Call for Submissions: Spoon Knife 5

The Basics

Autonomous Press seeks submissions of poetry, short fiction, and short memoir pieces for an upcoming anthology, Spoon Knife 5: Liminal.

Scheduled for publication in Fall 2020, this fifth volume of the Spoon Knife Anthology series follows The Spoon Knife Anthology: Tales of Compliance, Defiance, and Resistance (Spring 2016), Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber (Spring 2017), Spoon Knife 3: Incursions (Fall 2018), Spoon Knife 4: A Neurodivergent Guide to Spacetime (Fall 2019).

Deadline for submissions is Tuesday, December 31, 2019.

What We’re Looking For

limen: Latin, “threshold”

A liminality is a threshold, the place between here and there which is, in itself, both and neither. From it we get the word “subliminal” meaning, literally, “below the threshold of sensation.” A liminal space is a transitional zone. It is at the heart of a ritual or rite of passage, when one is no longer the thing they started as, but has yet to become the thing they will be. To stand at a liminal point is to occupy both sides of a boundary at once. Liminality can be disorienting, unsettling, ambiguous, and uncomfortable, but it can also be freeing, an existence without labels or boxes, or a means to a new becoming.

We are looking for fiction, poetry, and memoir that explores thresholds and liminalities of all kinds. The work must further intersect with themes of neurodivergence, queerness, and/or the intersections of neurodivergence and queerness. Some examples might be:

  • the experience of occupying liminal space as an individual
  • the experience of collective or cultural liminal spaces, such as demimondes
  • rites of passage, including via formal ritual or ceremony, or as a transition between states of being, locations, moments in time or ages, statuses, or situations
  • sensory phenomena that occur at the threshold of sensation, perhaps sensed by some but not by others
  • metamorphosis or transformation
  • explorations into the subconscious or other borderland spaces
  • ghosts, entities out of phase with the material world, virtual entities, voices, or other characters that exist in threshold or liminal/subliminal spaces
  • doorways, gateways, and the literal and figurative passageways between here and there

The Editors

Spoon Knife 5: Liminal will be edited by Andrew M. Reichart and Dora M. Raymaker

Andrew M. Reichart is managing editor of Argawarga Press, an imprint of Autonomous Press dedicated to genre fiction. He is co-author, with Nick Walker, of the epistolary science fiction novel Insurgent Otherworld and the Weird Luck webcomic. He has also written four genre-blurring novels, Wallflower Assassin and the City of the Watcher trilogy, which will be re-released in new editions by Argawarga Press starting in 2019. For his day job Andrew helps run a small utopian tech firm, and he’s also an activist with a grassroots abolitionist project. He lives in California with his wife and a couple of dogs.

Dora M. Raymaker, PhD, is a scientist, writer, multi-media artist, and activist whose work across disciplines focuses on social justice, critical systems thinking, complexity, and the value of diversity. Dora is an Autistic/queer/genderqueer person living in Portland Oregon, conducting community-engaged research at Portland State University, knitting fractals, and communing with the spirit of the City. Dora’s work includes the novel Hoshi and the Red City Circuit and the short story “Heat Producing Entities” in Spoon Knife 3: Incursions.

Format and Length

Fiction and Memoir: We’re looking 10,000 words or less of fully-polished prose, submitted in standard manuscript format (title page with contact info, double-spaced Times New Roman 12-point font, pages numbered with either title or author’s name in the header.)

Poetry: You may submit up 5 pieces of any length and style, provided they fit the theme of this collection.

All submissions must be in a Word-compatible format (.doc, .docx, .odt).

When and How to Submit

Submissions are now open. Please submit your work no later than Tuesday, December 31, 2019.

Authors will be notified of their acceptance or rejection by Friday, February 28, 2020.

Payment for accepted submissions will be 1 cent per word, to be sent by check during the second quarter of 2020.

Email all submissions to sk5.liminal@gmail.com

When submitting your work, please put in the subject line one of the following:

    “Spoon Knife 5 Submission – Fiction”

    “Spoon Knife 5 Submission – Memoir”

    “Spoon Knife 5 Submission – Poetry”

Also, please include a cover letter that clearly specifies the name under which you want to be credited, along with a 3-4 sentence bio written in the third person. The name and bio should be typed exactly as you want them to appear in the book.

