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.


Strange & Wonderful

Thought you'd all like to know that the books are now available for purchase at a wonderful coffee shop in the antique district down South Broadway (1417 South Broadway to be exact). The owner's name is Frida and she is really great. Make sure and try one of her caffeinated concoctions and talk to her about what cool music and DIY events will be coming through there. There is always something going on! 


November Looms!

I know there are other VERY important deadlines between now and November (insert not-so-subtle cough...Cellar Door: Coloring Book on October 15! ah hem!) but has anybody started scheming and plotting a novel length wonder for this year's NaNoWriMo?

Myself and the brilliant folks of Metro State University's English Honors Society will be working hard to make for an unforgettable month of writing hijinx! 50,000 words will sing out from your laptop like nothing if you come and work with us at our campus events. Fact!


The DEADlines.

The deadline for all content (with the exception of illustrations) for Cellar Door: Coloring Book will be due by October 15. Submit your work through our fledgling website at www.beyondCellarDoor.com. As always, let us know if you have any questions.

A link to the original call for talent can be found in the right hand column.


Big Year Colorado

Today at Leela European Cafe (downtown Denver) our dear friend Jennifer Goodland will be hosting a photo show for her fantastic project, Big Year Colorado. She's been adventuring all around this great state photographing everything from ghost towns to festivals to derelict vehicles and hillbillies ("there are always hillbillies!"). You'll be able to see all her great work compiled into a book this coming September. Come get a preview of it tonight!

Search "Big Year Colorado" on Facebook and Twitter for more information on this project.


Writing the Ghosts (by Jillian Phillips)

      When I first became “serious” about writing poetry, I was all about being pastoral. I found beauty in nature, its simplicity inspired me and there was always plenty of opportunity to use it in various, non-complex ways. I began as the nerdy girl in the front of class, pretending I was taking notes while actually writing bland love poems about my crush du jour (and they were bad). It took years to move beyond my permanently unrequited loves and move towards subjects outside of myself. To write a poem about a tree or a pond became a major event, because it wasn’t about me. The irony is that I began to become uncomfortable talking about myself at all. I would sit in undergrad poetry workshops with poems about vocabulary, nature, you-name-it. Very rarely did I write about myself, and when I did, it was so bogged down with image and diction that I became a secondary focus, the language was what I wanted people to see.

     Flash forward to now, as I sit in the midst of a fantastic graduate program at the University of Nebraska studying for my MFA in writing (my focus is poetry, of course). Every semester, the students are paired with different mentors. These educators are not your typical profs; they are writers, publishers, editors, basically everything a writer wants to be when they “grow up.” Yes, they teach at other programs, and are fantastic, but what sets them apart for those of us in the program, is that they truly care about what we want to write, what we want to study. One girl in my program is the sweetest thing you’ll ever meet, but her dark writing literally gives me nightmares, she is that damned good! Her mentors will steer her towards the dark, grotesque-yet-eloquent writers that best exemplify the writing she wants to produce. Last semester, I wanted to work on developing a feminist voice and examine race, class, sex/gender roles; I read Ai, Plath, Rich, Lorde, an anthology called Gurlesque, and about twenty poets I had never heard of. It was fantastic. I evolved. I became comfortable with these subjects I wasn’t totally sure I was qualified to write about as a white, heterosexual, married woman with five kids. But I did it.

     So what do I want to write about now? My rage. My. Rage. There are writers out there who have made entire careers based on their personal lives. My concern is that I am not entirely comfortable writing about the dark places, and I am so scared of any writing that does come from those places will be too maudlin or, worse, too “flowery.” But I still want to do it. Why? Because no writer truly writes for him/herself, no matter what they say. They always want someone to read their work and connect to it, react to it, feel something. Like my dark friend, the fact that her work gave me nightmares is somewhat of a compliment because she knows that it stuck with someone. So how do I connect when I’m not even sure of what to say?

Here is what I know: there are poets and prose writers (prosets?) that have gone before me. There will be some Etheridge Knight, some Anne Sexton, Plath of course, Sharon Olds and others on my list that have explored/expressed anger in different ways. This is a good place to start, always find someone who’s doing what you want to do.

Second? I’m going to write crap. I believe it was Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird that recommends writing “shitty first drafts.” Now that is not to say that one shouldn’t even attempt to write something good before writing something awful, but that one should feel comfortable with imperfection. Remember this: no one will read your work until you deem it ready to be read. Take all the time you need to revise and make it into what you want it to be, but don’t be worried if it comes out like, well, shit, the first few times.

