Philadelphia Stories is proud to announce its 2013 Pushcart Nominations.  We have nominated two short stories and three poems for this year’s award.  Here are the nominees:                


One in Ten Fish are Afraid of Water by Che Yeun, published in Fall 2013 Issue  (Winner of the McGlinn Prize)

Che Yeun earned her B.A. in Biomedical Ethics from the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently a M.F.A. candidate at the University of New Orleans. She received the 2013 Stanley Elkin Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the 2012 Enizagam Literary Award, and in 2012, was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work can be found in The Pinch, Enizagam and Kartika Review. Aside from her own prose, Che takes on Korean translations. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Einstein’s iPod by Stephen Graf, published in Summer 2013 Issue

Stephen Graf is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. He currently teaches at Robert Morris University and holds a Master’s Degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Trinity College, Dublin, and a Ph.D. in British Literature from the University of Newcastle in England. Among other places, he has been published in: AIM Magazine, Cicada, The Southern Review, The Chrysalis Reader, Fiction, The Minnetonka Review, New Works Review, SNReview, The Willow Review, The Wisconsin Review, and The Black Mountain Review in Ireland. His short story “Hadamard’s Billiards” was awarded an Honorable Mention for the 2012 Pushcart Prize.



In The Freezer Section by Wes Ward, published in Fall 2013  Issue

Wes Ward holds a M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. His work has appeared in various magazines and journals, including North American Review, Sewanee Theological Review, and Birmingham Poetry Review. Wes teaches high school English in York, PA and lives with his wife, Karen, and his children, Ethan and Isley, in Newville, PA. 

Marie in America by Deborah Friespublished in Spring 2013 Issue

Deborah Fries began writing poetry in earnest in 1994, when she moved to the Delaware Valley from the Midwest. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq – work nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of Various Modes of Departure (Kore Press, 2004) and anticipates publication of a second book of poetry, The Bright Field of Everything, in 2013.

Asterism (after Lucille Clifton’s metaphysics) by Kelly Andrewspublished in  Spring 2013 Issue

Kelly Andrews is a 9-5 stiff living and working in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has appeared in Pear Noir! and Weave Magazine. She will be pursuing her M.F.A this fall at the University of Pittsburgh.


Thoughts on the creative process and the shifting publishing landscape

by Tara Smith

Martone hat

We’re delighted that Michael Martone, award-winning author, teacher, and judge of this year’s Philadelphia Stories’ Marguerite McGlinn National Prize for Fiction, will be our keynote speaker at Push to Publish. In anticipation of his visit with us here in Philadelphia, Martone shares a few thoughts on publishing, writing for contests, and a writing technique called “collage.”


TS: Writers generally come to a conference called “Push to Publish” carrying a jumble of hopes, expectations, and questions about being published. What did it mean for you to first be published? And how would you suggest that unpublished writers allocate their time and energies between writing and working at being published?

MM: I always ask my students if they want to be published. I will ask the participants at the conference that as well. And all will say, I imagine, yes. And then I will say, “I have an incredibly powerful typesetting machine, the same layout software used by Knopf, and electronic connections to printers in Iceland, China, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. I can publish you right now.” And what I expect to hear is, no, that’s not what we mean by “publishing.” What is it we mean when we want to publish? So a conference about publishing, I think, should not be so much about the “How to” material that has snap and pat solutions, but should address that “jumble” you mention and how specialized and individualized the notions of successful publishing are for each of us. I consider my contribution of a story to a workshop of 12 people to be an act of publishing. I have published a story in a magazine that probably had fewer than a dozen subscribers. I have written and sold poems on the spot on subject matter suggested by the reader on the streets of Philadelphia. I have published in journals subsidized by universities or by Karastan carpets. I have published myself in books. As an editor, I have published others in magazines and books. For me, more and more, it is harder to compartmentalize the me who is the writer and the me who is the contributor of his writing. I find myself living in a horizontal world of publishing. I don’t spent much time at all thinking in the vertical.

TS: I ask my writer friend, whose only experience of collage was an unfortunate incident in second grade involving scissors, paste, and her parents’ wedding photos, to come along to your Push to Publish master class, “The Four C’s: Context, Cutting, Compression, and Collage” ( How would you suggest I word the invitation?

