Georgia on my Mind

One week from this very evening, myself and nine other talented individuals (an assortment of academics, poets, dramatists, and fiction authors) will be hopping a plan to Savannah, Georgia for an international conference of English Honor students. I am hugely excited not only for the chance to present my story, Gazer (which will also be appearing in Cellar Door: Coloring Book) and to explore what looks to be a beautiful and intriguing city but also to share ideas and be inspired by the thousands of other literary nerds that will be in attendance. Cellar Door (by way of Tales to Oddify) was birthed at one of these very conventions. Expect interesting news and fresh ideas to come after my return from this trip.


First Friday on Santa Fe!

We had some wicked cold here in Denver lately so I decided to head down Santa Fe before the sun set this weekend past to honor my dedication to make it out every First Friday this year (in some form...in some location). Even hitting the stretch early, while many artists were still setting up, I managed to take in a lot of great work.

You'll want to visit the DEAD Academy (housed upstairs in the Colorado Arts Center at 841 Santa Fe) if you have never done so or even if you have not lately. Zak and his dedicated associates have been hanging a bunch of really great pieces from private collections! Right now you can see original artwork for Sin City and Aeon Flux. There is also no shortage of original art from Denver locals. There is a five foot tall (approx) Joker on wood by Zac Skellington Conley that I would do bad things of super villain caliber to acquire for my wall. You should check out DeadAcademy.com for more information on these guys!

Downstairs I met Joe Kimble who does amazing things with screenprinting! Below is just one example of the awesome B&W work he was exhibiting the other night. He does a great variety of sizes you don't find every day for those of you that might have an odd shaped void to fill in your space. Be sure to check out his web presence. Be sure to drop him a comment to let you know you found him here. I'd love to see his work in the pages of Cellar Door.

An artist who perfectly embodies the theme of color (for the book in progress Cellar Door: Coloring Book) is Michelle Soule (of Souleart.com). She paints glorious gardens from her imagination and sculpts clay figures that embody both an ancient sensibility and an embrace of new spirituality. She also opens her loft home on Santa Fe as a gallery once a month for a very intimate showing of an artist and her space.

I was also charmed by talented illustrator, Sara Wilson. The art world needs more magic like that demonstrated in her whimsical images. You can browse and purchase prints of her wonderful work at Etsy.com/shop/FlyOkayIllustration.

There were lots of other great examples of why you should support Denver's local art scene. Hopefully you will see some of them in the upcoming pages of Cellar Door. Make sure you make it out to the next First Friday on March 7!


The Buttons are Back!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The buttons are back on Etsy.com (a glorious web collection of shops that specialize in vintage and/or handmade goods). Find your favorite author, artist, or musician to sport on your coats and bags or tell us who you would like to see added. There is now a commission option that lets you choose the face and quote on the button and get ten of them (or an assortment of 10 pre-made designs) for a steal! Why would you NOT want to click on the link below this statement? ;)


Denver Comic Con 2013

Another fantastic year for the Denver Comic Con! Got to meet some true heroes (Chris Ware and George Takei were my personal inspirational favorites) as well as a ton of new and interesting people who were interested in chatting about the upcoming books.

Don't worry if you have not heard from us in a while (especially concerning your submission for book 5). Things are still steaming ahead and we're hoping to get Coloring Book all finished by late July or early August. Tabling at this fantastic con was a great reminder that people have been patiently waiting for more books :)

ALSO! Don't forget to check in with Denvercomiccon.com to keep in the know about 2014 as well as www.comicbookclassroom.org to see how you can participate throughout the year!

Stay nerdy my friends!


The First Line

Hey everybody! We have not had a contest in a while. This will be the first in a new monthly tradition. It is called THE FIRST LINE CONTEST. Submit a great first line in the comment section and we'll choose the one we like best. Winner gets a swell prize. This month's stellar offering will be a copy of Jillian M. Phillips' poetry collection Pretty the Ugly (check out the interview with the poet in the previous blog). If you have any questions feel free to email us at Cellar.Door.Book@gmail.com so as not to clog up the competition space.

Need some examples? Yours (of course) must be orginal but here's a few that the interweb considers some of the best:

"Call me Ishmael." (Herman Melville's Moby Dick)

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." (George Orwell's 1984)

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." (Charles Dickens' David Copperfield)

Aaaaaand go!


Pretty the Ugly: An interview with Jillian M. Phillips

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the phenomenal Jillian M. Phillips about her latest publication success, her poetry collection Pretty the Ugly. 

Michael William Prince: First off, congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment. The book is fantastic. You should be very proud of yourself.