After that, I’ll cull some of my favorite parts and play around with them. At a lecture during my most recent MFA residency, Natalie Diaz presented a marvelous new technique: IEDs, Image Explosive Devices. These little sweethearts break apart that simple image you have, say, an apple, and blow it up into millions of pieces. Identify all of the things an apple is, all of the things it is not. What is the space it occupies, the space it does not occupy? From three pages of exploring everything you can about this one image, you can retrieve one or two amazing things about it that are completely new. When working with what scares you, a little explosion is always warranted, if only to pick it apart so much that it becomes almost meaningless, like saying “egg” over and over—after the 40th time, does it even seem like a word anymore? Will this ghost that you’ve built up and given power to still be imposing when you’ve stripped it naked and dissected the corpse it came from? Maybe, maybe not. But there will be some amount of triumph and pride that you got through it.

Another idea to try is the extended metaphor. Write a poem (or story) that has seemingly nothing to do with the thing you are actually writing about. For instance, me being my pastoral self, I wrote a poem about a tree in a forest being overshadowed by a taller tree, shaking beneath it in storms, but never getting the light or water it needed to flourish and basically allowing the other tree to have all the power. It wasn’t about a frickin’ tree. It was about an abusive relationship where someone simply shrinks away and allows it to happen. Only one girl in my workshop got it. But she got it. That’s the person you’re ultimately aiming for, but if you’re scared to address something, do it by using a veil. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable enough to write the next “Daddy” (Sylvia Plath, I do love you so, no matter how cliché our love affair may be). You can’t get to the “Screw you/it/this/him/her/all of it,” without first clearing your throat a few times and mustering up the courage. Extended metaphor is a great thing to try for doing just that.

Finally, don’t be afraid to be funny. Remember that old adage, “If you’re scared to go on stage, just imagine the audience in their underwear?” While odd, and, depending on the audience, disturbing, it has a grain of truth to it. How often do we try to find the humor in the most serious things? At funerals, people tell happy stories about the dearly departed because they want to lighten the mood. It doesn’t cheapen their mourning, but provides an outlet for it. If something about your fear is ridiculous, be ridiculous. Heck, even Harry Potter learned that in Defense Against the Dark Arts (3rd book, I think thing was called a boggart). Even if it doesn’t work, it may make you more comfortable.

In the end it comes down to the things we want to expose, and how we go about doing it. I am not entirely comfortable trying to write about things that upset me, but I look at it like this: if the ghosts are determined to hang around, they better damn well make themselves useful, give them a chore or two to earn their keep in the recesses of your mind and heart.

In closing, I’d like to share the obligatory anecdote of a writer’s life. I asked a poet to autograph her book, Boneless, for me after a great reading of her work and an amazing lecture on compression and the line. We hadn’t talked about any of this, but she took a couple of minutes in signing my book. You want kismet? Here is the inscription she wrote to me:

“To Jillian—With Pleasure in your wild spirit! Write what scares you—Jan Beatty, 2012.”
Amen, Jan. I plan to.


PALE CROW: Inaugural Issue!

Thanks to the efforts of D.Michael Kingsford and other members of the Cellar Door staff and friends, the first issue of Pale Crow is now available for your enjoyment, inspiration, and education! Pale Crow will be available at the beginning of each month. Its pages include reviews, serials, articles, horoscopes and a calendar letting you know about great local events.

You can get the current issue (and future ones) by clicking the links in the left column of this blog.

Make sure to send any letters, questions, comments and the such to us at Cellar.Door.Boo@gmail.com (for now).


The Luminous Jillian Phillips

The Needled Tailor

Jillian M. Phillips

He has sewn himself
to my side and I,
so desperate to feel loved,
and honored,
and protected,
have let him.

He has taken his silvery thread
so delicate,
so translucent,
and fastened himself
securely to me.

He has opened himself
to give me a chance to see into him;
the gaping hole,
a chasm of hope and desire,
so wide I am not sure
if it is too deep to swim
or too far to reach
across to other side.

He has come to me seeking
to be valid and wanted
and I feel stronger,
more secure,
more needed,
more myself.

He has lent himself to me
as a harbor,
as a pattern already cut,
a place for me to come home to.

But, I do not need his home,
his stitched protection,
his remnants of greater love stories
patched together like a haphazard quilt.

He has sewn himself
to my side
and I have had
to let the thread unravel
until I am no longer
sewn to him.

Cellar Door is honored to announce that Jillian Phillips, an uber talented poet and writer hailing from Eau Claire, WI, will be joining us as a guest blogger. She's been widely published in various formats including multiple issues of our anthology.

Make sure to show her plenty of literary love.