MM: Well, I think you could actually cut and paste. That is to say Google the word “collage” (let me just point out that when we “Google” we are making, with our computers, collages) and then, going to the various result pages, cut out interesting snippets of text and/or graphics and paste them into your invitation. The hardest part of collage for prose writers, I think, is giving up the feeling of control of the text. In collage one creates interesting environments, arranges things, invites the reader to make something from these disparate pieces but does not invite them to specific results, specific conclusions, meanings. It is not about the point but the spread. The technique would not be the best for the form of writing we call an “invitation” as specific information needs to be transmitted. But it is great at creating a sensation, a mood, a tone. It is the sublime in plain sight. There is no way to take notes as the thing itself looks as if it is nothing but notes. Ah, “nothing but notes!”

TS: You read the top stories for Philadelphia Stories’ Marguerite McGlinn National Prize for Fiction ( this year and selected our winner, Che Yeun’s “One in Ten Fish Are Afraid of Water.” You’ve been both winner and reader for many writing contests (though presumably not both for the same contest!). What advice would you give to writers submitting a story for next year’s Marguerite McGlinn contest?

MM: Tough to give advice as that implies that such judgment remains static and unchanging. Remember, I selected from a pool of ten finalists. I am not even sure who made the initial cut through all of the submissions. What were the stories I did not even see? I might have really admired many of the stories in the first round but did not see them as the first readers’ taste just differs from mine. Remember, too, that it is sheer luck when and how a submission is read. If you are read first of the day or last after the judge has read 25 stories before yours, that placement could deflect the reading. We make a mistake in contests if we proceed in the belief that there are objective standards that everyone understands, agrees upon, and can attain. My advice? Think of contests as a lottery with much better odds though a lower payout. It is always nice to have someone read your work either in the setting of a contest or in an attempt to have that work published, but the writer cannot surrender his or her feeling about that work to the judge or editor. Not being selected or published is and should be considered very low stakes. Writing success, for me, is not tactical but strategic. It is about the long game, the lifetime of writing. Contests and publishing are dangerous, then, if the writer grants these immediate snap judgments the power to divert his or her individual work from the long-term life’s project.

TS: What one truth, idea, or inspiration would you hope that Push to Publish participants take back to their writing desks after the conference is over?

MM: Quantity has a quality all its own.

TS: You’ve travelled widely and taught in many different contexts, including Philadelphia and Rosemont College. What particular opportunities and challenges do you see for us as a community of writers here, in 2013?

MM: I am not sure I would locate the challenge in Philadelphia. The challenge has to do with the construction of authorship and audience. The models of both are in rapid flux in this time and place. The categories of author, editor, publisher, agent, reader seem to be collapsing. When I started writing, if I published myself it was considered “vanity” publishing, but that word has now been replaced by “self” and we suspect (we fear?) that “self” itself will disappear altogether. I am writing this on an incredibly powerful typesetting and publishing machine that is connected to a seemingly infinite network of other machines. So maybe the challenge is to figure out what is “network” which is to say what is community itself? Maybe the community here isn’t negotiating challenges and opportunities but the notion of community itself is the challenge, is the opportunity.

TS: Do you have a “most embarrassing publishing moment” (real or imagined) that you could share with us?

MM: In the late seventies, I went to a reading given by George Plimpton, the founding editor of The Paris Review, a magazine I had been submitting stories to unsuccessfully. Mr. Plimpton as a writer was famous for his books of participatory journalism. He trained and played football with the Detroit Lions. He played professional baseball, hockey, golf. Played in a professional symphony. He wrote about being an amateur in with the professionals. After his reading during the Q&A that followed, I asked if he would allow me, an amateur, to edit The Paris Review for an issue. He was not amused.


Michael Martone is the award-winning author of Four for a Quarter, Not Normal, Illinois: Peculiar Fiction from the Flyover, and many other titles. Martone has won two Fellowships from the NEA and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His stories and essays have appeared in The Best American Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies. He is currently a professor at the University of Alabama, where he has been teaching since 1996.

When and where can you meet Michael Martone?

In addition to the keynote address at Push to Publish on Saturday morning, Martone will be giving a reading at Rosemont on Thursday evening, October 10th (, ( and a master class on Friday the 11th (


As Philadelphia Stories prepares for another fun Push to Publish writing conference coming up on October 12, we asked literary agent Rita Rosenkranz to share her tips on what an author should look for when shopping for an agent. Below is a sampling of her tips. We are happy to report that Ms. Rosenkranz will also be sharing her insights at both the speed date and the “meet the agents” panel discussion at the Push to Publish event.

What should authors look for in an agent?

