What is a good way to bring together the Santa Barbara writing community with the reading community? A literary journal can make writers’ works available to readers galore.
In the past, A Community of Voices edited by Grace Rachow, current director of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, was one of the most successful. It began in 1994 with seven annual editions publishing more than 800 pieces mostly by local writers. Several of them also helped Rachow put the material together.
Several years ago, Shelly Lowenkopf edited Santa Barbara Review and later a digital version, Luna Review. Both are no longer available.
This year has brought on a new publication with a twist and a different group making it happen. The Santa Barbara Literary Journal meets the need to publish more local writers.
The project started at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Founded more than 45 years ago by Barnaby Conrad, every June the conference adds to writers’ lives with 25-plus workshops based on many topics running nearly 24 hours a day. An impromptu workshop led by Marcy Luikart (River Braids: A Novel, 2013) in the early mornings of 2017 brought several writers together. One assignment was based on the name “Andromeda,” title of a Greek myth and name of a star constellation, among the brightest in our skies. It kicked off some outstanding writing.
Among those attending was Angela Borda, a professional editor and currently editor/office manager for UCSB’s Center for Taiwan Studies. She describes that morning.
“Each of us came up with a good story,” she said. “We talked about the difficulty of getting published and discussed putting the stories together in print. It didn’t actually work out but got me to thinking about putting together something representing our community. I chose a journal instead of an anthology because of my experience over the years as an editor of magazines.”
Using a creative sense of humor, she tells about her role with SB LitJo: “I go by the pen name Silver Webb, and you will find me listed as the editrix. It sounds better than editor in chief.”
Several other writers, who mostly met at SBWC, have come together to work with her on SB Lit Jo. The first edition, subtitled “Andromeda,” came out this past June; the second edition, subtitled “Cor Serpentis,” was out this month. Among those helping are Laura Hemenway (musician and Lyrics editor), Matt Pallamary (science fiction/fantasy author and adviser/consigliore editor), Max Talley (writer/contributing editor with nom-de-plume, senor McTavish), Ron Alexander (poet baron) and Sharon Venezio (guest editor of poetry). Robin Gowen, an artist, has done graphics to make the cover and magazine more appealing.
Borda expressed her definition of literary: “Who is to say what is literary? If it is a story and it is well-written, it’s literature.”
Its latest edition has 27 writers whose stories cover fiction, poetry, lyrics, for the young and science fiction. About two-thirds of the people either live in Santa Barbara or are associated with the SBWC. Some of Santa Barbara’s previous magazines are connected to SB Lit Jo, with Lowenkopf’s fiction story in the current edition and Rachow’s support of its publishing procedure from the beginning.
Borda discussed her reaction to the results.
“I started with nothing but InDesign [publishing software application] and a dream,” she said. “Although the one in June (2018) was a ragtag edition, I was proud of the context. This second one had me nail-biting while putting it together, but it’s turned out even better. The print is clearer and more professional. It was a thrill to see a year’s work in print once again. I’ve appreciated all the warmhearted support and how SB LitJo brings writers together.”
Another team member, Max Talley (contributing editor for Luna Review, The Rogue Voice in SLO and Carmel Valley Sun), has worked with Borda from the start.
“Angela is the Big Kahuna,” he said. “I am really proud of what she’s done in just two issues, as I was skeptical when I first heard her plans to launch a journal. I know how hard it is to create and sustain a quality literary journal with a full team involved. The fact that Angela has done the vast majority of the work herself is really impressive. I hope to contribute writing, art or editorial assistance in the future, and also shut the hell up with unsolicited advice when it’s not needed — which is most of the time.”
If you’re a writer wanting your work published, submit it for the third volume beginning in March. Click here for more information.
Last month’s column focused on Jane De Hart’s new book, Ruth Nader Ginsburg, and its delay with 13 chapters lost in the Tea Fire. After the column’s publication, Westmont College professor and former poet laureate Paul Willis told me that he also lost hundreds of in-progress pages of a biography with poems on botanist David Douglas.
“It is now 10 years to the hour,” he emailed, “since we abandoned and lost our own house in the Tea Fire. Unlike Jane De Hart, I abandoned the project. Only this year have I thought of going back to it, although I can’t say I have yet ‘redone’ any of my burned writing.”
He did write a short essay and poem on the experience titled “Poems Lost, Poems Found” in his recently published book To Build a Trail: Essays on Curiosity, Love & Wonder (WordFarm, 2018).
He describes his writing trauma: “But the loss of the many poems I had drafted cut more deeply. … I despaired of rewriting them, and for some time did not write much at all. But then, inevitably, I did. A poem here, a poem there, began to emerge. And — no surprise — many of them had things to say about the fire. The French believe we must suffer to be beautiful, and certainly pain is the price of art — not a welcome admission fee, but one that must be paid one way or the other. Suffering, in other words, is the deepening that makes art possible. Realizing this, I gradually came to think that I was getting those poems back — not the same ones I had lost, but perhaps better ones.”
My hope is that Willis and other writers who have lost writing projects in disasters may also find new paths restoring their art.
— Noozhawk columnist Susan Miles Gulbransen — a Santa Barbara native, writer and book reviewer — teaches writing at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and through the Santa Barbara City College Continuing Education Division. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.