Q&A with Fable the Poet

Oh, it’s a good week over at AutPress. Azzia Walker, our Operations Manager, got to interview Fable the Poet on the making of art and how he shows up in the world. Be sure to check out Fable’s work in Spoon Knife 1 and his first solo poetry collection, Adrift in a Sea of M&Ms. 

Your poems are wicked powerful. Were they always coming out with so much honesty and force, or did you work at opening up that flow?

Thank you for that! Honestly my poetry has not always been so raw, vulnerable, and transparent. I really started writing in High School (mostly in traditional Fables) as a way to vent about what I was going through at home and what I saw going on with my peers in a way that would fully make me vulnerable. Each year I can see, hear, and feel growth in my writing as I become more honest but also take steps forward in the caliber of my writing but for some reason as I progress it really makes me scared and I want to shut down and do nothing… But when I sit idle I get really in my head, so writing it is!

What do you do outside of writing and performing that supports these? Do you have any practices or exercises that keep you centered and strengthened?

I am lucky enough to be the Executive Director of a startup nonprofit organization called The Diatribe. The Diatribe uses performing art to empower young people to share their stories, raise awareness of social issues, and be active members in their communities. Our organization works with nearly 20 schools a year and if I am keeping it 100, the young people that we work with are one of my biggest inspirations. So many of our kids are so brave, honest, forgiving, and constantly working to become the best “them” that they can be. They subconsciously help me with my communication while constantly pushing me to become the best writer and leader that I can be.

As of late I just purchased an Apple Pen and was gifted a book of 400 writing prompts from my mother. The Apple Pen helps as I have been one of those writers that has unfortunately distanced myself from writing in journals, but now I can still do that in my tablet (that is honestly always by my side) and these prompts are a big help as now I am writing nearly twice a week! Yay technology!

When did you start writing and performing? How have you changed since gaining momentum in bringing your voice to the public?

I started performing in High School and it changed my life forever. I actually became a writer because of a High School English teacher. I was failing her English class and after seeing some potential in me, she refused to just stand by and watch me fail. So she said to me “Marcel, if you turn in a piece of creative writing every day I will pass you” – me refusing to get grounded by my mother reluctantly agreed.

At the end of the year she sent me to the KCP (King Chavez Parks) college readiness camp and although I did NOT get excited about higher education while I attended the camp, I did meet some workshop leaders that taught us about performance poetry.

I read at the end of summer reading, next year at my High School talent show, and from that point on I was HOOKED.

Honestly, my non traditional route into writing. My education, my story, and how I continue to evolve as a person but also a writer is a huge part of my “style” and I think many of my readers should know that when diving into my work.

What advice would you have for an aspiring poet or performer who lacks confidence, and who may not have much support in place just yet?

Do it, but do it for YOU. Do it when you have nothing else, do it and be more honest than you ever have before. Do it without any intent of anyone ever seeing it. But take baby steps into showing people your work and take every opportunity to do so that you can.

If this is something you are passionate about, soak in as much information as humanly possible to make yourself better – but also realize that your “better” might not be someone else’s “better”. Remain true to you, find yourself, and really connect with the people who appreciate your work because they will keep you centered along your journey.

Also, have fun!

Don’t make this “work” in the sense that you will ever regret going there.

But also do not give this part time energy as full time hours breed full time results in every aspect of your creative endeavors.

Q&A with Dora Raymaker

Azzia Walker, our new Operations Manager, had the great pleasure of interviewing Dora Raymaker, author of Hoshi and the Red City Circuit. Dora is a fabulous person to know and we recommend checking out more of her work.

Who do you want reading your books?

Most urgently, people like me. There are so few neurodivergent characters in literature–and of them, rarely are they heroes–and of those heroes, rarely are they portrayed outside of stereotypes. Rarely do they include the realities of our lives either, like the perils (and privileges) of passing, or the constant fight for person-ness and inclusion. I tell stories I want to read. I want them read by other people who wish, as I do, for realistic neurodivergent heroes, and for themes that trouble existing disability realities and narratives.