I advise authors to “know thyself,” because there is a spectrum of agents with different personalities, strengths, level of experience, connections to the film world, etc. Depending on the author’s publishing history and/or ambitions, she might benefit more from a well-established agent, whereas another author will connect better with a hungry, new agent. Do you want a New York-based agent? Some—but not all authors—do. Some authors prefer to have an agent close to where they are based. Will the author be working with the agent or mostly with an assistant or intern? What are the agency’s commission and agency charges (and is there a cap on charges)? I advise authors to review the questions listed on the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) Web site to help determine the best fit.

Finding the right agent can mean different things to different people. What suggestions do you have for writers who want to gain a deeper knowledge of the agents they are pitching?

I think many authors don’t consider the nuances of the agent/author relationship beforehand. More than to simply know they want an agent, authors should identify what matters most to them. Do they want an agent who will simply get them the most money or one who will help them become better writers and who will be available for matters large and small? More than ever, writers can learn about agents thanks to the Web. On many sites authors exchange experiences––offering recommendations, sob stories and everything in-between––undiluted and uncensored. Writer’s Digest, as well as other print and online venues, regularly profiles agents, offering writers a deeper sense of the agent’s personality, taste and approach to the author/agent relationship.

Where you do you find your authors?

I find authors every which way: through queries, conferences, word-of-mouth, and my own active outreach campaign. I read my mail closely and with anticipation. I have found wonderful projects through query letters. Only a fraction of the projects I ask to see end up being right for me. But I sometimes will offer feedback even if I end up turning down the project, and the author presumably benefits from this exchange. Sometimes a writer whose work I’ve turned down will reconnect with me later with a new project that in fact does interest me.

If you fall in love with a project, will you simply take it on, or do you run it through a marketability grid? Do you take on projects you think will sell even if you don’t love them?

If I fall head-over-heels in love with a project, I’m willing to move forward even if the market is small. I’ve handled niche projects and sometimes if it’s a rich niche with a renewable market, one can be rewarded over time. I don’t feel I have to love the project so much as respect its purpose and its market. How wonderful though when I do love it. Those occasions especially help keep me buoyed by my work.

Once a writer signs with an agent, what type and what frequency of contact can she or he expect?

It’s impossible for me to generalize, since writers have different needs and agents handle business differently. I personally want my authors to be in the loop in a real-time way, whether it involves rejections or other matters that can play a part in their wellbeing. At the same time, I’m sensitive to authors’ individual personalities and preferences. While maintaining my basic approach to the relationship, I’ll adapt wherever I can. This might mean not sharing rejections but only letting the author know when there is an offer.

What are your biggest frustrations when working with a client?

It’s easiest for me to do my best work when an author is dependable, respectful of deadlines, proactive in terms of generating publicity for themselves and promotion for their books, thanks to their speaking circuit, podcasts, etc. The more I am preoccupied about these points the less time I will have for higher level efforts, for instance, discussing the author’s next book project. Also, too often I am making excuses for delays in the publishing process—for instance in getting contracts or payment of advances to the author—and it can be frustrating to spend so much time on what should be automatic. I am most thrilled when a project introduces me to a world I hadn’t realized would interest me, and where the author is a well-paired partner to the work.

What is the most important thing for writers to know about agents?

There is great variety among us, in the kinds of writers we’re attracted to, our approach to the author/agent relationship, our editorial sense, our publishing connections, and our stick-with-it-ness, even when a project doesn’t win a publisher’s interest right away. This should give authors hope that within the large and diverse community of agents, there will be a perfect match. I think the most successful writers manage to persevere and show great fortitude no matter what the circumstance. Agents need to demonstrate this too, of course, and the journey together is much more sturdy and rewarding when the agent and author can stay the course through the difficult spots, too.

Rita Rosenkranz founded Rita Rosenkranz Literary Agency in 1990 after a career as an editor with major New York houses. Her non-fiction list includes health, history, parenting, music, how-to, popular science, business, biography, sports, popular reference, cooking, spirituality and general interest titles. Rita works with major publishing houses, as well as regional publishers that handle niche markets. She looks for projects that present familiar subjects freshly or lesser-known subjects presented commercially.


*This blog is cross-posted at Marie Lamba's blog. Marie will be teaching an all-day workshop the day before Push to Publish on tips to find an agent.

Conferences from the Agent’s Point of View (Revisited!)

