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Behind the Scenes: Writing contests & working at a lit mag – guest blog post by Fugue Editor Stacy Miller

Fugue Journal is a literary journal out of the University of Idaho. It was launched in 1990 and has been run ever since by graduate students in the Creative Writing MFA Program. We publish both a Summer/Fall print issue and a Winter/Spring online issue.
Working for Fugue for the last several months has revealed to me just how much work goes into keeping a journal alive and thriving. At any given time, our readers are opening their Submittable accounts to pour over the hundreds of incoming submissions, our marketing editors are tweeting about our upcoming contest or going through the archives to find well known writers who have been published in our past issues, or our Editor in Chief is saying no to yet another hour of sleep in order to check proofs for the upcoming edition one last time. It takes the concerted effort of a committed group of people to make sure every component is in place: cover art, interviews, advertisements, not to mention choosing the actual writing that makes up the journal.
As much work as it is, it hits me sometimes, sitting in a meeting of fellow poets talking about the exciting submissions we've been getting or the fantastic interview we have forthcoming with a well-known poet, that there is almost no better way to get a feel for what's going on in the world of writing than to work with a journal. It is a constant reminder that people are painstakingly putting the world into words and desiring to share those words with others.
Fugue accepts general submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and Images | Etc. from September 1 through May 1. The "Images | Etc." category is new for us, and we are very excited about it. We want to make space for the kind of work that pushes boundaries: photo poem mash-ups, collages, erasures, and other image-based work that tells a story, asks a question, complicates a boundary, or tests a hypothesis in a way that uses the language of shape and color as well as (or in place of) text. We do charge a $3 submission fee for all catagories. This is not a reading fee, meaning no one that reads for our journal gets any of this money. We use this money to cover our Submittable fees and to pay our contributors! All contributors to Fugue receive $15 per accepted piece and a complimentary copy of the journal in which their work appears.
Every year Fugue also hosts a writing contest. We accept submissions in both prose and poetry. There is a $15 submission fee, and the prize is $1000 for each category! We are so proud of the wonderful writers who have judged our contest in the past and the ones who are set to judge our current contest--Vijay Seshadri (poet) and Carmen Maria Machado (prose)--which is open now. Past judges include Pam Houston, Dorianne Laux, Rodney Jones, Mark Doty, Rick Moody, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Jo Ann Beard, Rebecca McClanahan, Patricia Hampl, Traci Brimhall, Edan Lepucki, and Tony Hoagland.
I sat down with some of the other editors and a few of the poetry readers this week and asked them if we could reflect on why we have a contest, why this is in fact an important part of our journal.  Many of us reflected as editors, readers, and writers on what makes contests such a wonderful part of the literary world. Writers who are submitting their work to journals are looking for an audience for the words they have put together. Being published can energize one's writing practice, connect a writer with an audience, and maybe validate the hard work a writer has been putting in. Contests add to this by providing the chance of not only being published, but a chance to have a prolific writer in your genre look at your work and maybe choose it as a winner, and the chance at a large sum of money for your hard work as well. Contests are a great way for emerging writers to get some publicity around their work. We also feel contests add a bit of fun and celebration to the submission game, which at times can feel quite tedious and unrewarding.
Being part of a journal run by a group of graduate students means there is turnover every year, which I believe keeps our ideas fresh, and our mission ever growing and evolving. It is exciting to be part of this ongoing tradition here at the University of Idaho. It is exciting to read what's coming in, to connect with readers, judges, and one another, and ultimately to take the writing that has been carefully crafted and share it with an audience with the hope that it will move them, inspire them, and connect with them in the way that it did with us.

Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts. 

Contact me here if you are interested! 

Stacy Boe Miller is an artist, mom, and second year poetry MFA Creative Writing candidate at the University of Idaho where she currently serves as marketing editor and a poetry reader for Fugue Literary Journal. Her most recent work can be found in The Ekphrastic Review, Frontier Poetry, Driftwood Press, and West Texas Literary Review. You can follow Fugue journal on Twitter at @FugueJournal and Stacy at @stacyboemiller.

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