But also, I want my books read by everyone who enjoys literary science fiction and a weird, fun romp through cyber-fueled speculative worlds! I’m not playing to the mainstream, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be excellent to have broader readership.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Definitely the chase scene that happens about mid-way through the book. I love writing action scenes, particularly chase scenes. Sometimes I act them out. That one was extra-fun because it gave me a chance to run through a lot of Red City, and I really enjoy walking through the streets of that setting and experiencing it with Hoshi. During the scene, I had to both get Hoshi from one physical location to another, and bring her from baseline to total mental and physical exhaustion. So it was a fun writing craftsmanship challenge too.

What scene was the hardest to write, and why?

I wrote this story so long ago, I’m not totally sure anymore–the position of “hardest scene ever” is seared into my current memory as a particular scene from a different novel. For Hoshi though, possibly the Claudia’s apartment scene, which in the final book is scattered throughout the story but was originally one scene. That was structurally difficult–where to put what information and when? The other possible contender is the scene where Hoshi confronts the murderer, which remains the one part of the book I’m still not totally happy with. As to why that scene was hard, it’s because I feel like I never quite got grounded on the character of the murderer. It was “good enough” for the story, but not solid enough for me write without struggle.

What feeling do you want people to come away with?

Satisfaction at a story well-told, coupled with disappointment that it’s over and a desire for more stories with these characters, or in this world, or by me as an author. I want that feeling that I get when I read a good book, and turning the last page is a bitter-sweet sigh of satisfaction and yearning for more.

Tell us something that we wouldn’t guess about you.

When I was 17 I ran away from home with a friend. We made it all the way from Maine to Western Saskatchewan, and then back down into Eastern Montana, a distance of nearly 3,000 miles. That’s maybe guessable to anyone who knew me at the time, plus or minus some details, but the reason I was found was because a psychic who was sometimes used by the police back in Maine told my parents the name of a town which happened to be in the same area where the police picked us up. The Montana police would unlikely to have been on the lookout for us otherwise, and we’d have slipped away. So, yes, I was located by a police psychic. I was an actual X-File.

Author Interview: Ada Hoffmann Discusses Monsters in My Mind and Other Projects

We sat down with Ada Hoffmann, author of Monsters in My Mind, to talk about speculative fiction, the state of the writing world, and what’s next.

AutPress: Why MONSTERS IN MY MIND? Why speculative fiction generally, and why this collection?

Ada: I grew up around speculative fiction. It’s a childhood love, and one of those things that was always there. Literary realism never felt grounded to me – it felt small, stifled. Consciously cut off from all the realms of imagination that could have been.

I’ve been publishing short speculative fiction and poetry since 2010. Short fiction is a delight to me – I probably read more of it than novels. I’ve also written a lot, and I wanted to make that writing tangible. A physical object that I could hold in my hands and give to people.

I organized MONSTERS IN MY MIND around a loose theme appropriate to NeuroQueer Books – the theme of being different, monstrous, or out of place, and hoping to somehow be accepted that way. I grouped stories and poems so that they moved through different ways of engaging with that theme in a way that felt, in a very abstract sense, like its own story. A few short works I loved didn’t make the cut, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because they didn’t fit into that “story”. Maybe they’ll go into a future book!

As for the title, I don’t remember where I got it, but it happened fairly late in production. I’m not the first person to have used the phrase. If you want to assume cryptamnesia, then it probably comes from the song “Happy Hurts,” by Icon For Hire.

AutPress: What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration? What/Who else do you read or recommend?

Ada: Sometimes ideas just happen. It isn’t glamorous. “You Have to Follow the Rules” was based on a dream that my friend A. Merc Rustad had. “The Chartreuse Monster” came partly from a random number generator. “Centipede Girl” was inspired by an actual centipede that crawled on my keyboard, and “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” was based on a list of tropes that another friend of mine liked. One of my best ways to generate ideas is by going to a classical music concert, where I’m forced to sit in a chair for two hours, listen to pleasant noises, and let my mind wander. And my go-to method for coming up with more poetry is just to binge-read any poetry at hand until my mind starts automatically arranging its thoughts into verse.

