many more.

Special thanks to the extraordinary artist Dana Montlack and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego for granting permission to feature a piece from her “Sea of Cortez” exhibit on our cover; the collection is currently on exhibit through January. (Further details in the book). And to Noble Smith, author of Wisdom of the Shire, Sons of Zeus, among others, who took the time for an in-depth interview on writing, process, and his work.

To purchase or write a review: http://amzn.com/1491238682
To learn more about American Athenaeum or submit work:www.swordandsagapress.com

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Dana Montlack: Sea of Cortez Exhibit

We're pleased to announce a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego to feature the work of Dana Montlack on the cover of the latest issue of the American Athenaeum, due out in just a few weeks. The Dana Montlack: Sea of Cortez exhibit runs through Jan 12, 2014, for anyone interested in visiting.

"Her newest body of work directly references John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951). Steinbeck’s book recounts his six-week expedition through the Gulf of California with marine biologist Ed Ricketts. Part intertidal taxonomy, part ecological travelogue, the book considers themes of home, mapping, and environmental harmony. Working collaboratively with the scientists and staff members at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium, Montlack selected and photographed specimens and charts from the waterways Steinbeck explored. By isolating and layering this source imagery, drawn from the vast Scripps Oceanographic Collections, Montlack crafts a new taxonomy of place." (Text written by Kathryn Kanjo, Chief Curator, MOCA, San Diego)

For more information, please visit: http://www.mcasd.org/exhibitions/dana-montlack-sea-cortez

To learn more about American Athenaeum, visit: www.swordandsagapress.com

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Rollright Witch: An Interview with UK artist David Gosling

Many of you know we ran an in-depth interview with UK artist David Gosling, on his outdoor installation, "Mother Shipton," near the Rollright Witch park in England. The interview was conducted this year by editor Jan Nerenberg in Wales, not long after the work was complete. The ink was hardly dry on the Things They Carry issue of American Athenaeum, when we heard this from Mr. Gosling: 

"Unfortunately the Rollright witch, is no longer--it was pushed over, or had fallen over and was in quite a bad state. We are now in the process of thinking of a new sculpture..." 

We were quite saddened by the news. "We've lost such a great sculpture, but I'm so greatly blessed that I was able to not only view it, but be inspired by it in my writing and research," said Jan from Wales, earlier this month. 
If you haven't yet picked up your copy of the Things They Carry issue of American Athenaeum, it's become a bit of a collectors item. Along with the interview, you'll find pictures of the installation. If you're interesting in learning more, please visit: Things They Carry

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Letter From the Editor on Reasons Why We Accept or Decline

Each quarter, shortly after releasing an issue, the editors like to get together and explore what made our decisions: why did we decline or accept pieces that ultimately created the Things They Carry issue of American Athenaeum? We are all active writers. So while we edit, we’re also sensitive to submitting work and receiving passes. As writers we try to understand the mystery behind editorial decisions, and so, what follows is a small snapshot of what worked and what didn’t.

A little about the journal: We publish a variety of voices, from first-time authors, to high school, college, grad school students, to poet laureates, to first-time novelists, to New York Times bestselling authors—for us, we are all writers, at different levels--or as we like to say, voices, that represent our depth and experience of our day. We parallel this with voices from the past to give a balance to each issue, to hear and consider where we have come from, in order to understand where we are today—that is why we call it a museum of voices. We’re bridging past and present to explore the collective human condition.

That said, many of the pieces for this issue (and previous issues) speak to the compassionate side of human nature—pieces that cause us to look at the hard issues, whether that be reconciling the past deeds of a relative that fought on the Confederate side at Wounded Knee, (Jeff Rasley, Two Ancestors…) or walking on the still ash-riden paths of a concentration camp in Poland to bear witness to the Holocaust, (erica l. kaufman, The Weight of Bearing Witness). In both cases--and I personally see this as an unspoken theme through each issue—the writer acts as a witness to our times and is trying to figure it out. He or she doesn’t have the answers per se, but is willing to face it, to confront wrongs, the past, their own fear, etc., and ultimately present a story about it.