Asian Women Chatting over Coffee
Last week I shared some things I learned as an author about meeting agents and editors at writer’s conferences. So, BAM! Let’s switch pitch table sides. Now, as Associate Agent at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, I really am on the other side, taking pitches, sitting on the panels, and walking around conferences to meet writers and hear what they have to say. So here are some thoughts, and some tips.First of all, like I said in last week’s post, the important thing to remember is that agents and editors are people. And most are pretty nice, too. Take the folks at the great Push to Publish conference which I’d attended (in 2012). (NB: this Oct. 2013 I’ll be the Push to Publish pre-conference presenter where folks can spend the day with me – registration info here.) I wish I had time to hang out with these agents and editor and swap stories about our clients and our projects. But that’s one thing many conferences are tight on: time.So as an agent, I arrive with a schedule in hand. For some conferences, I may have just been whisked over from an airport, and have barely arrived before I’m “on.” I love to meet my fellow agents and editors. But above all, I want to meet you writers! But time is short. So I meet with you during pitches, or chat with you during registration, or swap ideas with you during panel talks. Longer conferences are great because there are more chances for real exchange. Exchange of biz cards, yes, but also exchange of conversation and ideas. There can be time during a cocktail party or in line for breakfast, or just hanging out in the hotel lounge after the main events are over.

But there are often many of you and few of us agents, so when we do get time with you, it’s important to use it well. I’ve done pitch sessions that have run anywhere from 5 minutes to 15. If a writer comes to me and is especially nervous, I understand. Sometimes however, this wastes our valuable time together as we spend our minutes more on getting focused than on talking about a book. In these cases, I think it’s best for the writer to have their pitch written out. If you just admit right up front that you are really nervous and ask if it’s okay to read your pitch, I for one will smile and say of course. Then you can take a deep breath, read the pitch, and then our conversation can begin from there. And I bet you’ll feel better after that.

Some writers are naturals with pitches and with chatting. And for me, it really is a chat. As if we are sitting together for a moment at a coffee shop, talking shop. These writers smile, and introduce themselves and shake hands. They then sit and say something to the effect of, “I’m here to tell you about my new memoir called ‘About All That.’” And then they say their brief, focused pitch. These authors allow me to then respond with my reaction to the pitch. They listen to any questions I may have and answer them as well as they can. And they ask me questions like what do I think about this sort of book in the marketplace? They listen and allow us to interact, with note-taking happening after our allotted time. This is all time well spent.

Sometimes writers squander their pitch time because they come to me unfocused. They haven’t thought ahead about the market of their novel (is it YA or mid grade?), or come up with a succinct way to describe the novel to me. So we spend our time together learning about the author, her approach to writing, what she wanted to achieve, the many ways she approached creating this book. Everything but what the book is actually about. And because of that, I can’t give any viable feedback or know if this novel is something I want to look at.

Sometimes writers come into the pitch with only one goal: sell! I’m not naive. I KNOW that is the goal. But I think this sort of over-focused writer can miss out on great opportunities that lead to the sell. It’s not just about getting that jazzed reaction from the agent and the green light and that book deal. Seriously. It’s about coming into it ready to learn and pick up cues and adapt and make connections. And all of these things can lead you to the sell, so don’t be short-sighted.

Here’s an example of what I mean. A writer comes up to me very confidant with a pitch. She’s ready to sell it, and is sure a smart agent will snap it up. So I hear the pitch. I may be interested, but I’m confused about something so I ask a question. Over confident writer immediately deflates, convinced they’ve failed. Or withdraws, upset (yes, I’ve seen tears in response to questions). Or grows hostile, convinced I’m ridiculous to say no (which I haven’t even said yet) and that there is nothing more I can do for them and so they should just move on to wow the next person. Every single one of these writers is simply blowing it. Why? Because as long as we have minutes together we can be learning from each other.

I can learn more about the novel in response to my questions. If my concerns are addressed, then maybe I will be interested. The writer can spend time building a relationship with me. Maybe this book won’t fly, but another book might in the future. Why burn bridges? The writer can also be paying attention to my reaction to this pitch. Even if I’m not the agent for you, did I become interested in certain things? Did I become puzzled? Did I express concerns about certain aspects? Then perhaps you can tweak your pitch and your queries to future agents based on this, and be more successful at your next pitch appointment. Ask me, “what do you think?” And if I say I’m not interested, ask me, “do you have any advice that I can use?”

When it comes down to it, I’m looking to work with pros. Even a debut author can be a pro. People who are open to discussion about their books, who are open to suggestions, who are folks I’d consider working with. If you are overly emotional, then I can’t picture you handling changes from an editor or meeting deadlines. If you are hostile or a prima donna, I’m never going to want to work with you. There are many talented people, and even if you are a major talent, if you are sending up flares that you are a difficult person, then I’m not interested.