In terms of other authors who inspire me, Catherynne M. Valente’s collection “A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects” was the reason I got serious about poetry. Meda Kahn’s short story “Difference of Opinion” pushed me to be better and braver about autism representation. I would love one day to build worlds like China Miéville, develop characters like Lois McMaster Bujold, dispense careful wisdom like Rose Lemberg, build up a sense of scale like Robert Charles Wilson, quip and twist the plot like Joss Whedon on a good day, and tap into the depths of my id like Tanith Lee. Anybody wanting more of the queer and neurodivergent themes from MONSTERS IN MY MIND should check out A. Merc Rustad and Bogi Takács, among many others.

AutPress: What’s the most unexpected thing that happened while you were working on this collection (or any particular part of it)?

Ada: Once I had all the stories, putting the collection together was pretty straightforward. Though – one unexpected thing that happened while the collection came together was that I landed an agent for a novel I’d written. That was very distracting, in a good way.

[Full Disclosure: The interviewer was a beta reader for this novel, which fully deserves all the love an agent can give it.]

AutPress: Where is spec fic/dark fic/weird fiction headed? What does it need more of?

Ada: I don’t think spec fic will ever go in just one direction. It’s a big tent with a huge number of things going on.

It’s clear, though, that at least some parts of spec fic are moving towards more diversity and better representation. There’s an increased interest in diverse characters, in diverse authors, in concepts like #ownvoices – and also in the range of new ideas, not just writing about themselves, that marginalized authors bring to the table. I’m really enjoying all the recent counter-Lovecraftian fiction, for instance. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Innsmouth Free Press was doing this for years, but now it’s been joined by some higher-profile friends: Ruthanna Emrys’s “Innsmouth Legacy” series and Victor LaValle’s “The Ballad of Black Tom”, to name two.

Of course, this trend comes with pushback; you don’t need me to tell you the story of the Sad Puppies. It would be naive, especially in 2017, to say that things will clearly keep changing for the better. But we’ll see what happens.

AutPress: What are you currently working on, and what’s next?

Ada: Well, my agent is shopping my novel around, and I’m replenishing my store of short fiction and poetry. I’ve written some really daring short pieces that I’m very excited to share when they find a home. Two collaborations that I love are coming out in the next year or so – one with Jacqueline Flay in Persistent Visions, the other with A. Merc Rustad in Lightspeed. I’m also working on a collection of dinosaur poetry called “Million-Year Elegies”. That’s about 75% done, and a few early pieces from that series are already published online, if you want a teaser. Of course, I’m also still working on my PhD research, in which I teach computers to write their own poetry. My biggest challenge is finding time for all these projects and book promo, too!

Visit Ada Hoffmann online at http://www.ada-hoffmann.com. Pick up a copy of Monsters in My Mind on Amazon or via the AutPress store.

We Liked It, So We Put A Paycheck On It (#CrippingtheMighty)

Autonomous Press is proud to have Dani Alexis Ryskamp aboard as our newest editor and your future curator for Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber. On top of her work in activism an blogging, Dani’s writing includes fiction, research and academic essay writing, and a variety of freelance genres. Joining our press isn’t her first job in the industry, and because of that, her experience will help us bring our mission into focus. For instance, when she says:

Your time, effort, and attention are valuable.  When you focus them to produce a piece of writing, that writing has value.  When you give that writing away without being compensated for it, you are giving charity.  It’s a gift.  And like all gifts, you are notobligated to give it.

Naturally, a lot of companies realize that simply asking people to give them charity doesn’t fly.  So “write for us for free!” is often (though not always!) masked with other terms, like “on spec” or my personal favorite, “for exposure.”