Not all the pieces going into Things They Carry are as weighty as the two mentioned above—some are enjoyable for the sake of being entertaining. “The Art of History” by Jen Faulkner and “Recovered Memories,” by John Mueter are two solid historical fiction pieces. Both are rendered with a unique voice, woven together with authentic details, that lends to a treasure-trove for the reader seeking historic fiction. Susi Levi Wallach’s “And I’ll Blow Your House Down,” is not only humorous but demonstrates the effective use of dialogue to convey character; her tuned-in character descriptions show you images that evoke lasting images.

In poetry, we’re always looking for visual pieces that transport and guide us to something we haven’t seen readily. “Roast Corn Man,” by Robert Truscott, among others, do just that. Equally transporting is Stosch Sabo’s “Moon Swallows,” a majestic, visual ride that encapsulates a once-in-a-lifetime view of these rare birds.

So these are some of the things we look for, and hopefully, the next batch of writers will go further, closer, to get at the conscious thread moving and connecting each of these pieces—to each issue. For more on what we are interested in, please read this interview at Duotrope.com. To purchase the current issue, go here. 

Let's looking closer at what didn’t work. While we do receive plenty of first drafts, work that comes in with typos, or are unfocused, we still search out the author’s intent. Nearly all of the pieces we declined did one of the following:

1. Unfocused, unorganized: Often, especially in non-fiction, two ideas compete for attention and aren’t rendered in an organized fashion. (It is often the author's tale vs. the memory of an event). In fiction, the promise at the start generally doesn’t become fulfilled in the thread. This can be simplified even more to say that more often, fiction and non-fiction, lacked a complete opening paragraph, one that laid out the setting, the main character, and more specifically, the direction of the piece. This is important. Look at your opening and ask: 1. does the reader know what this piece is about and where it will go—that doesn’t mean there can’t be mystery. 2. Is there a viable setting? That means that even in first-person, as the character relates a series of who, what, and where they are going, it also includes the place they are standing. Without setting the story is related from a floating, ethereal place.

2. Short, undeveloped dialogue: Visually, short stories generally have flow. A nice solid opening paragraph, followed by several other equal length paragraphs, interrupted periodically by dialogue. Pieces that visually have two-to-three-word dialogue sentences all the way down a page, like:

“Did you go?”

“No, I didn’t want to.”

“Why not?”


--often won’t get published here. For me, it reads more like a play, and might be the way to go with it. The above example is crude, but illustrative. When dialogue is short and reminiscent of a back and forth tennis match, what is often missing is the internal dialogue of the main character. Much of the dialogue quips can be explained in prose, shortened, and internalized. Instead, writers put down what comes into their head, rather than taking charge. The above example might revert to:

“Did you go?”

When he asked me that question, I froze wondering if he’d find out about the affair—was I willing to lie? “No, I didn’t want to,” I said, easily.

Or something like that. Something is going on inside the character. That’s more interesting then a back and forth match.

3. More on Setting. As the first reader, if your piece lacks a world building foundation, it often doesn’t go much further. Here’s why. If your opening paragraph lacks a setting, then it tells me that the author left it in their imagination—since it’s there, and not on the paper, then I can assume the rest will have missing parts too. More often, we’re sent first drafts, that although decent, were written with the plot or direction in mind, missing our good friend, Setting, to allow the reader the visual component, in addition to the rest, to fully “see” the world. (I give examples of this in previous posts.)

4. Too violent, sexual, or lacked a clear connection to the journal focus. Sometimes a piece will be great on all accounts, but be too violent without a human connection, or too sexual, for no apparent reason, or just has nothing to do with our vision, which is easy enough to grasp perusing the website.

5. Farmhouse poetry, pure nostalgia: poems that worked in base imagery, images we’ve seen readily, rather than taking us to some glimmer of the unseen. Often, we see poems describing a location, and it’s nothing new, nor are the relationships, between words or imagery, interesting.