Jillian M. Phillips: Thank you. And thank you for your continued support of my work through Cellar Door.

MWP: It is always our pleasure. Could you speak to us on how you chose “Pretty the Ugly” as the title poem? Do you feel like it properly encapsulates the entire collection or was there another idea behind the choice?

JMP: Honestly, when I wrote that poem, I was really frustrated with the process of accessing the ghosts and trying to use them as fuel for my poetry. It was my attempt to suss out how it works and why it was such an attractive ideal to utilize the dark places and bring light into them. When I finished it, I realized that it described everything I was trying to accomplish with the other poems in the collection. Every poem was my way of trying to deal with what I find unattractive in myself, the world, and (yes) other people. I was trying to take “ugly” or “dark” things and make them into “art.” I was, quite literally, trying to pretty them up.

MWP: Excellent. Could you clarify the part of the process called "accessing the ghosts"? It sounds fascinating and I believe all of us can be inspired by each other's processes.

JMP: It is basically the process of figuring out what/who haunts me and creating a dialogue with them in my head. What do I want to say to them? Why are they still there? How to address the void without falling into one.

MWP: Really an excellent way to go about it! What amount of time do these poems span in your body of work?

JMP: These poems took a little over a year to write. I did an undergraduate project in the Fall of 2011 in which I interviewed women of my university and wrote poems based on their experiences, creating a poetic narrative for them.(A few of those poems are in the final section of the collection.) I became very inspired by their stories and realized that I really wanted to explore more feminist topics in my poetry, as well as address my own stories, the ones I had trouble making sense of. While interviewing those women, I was taken with their willingness to be so candid. I wanted to be like that in my poetry.  

MWP: Well I feel like you've accomplished it beautifully.Your poems speak volumes about the human experience. Do you see poetry as more a tool for self discovery? As an expression of things you have discovered in other ways? Both? What else?

JMP: I think it can be both. I see poetry as a way to comment on your view of the world. There is a lot of emphasis on the separation between “the poet” and “the speaker” but I think that, at the heart of every poem, the poet is always speaking. That isn’t to say the poet is always the character in the poem. I’ve written poems in which I take on the persona of someone else, but I am always the one choosing the words, the diction, the structure of the poem. No matter who the speaker is, the poet still controls what they are saying.

That said, I think poetry is a fantastic vehicle for self-discovery. For instance, many of the poems in Pretty the Ugly were my way of figuring out how I felt about certain things in my past. I knew there were things that haunted me, but it was only in writing about them was I able to figure out what it was about them that made them stay. Nevertheless, I sometimes I had to pretend to be someone else, use a different speaker, in order to say what I needed to. I was basically playing Cyrano de Bergerac with my poetry: “Here’s what I need to say, but I need you to say it for me.”

MWP: I know that you are also a mother, an academic, and an actress among other things. What is your strategy for establishing and/or stealing time to write?

JMP: I really want to be one of those writers that wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and writes for two hours before getting everyone off to school, or shuts off all communication after dinner to cloister themselves in their office until they’ve written a certain amount of pages. I’ve tried. It’s just not me. To be honest, there are months when I can’t write anything beyond a grocery list. I write in fits and starts, I always have. I have somehow developed the ability to become practically deaf when I need to write something. I can be in my office, a crowded cafe, even the McDonald’s Playland. If I have a poem in my head, I can write no matter what’s going on. For me, it really isn’t a matter of finding time to write, just finding something that needs to be written. Even if I was one those structured writers, and believe me I have tried, those hours at the desk with nothing coming out would be torture. This way, I can torture myself, but get other things done in the meantime.

MWP: Who are your influences? Are there both classic as well as contemporary poets that you call upon? Inspirations from other mediums?

JMP: I’ve always been inspired by music, movies, and art. To be honest, I started seriously writing poetry when I was about 14 because of John Singleton’s film, Poetic Justice. In the summers, I would watch it every night and just write the whole time. Maya Angelou is the poet that taught me that poetry doesn't have to rhyme, and she did it with that movie. I also did a lot of writing to Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, etc. I still do sometimes. I also love finding paintings that make me stare at them, like “Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida” by Ivan Albright. I saw it at the Art Institute of Chicago and it haunted me for a year and a half before I finally sat down to write about it. I love that.