Cellar Door: Coloring Book

Hey all. In case you missed the mass mailing, here is the announcement for book 5! Deadlines should be following shortly:

Greetings, friends, and hurry down the steps. It's cool and dry down here in the cellar, and we've much to discuss! It's been a hectic few months... We've celebrated our successful kickstartings and produced two simultaneous books of startling quality and style. We could not have achieved any of this without your collective faith and support. We'd like to quickly thank and quickly apologize. Quickly! We must be quick because our hunger and ambition is not to be sated. “More!” our hearts cry out. The ink isn't yet dry on our last books and yet “More!” is all we hear from the confines of our rattling skulls. And so the staff has met to form such a frantic conspiracy to call for...
Cellar Door
Coloring Book
an anthological experience of color in art, fiction, poetry, and sequential form.
Cellar Door, the literary and visual arts publication is calling for work inspired by, motivated through, or wrapped in glorious color for its next exciting issue to be released in the fourth quarter of 2012.
We're calling this one Coloring Book, though not the kind that might beg the attention of a worn box of crayons. We're dividing the book up into a dozen different colors like chapters with similarly inspired works grouped together. We want this book to be a visual feast, explosive like 'diet coke and mentos' for your eyes. Every piece will be tied to a particular color, either metaphorically, such as the blueness that settles over a would-be mother burying yet another still-born, or directly, such as the blue of a bucket of smurf blood. Do you have a story that speaks purple? Do you have a painting that feels olive? How about a poem that makes you want to rhyme with orange? Submit!

The Process

Chapter Choosing!
                Coloring Book will be composed of chapters of similar works divided by color. In order to be accepted with the color of your choice be sure to submit in a timely manner. We will not entertain requests for specific colors. Send your work as early as you can.
                Please send all submissions to Cellar.Door.Book@gmail.com. Include your name in the e-mail only. The submission should only contain the title, content, and page numbers formatted in standard MLA.

By submitting your unpublished work, you understand that, if accepted, Cellar Door is acquiring First North American Serial Rights which gives us the right to publish your work for the first time in the North American market. You, the author retain all other rights to the work and will be contacted for permission if we plan to include it in any future collections. If the work is not published within nine months of acceptance all first rights are null and void. Any use of your material in the format of Podcasts and MP3 will be protected under the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial - No Derivatives 3.0 license (seehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for full details). Basically this protects your work from any attempts to use it commercially or creating derivatives not approved by the creator of the work.

                If you have any questions or comments, please contact us at Cellar.Door.Book@gmail.com.


On the Near Horizon

 Hello out there! Not only should there be more blogs to check out on here pretty soon but ALSO more neato stuff to buy, read, and generally make you a better nerd...I mean person...I mean nerd.

First of all. Soon we should have all of the books on here for purchase. You won't be finding them on good old Amazon and such for a while (those things cost more than our growing pains budget can handle). We are also working on making PDF and kindle versions available to our great audience ASAP. If you have any experience or advice with these sorts of things make sure and drop us an e-mail at Cellar.Door.Book@gmail.com. 

Also wanted you to know that if you were one of our loyal supporters in the Kickstarter campaign to print books three and four, you should be receiving a survey soon asking you to identify your choices for the incentives. Be on the look out. We're going to get everything out to you this month!

For this reason, we ask that our talented and faithful contributors continue to be patient in obtaining their contributor copies. We have to take care of the debts and then you're up! Always send us a note if you have any questions.



Nate Hamel - Radio Star!

The Tattoo Ad Challenge

Nate Hamel in the Studio!

Hey everyone! This is some really rad news! Freelance illustrator/comic book artist Nathan Hamel has won a radio contest with Alice 105.9 that is going to get him prime tattoo advertising space on the arms of one of the hosts. In return he is going to create a comic turning said host into a superhero. This is so cool. Nate, a teacher at the DEAD Academy, a staff member of the Denver Comic Con, a contributor to Cellar Door and many other awesome things has vowed to remember all of us as more opportunities for advertising and events come up through this wacky and wonderful experience.

Thanks so much Nate!

You can listen to his winning phone call and subsequent studio visit by checking out the links above.

- Michael


Sneak Peak! The art of the six-page intro for "Ancient"

Hey everyone! Leila here.

"Cellar Door: Ancient" is coming along fantastically! We're at 230-ish pages! It's funny to think back a few months ago when I thought I would only receive ten submissions and would have to buff up the book by adding filler pages. This is not the case at all, and I'm super impressed with the talent in this book! The final count is 26 artists and creative teams. That means 26 short comics, all ready to be held in your summer hands within the next few months!

The art you see above is the six-page introduction comic that I drew and colored for the anthology. I usually draw my comics very tight and detailed and it was unbelievably refreshing to loosen up, not worry about what my employers wanted, and just do what felt right for me to draw. I kept the coloring simple with a limited color palette, and I actually had fun coloring a comic for the first time!

I felt like I could breathe with this short comic and it's definitely inspired me to draw more simplified comics for myself in the future. It also helped remind me how important personal projects are. After a few years of doing art for other people, it was nice to do this one without worrying about creative restraints. Don't get me wrong, I love the paid work I'm doing now, but I need to take a break from them sometimes and do what I want to do.

I hope you enjoy the little preview! We'll be keeping you posted with release dates, you saucy readers, you.