Which is why we’re also glad that she was able to say this, without even having to prompt us to try it:

Autonomous Press, founded in 2015, has published only one book containing the works of disabled writers who were not paid cash money for their contributions.  The writers were, h0wever, compensated with at least one physical printed copy of the book apiece (to my knowledge, The Mighty does not print copies of contributors’ submissions for distribution).  Contributors to the press’s second compilation, The Real Experts, were paid with contributor copies and cash; contributors to its third, The Spoon Knife Anthology, will be paid in similar form.  Every single-author book Autonomous Press has produced to date is also paying royalties to its respective author.

(Incidentally, AutPress’s payment to me for my own contribution to Spoon Knifeis the most I have ever been paid for a single fiction piece.)

If AutPress can produce physical, printed books with a four-figure startup budget and compensate our contributors, The Mighty has no excuse for running a digital-only realm on a seven-figure startup budget and not paying its writers.  And as for “exposure,” a print publication outranks a digital one on a CV every time.

And that’s why we’re also happy to announce one last thing:

There’s a blog network coming. And we’re paying.

For now, please check out the rest of Dani’s post about The Mighty, along with her advice about spec work and “exposure.”

 

March Release Update (Covers! Spoon Knife Rates!)

Hi everyone, Michael here. As most of you know, I’m the coordinating editor for NeuroQueer Books, which means I manage the calendar and help shepherd our releases through production, making sure we have the art and other resources we need when it comes time to publish. Today, I’m happy to announce that two out of our three March books have their art in place already, so I’m going to show them off for you.

Cover art for Imaginary Friends by Michael Scott Monje JrFirst off, we have my next novel, Imaginary Friends. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the book follows autistic protagonist Clay Dillon as he begins the second grade and navigates the complex family dynamics that come with both religious education and the coming of a new sibling. Along the way, Clay’s powerful imagination brings his lessons to life. Sometimes this brings him a new understanding that allows him uncommon insight into the people around him. At other times, it produces such overwhelming thoughts that he is unable to do more than cope with the output of his brain as it wrestles withe multiple immediate perceptions.

For the cover, the artist (Chris Henry) chose to craft Van’s helmet. Van is one of Clay’s most immediate imaginary creations, and he played a big role in both this book and my first novel, Nothing is Right. In the background, we can see the skyline of Clay’s LEGO fortress in silhouette, so it doesn’t give up its details. To learn more about the story, feel free to start reading the rough draft as it finishes up on my blog. The chapters will stay up for about a month after the serial concludes, and then the fully edited final cut will be ready for you in March.

 

March also brings us our first NQ Books collection, The Spoon Knife Anthology. I’m editing this one with N.I. Nicholson of Barking Sycamores, the literary journal for the discussion of neurodivergent literature and craft. Our third release for the NQ Books launch will actually be a Barking Sycamores collection that will bring together many of the writings from the first four issues. That book is set to be a fundraiser for the journal, and we hope it allows us to build a long and fruitful relationship with the outlet while helping the editors gain the funding they need to develop the publication further.

The Spoon Knife Anthology is no fundraiser, though. Instead, it is our first literary collection, and the first paying collection under our anthology funding program. As we’ve explained elsewhere, this program works by paying writers a work-for-hire Spoon Knife Anthology Coverrate for their work in collections and then setting aside the 15% that would normally be paid in royalties, putting it into a special fund. That fund then becomes the pool of resources for future books, ensuring that each passing anthology helps to make the next one bigger, better, and better paying for our writers.

Our first volume will pay out at 1 cent per word, with a guarantee of a $5.00 minimum for each accepted piece. This was the highest rate allowed by our funding from Typed Words, Loud Voices, and it is a method of payment that makes it easier for us to control the book’s length and guarantee both quality and diversity in the selections.

To the right, you’ll see the art for The Spoon Knife Anthology. While the cover was put together by Chris Henry, the cover artwork was sourced from Selene Depakh, a neurodivergent artist with a longstanding reputation of community involvement and beautiful concepts in stunning execution. The piece we chose to license for the anthology is one in a series of PTSD-inspired creations, and its contorted, cyborged, and blended approach to the concept of mechanizing the self really resonated with both N.I. and myself. We’re happy to be working with Selene and with the rest of the people who are contributing to the anthology, and we will have a roster of contributors ready within a couple of weeks. Thank you! – Michael