Of course, I always to turn most often to poets, sometimes for education, other times for inspiration, even for courage. As cliche as it may sound, I have to give props to Sylvia Plath. If it weren't for her and Anne Sexton, I wouldn't have known how to even approach some the poems in this collections. I think their tragedy and popularity cause them to be underrated sometimes, but I know I can always turn to them when I just need some angry-girl-time. I also turn to Adrienne Rich, Jan Beatty, and, most recently, Matthea Harvey. I love how all of them access their past in order to create art that speaks to me as a person as well as a poet. Matthea Harvey, especially, has this insane ability to use structure and ekphrasis simultaneously to create amazing personal poems. I can’t even explain it. Her poem, “Triptych”, is the perfect example of what I’m trying to say.

I also love anthologies, especially Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics, edited by Arielle Greenberg and Lara Glenum, and A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, edited by Stacy Lynn Brown and Oliver de la Paz. Both are incredibly diverse and inspiring. Of course I love other poets. I have almost two hundred poetry collections. I’ve only listed the ones I can think of right now. 

MWP: Your poetry flows so beautifully and the imagery is so stunning. What is the best advice you can give to those intimidated by the art of poetry? In both writing it and appreciating it?

JMP: I truly believe that anyone interested in literature, anyone who enjoys reading, can find a poet they love. It just takes time, patience, and a great library. Some people want structure, classic lines, a bit of history (see Shakespeare, Wordsworth, pretty much anyone pre-1900 in my opinion); others want poetry that’s easy to see in the mind and doesn't over-complicate what it’s trying to say (Billy Collins, Philip Levine, Robert Frost). Honestly, there’s poetry I don’t get either. I was once reading a very well-regarded lit journal that contained a poem that included the line, “My brain is like a microwave burrito,” and that was most comprehensive part of the poem. The rest was beyond me. You just have to keep trying until you find an aesthetic that you enjoy.

As for writing poetry, you just have to keep trying. Find poets you like and try to emulate what it is you love about them until you develop a confidence in your own voice. Don’t get discouraged if you write a crappy poem. Everyone writes crappy poems. The only reason you don’t think they do is that they don’t try to publish them. Want proof you need to keep trying? The first serious poem I wrote was in wood shop. It was called, “My Wooden Heart”. It was about my crush, and how “my wooden heart/ has yet to start” because he didn’t like me back. Every line rhymed. It was bad. I kept writing. I still have it. It’s awesome its catastrophic awfulness. 

MWP: Saving it for one of our legendary Sigma Tau Delta Bad Poetry contests perhaps? What are you working on now?

JMP: Last year, there was a documentary on PBS about the Big Apple Circus. I was incredibly inspired by it, so I’m working on a novel-in-verse about a boy who uses the circus to re-figure his reality into something he can deal with. He recasts the people in life as circus performers in order to deal with the bad things in his life. It’s slow-going. It may end up that pet project that I come to year after year, work on for a bit, and then step away. Other than that, I’m just trying to make sure I write stuff in general, be it a book review, an essay, whatever. I really want to be one of those people that maintains an interesting blog. I’ve tried three times. I don’t think it’s going to happen. In the meantime, I try to write things for other people’s blogs.

MWP: Well on behalf of one of those blogs, I thank you mightily. Is there anything else you would like to address for our readership?

JMP: Write what scares you, bothers you, pisses you off, makes you happy. Write about anything that sticks in your craw, haunts you, crawls into bed with you. And please keep reading whatever speaks to you, sings to you. Keep exploring what’s hidden in the dark corners or kept on the high shelves. And take a nap from time to time. These are the things that keep me going.

MWP: Excellent. Thank you so much Jillian!

Jillian M. Phillips' collection, Pretty the Ugly is available now on Amazon. Make sure to get yourself a copy! We will also be having a contest right here on the blog in the next week to win a free copy so be sure and stay tuned!


Submitting 101!

Guest blogger and exquisite poet/writer Jillian Phillips knows a thing (or eleven!) about getting her work out there and read. Check out this great essay of advice she's written so you can get your work in print and noticed as well:

Submission: Or, 11 Shades of Trying to Get Published

As I continue to submit my work to journals in the hopes of getting published, as well as reading submissions for other journals, I have come to learn a few things about the process. Every “how-to-publish” article gives you the same rules and tips. I am going to reiterate some of them, because there is always someone who hasn’t heard them yet or just doesn’t get it and needs to hear it again. I am presenting these learned lessons in a list to keep them organized. They are in no particular order.

  1. No matter how many times it gets said, some people just don’t pay attention. The easiest way to get rejected? Typos. Proofread your work! You have pored over your work, agonized over its composition, and finally gathered the confidence to submit it. Do not make the mistake of forgetting to examine your submission like you would a strange-looking mole on your skin. Seriously, in a world where editors have to spend hours reading hundreds of submissions, the easiest way for them to decide between equally great works is to reject the one that spelled a word wrong or used “your” instead of “you’re”. Do not rely on spell check. It is NOT your friend!!! If you need convincing, YouTube “The Impotence of Proofreading”. (Yes, I spelled that right.)