When I go to conferences, I’m there to meet you, chat with you, and swap ideas. I’m hopeful that I will be finding my next client sitting right across from me. Someone who is professional and interesting and ready to work hard. I meet tons of fascinating people at every one of these conferences. Not all of them end up as my clients, of course. But many of them end up as people who I hope to hear from and interact with again.

I encourage you to remember that a pitch is more than a sell. Conferences are a place to meet people, to make contacts and to learn. Get questions answered. Try out different pitches for your novel at different conferences and learn bit by bit which parts are most effective and which are not working so well. Remember all of this can lead to a sell. I always enjoy meeting people who are passionate about their writing. It’s energizing and exciting.

Enjoy the process, and best of luck!



In a world where it is becoming increasingly easier to actually self publish, it is important to never be fooled by a pretty name– yours is the only one that matters! Great post from Let’s Get Visible and David Gaughran, thank you.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

ASIPRHPenguin and Random House officially merged on July 1 creating the largest trade publisher in the world. This merger has given fresh impetus to one of their subsidiaries to scam unsuspecting writers – Author Solutions, the largest vanity press in the world.

One of my blog readers, who will remain nameless, has forwarded me emails from an AuthorHouse sales rep touting that company as the “self-publishing wing” of Penguin Random House (AuthorHouse is one of the many brands of Author Solutions, a tangled web which is deconstructed here).

When Penguin purchased Author Solutions in July 2012 for $116m, I warned that the Penguin brand would lend legitimacy to Author Solutions – who were already the market leader in author exploitation.

Defenders of the deal claimed that Penguin would clean up Author Solutions – a universally reviled vanity press which has been slammed by every watchdog in the business…

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Originally posted on Bloom:

by Nicole Wolverton

As a kid I loved anything to do with time travel. One of my favorite movies was Time Bandits. I loved Madeleine L’Engle’sA Wrinkle in Time. Later, I fell in love with Slaughterhouse-Five: if there was ever a patron saint of time-travel-related existential angst, it would be Kurt Vonnegut. It is impossible to imagine how often I contemplated his words about time: “It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.” Who hasn’t wished it were true, that time isn’t linear? At the heart of every time travel novel, from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to The Time Traveler’s Wife, is the wish to return to the past to make the present a better place, and that is…

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Summer is here, and if you’re over 21, we might have just the thing to keep you cool and occupied: The 11th Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. It’s a full mid-Atlantic poetry contest with some great prizes. Obviously you have a little under two months to write up some poetry, but don’t slack! The guidelines are as follows:


 The Eleventh Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for the winning book-length manuscript by a poet residing in the Mid-Atlantic states (DE, MD, VA, PA, NJ, NY, WVA, and NC) will consist of $500, two cases of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Beer*, book publication by Broadkill River Press,  and 10 copies of the book (in lieu of royalties).

The rules are: Manuscripts must be received by midnight, September 2, 2013 (Labor Day).  Manuscripts received after Labor Day will not be considered.  Eligible poets must reside in the above listed states and be twenty-one years of age or older by the date of the award. *  The manuscript is to be submitted electronically in one MS Word document attachment.  Send to Prize co-ordinator Linda Blaskey at  Snail mail submissions will not be accepted.

Send two title pages with each submission: one with the title of the manuscript, your name, address, phone numbers and e-mail address; the second with just the manuscript title.   No manuscript is to have any author-identifying information other than the one title page and will be rejected if it does.   The manuscript should have an acknowledgement page of poems previously published, and in which publications and/or web-sites they appeared.  Judging is blind and double-tiered.

The manuscript must be book-length (between 48 and seventy eight pages of original work – no translations) and no more than roughly  thirty lines to a page, including the poem’s title and two line-spaces between the title and the body of the poem.  A poem may be more than one page.  The book’s dimensions will be 8.5 inches by 5.5 inches, with a minimum of half-inch side margins, and printed in 12 point type, so avoid very long lines.

The award will be presented to the poet on Sunday, December 8, 2013 at the Dogfish Head Brewpub and Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  The winner must agree to attend this event and to read from their winning book at a reception honoring the winner.  The prize will be officially awarded by Sam Calagione, Founder and CEO of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Distillery, or by another company official.

The author of the winning manuscript also agrees to provide, within ten days of notification, a color head-shot photograph for the back cover and a dedication for the interior of the book.  The winner agrees to travel to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware at the winner’s expense for awarding of the prize.   Dogfish Head will provide the winner one night’s lodging in Rehoboth Beach where Dogfish Rehoboth Brew Pub and Restaurant is located.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales retains the right to use any of the winning work in promotional materials.

For questions and more information contact Linda Blaskey, Prize co-ordinator, at

Good Luck!


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