6. A hero to follow, sooner than later: We want to find characters interesting enough to follow. Often, we pass on stories that didn’t get going until several pages in. Again, it’s a sign of a first draft, the author organizing the ideas in the brain, then putting them on paper, falling in love with what work they accomplished, (we all do), but not seeing that it slows momentum. Imagine for a moment if your story was a movie: would you stick around for three pages waiting for some kernel to happen? Would you want to know the back story to a character without knowing what’s at stake?

Surprisingly,we see many stories that open with a character getting up, waking, showering, dwelling on the day, looking at the day, imagining or reflecting on the night before, and so on. As John Dudek, our poetry editor, put it, it only works if it’s the only option for the character.

7. Experimental "works" if you know what you’re doing.

8. Things we see too often—funerals, cancer, the voice from the dead hovering to tell a story; doomy and gloomy pieces, (see my blog post on Amazing Stories Magazine for this). I can’t say we wouldn’t look at these, because we’re still publishing them. But the caution is that they have to be something we haven’t seen. Some are identical. In her essay, "Close to My Heart," Gail Jeddy portrays all the terror of illness (cancer), without hardly ever mentioning it; she also takes the reader to the side of hope, rather than letting us linger with the weight of it.

9. Originality. Just as we can say what we see a lot of, we can also say what we don’t see a lot of—original. What does that mean? One example from the Things they Carry issue is “Roots of Green,” by Rachel Routier, which tells an oral history of a blind woman in India, during civil war, that guides (over her lifetime) tree roots across a river to make a bridge; it's brilliant. 

10. Racist, separatism, Us vs. Them work. 

Our hope is that as fellow writers, this information will assist you in looking at your work honestly—without the charm and glint from having written something. For many, who lack time, writing a short story in say, six months, is quite an achievement and should be celebrated—but it might only be a draft and need another six months to become tight and organized. What's the rush? Honor the work and story first and foremost. Publishing is secondary. 

For anyone interested, we do offer short story critiques for $25. We do this because it not only helps raise funds to support the journal, but allows us to be of service and give back to writers, who, like us, may not have a professional reader available when needed. Our turn-around time is generally within the week, or sooner, so if you’re sending to a contest, or sample chapters from a novel to agents/publishers, take a moment and send it to us. If you’re submitting work for publication, and sign up for a critique, and we think it has merit and publish it, we’ll send you a copy of the journal in return. No hard sell. Those interested will seek the service out.

While all reading is open, rolling, and no charge, we also offer a donation submission of $2, of which we see $1—in return, in the event we decline the piece, we offer critical feedback as to why. So that option is also available to writers who prefer a rejection letter with a hint of understanding why.

We also offer classes, query critiques, and more at our Writer’s House. Again, these small services support the collective effort. And we appreciate all those who participate, past and future.

So that is our wrap up for the Things They Carry issue. We’re actively reading for the Wayfarers All. See our submission page for details on submitting.

Lastly, we recognize writers don’t read literary journals, so we won’t hard sell you to read American Athenaeum—as writer, we often focus on writing, as it should be. But we are looking for readers—average readers who might enjoy an issue on the toilet, or in a doctor’s office, at night by a campfire, or in a reading club interesting in exploring our museum of words. If you have friends and family that read, and you like what we're doing, send them a note about us, or purchase a gift subscription. Subscriptions at a low-cost here

Until next issue, 
Hunter Liguore
Editor-in-chief, American Athenaeum
A Sword & Saga Press publication

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wayfarers All: Call for Submissions

Currently accepting submissions for our double issue Wayfarers All, dedicated to the wayfarer in us all We ask you: where have you traveled and where will you go next, and more importantly, what have you learned along the way. For some, "travel" might be from one room to the next, or to another country, or down a new road in life.

We seek work that speaks out, offers compassion, seeks answers and solutions rather than dwelling in a state of inertia and inactivity. We have several departments that make us unique, and give the journal focus.  See website for details.