  1. Don’t send edits once you’ve already submitted. It should have been your best in the first place. However, revising is good. If it gets rejected, go ahead and throw in that new material before you submit it again. If you’re accepted without the edit, roll with it. You can always use that new material in something else.

  1. Know who you are submitting to. Really read the journal. Most are online so you have no excuse for not getting a taste. And pay attention to what they want! Some journals want work similar to what they’re publishing; others, like RATTLE, want work that isn’t like what they’re publishing because they want to publish what’s missing. Which leads to…

  1. Do. Your. Research. Be in the know. The easiest way to do this is to follow every journal that interests you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Often, they will post submission deadlines, new works, and events. Sharing these is good karma and the bonus is that they occasionally post emergency calls. For example, I have seen several calls for creative nonfiction when the submissions they had already received were not up to par. Additionally, FB and Twitter offer suggestions of similar pages and people that you may not have known about. You need that information!!!

  1. Read the submission guidelines. Twice, three times, and one more for good measure. Another easy way to get rejected is by not formatting your submission in the way the journal wants. For instance, some journals require a specific subject line for email submissions. It seems arbitrary, but when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of submissions are coming in, the easiest way to weed through them is by setting their system to reject or spam any email that comes in without that subject line. It’s not just about rejection, though. It’s about respect. If you cannot respect someone who is going to decide the fate of the work you put your heart and soul into by doing something as simple as following a guideline, you probably shouldn’t be a writer. Respect may not get you everywhere, but disrespect will definitely get you nowhere. (If you have questions, however, most journals are happy to answer them. Most likely because it demonstrates respect for them and shows that you are serious and professional.)


  1. It doesn’t hurt to friend writers of similar genres on FB, Twitter, etc. Some are just awesome people to follow, but the benefit is that it keeps you in the loop of what is going on in your writing area (by that, I mean poetry readings, new books coming out, symposiums, conferences on your favorite topic, et al.) Also, the higher caliber of writer they are, the more likely it is that they edit something. Now, don’t take that to mean “If we’re friends, they’ll publish me.” That is arrogant. Even if you do submit to them, don’t expect them to pull strings. Be published on the merit of your work. But, having friends who are editors means you get to learn about publishing from their side. From posts about pet peeves to interesting articles to events they post, you will learn. Some may even be willing to give you advice. If you ask very nicely.

  1. Another tip about getting to know editors/journals: read Duotrope Digest. Most writers know the benefits of this site (acceptance rates, submission trackers) but the editor interviews are incredible. You find their preferences, their pet peeves, what they’re looking for… things you may not get on other sites. Use it!

  1. Submit other stuff. If you write fiction, consider doing some essays on craft or book reviews for journals, review sites, etc. While it may not get your creative work published, it serves other purposes: A) People will know your name when your creative work comes out eventually (many book publishers want to see this stuff, it’s almost mandated that you have a presence somewhere). B) By reviewing, at least, you learn how readers see work and how critics examine it. Developing that eye is going to help you.

  1. (Also known as 7B) Consider volunteering as a reader for journals. It may give you a confidence complex seeing all the good stuff that’s out there (I’ve been there, it happens, you shall overcome), but using that critical information to your advantage will make you a better writer in the long run. It will teach you what editors are really looking for. Doing just this has made me pay more attention to my own work. I notice issues with my diction, when my images aren’t working together or hard enough, etc. It’s also made me more conscious of when my work is ready. Can it still be improved? Will I feel okay about asking someone to spend their time reading it when that time is precious?

  1. Don’t let rejection get you down. It happens. Get crafty and use them to make lampshades or cute decoupage. Really, it happens and does not mean there is no hope for you or your writing. As a reader, I hate having to say “No, Editor, they just don’t seem right” but I honestly haven’t seen anything incredibly bad. If you get comments, listen to them. Readers and editors who care enough to send you comments and actually take the time to do so should be paid attention to. You may not agree with what they say, and that’s fine. But consider them.
And finally,
  1. Take rejection gracefully!!! DO NOT write hateful letters, bash the journal, or threaten the editors. A) In the world of social media, word gets around. Don’t be the writer no one wants to work with. B) Honestly, being ass really doesn’t help you. It just turns you into an anecdote. I know an editor who received an email from a guy who said he hoped a poop-shaped meatloaf fell on her head… Judging by that half-assed image (haha, pun not intended), he probably deserved that rejection. I’m sure he could have done better if he had put more time and thought into it.