PDR Blog

Meet the New Devil

October 7, 2013

Kate JovinWe’d like to introduce Kate Jovin, our new communications and marketing writer. She’ll be making sure that you’re always in the know about our contributors, events, calls for submissions, and other devilish goings on.

Kate is a 2007 graduate of Brown University, where she concentrated in Literary Arts and Slavic Studies. She explored careers in publishing, teaching, and selling artisanal chocolate before landing in the world of public libraries. In her free time, she can be found taking classes at Grub Street, hosting bar trivia, talking about gender, going to readings, and defending the role of children’s books in the literary world. [Photo by Zachary Reiss-Davis].


Six Questions

October 5, 2013

Over at his blog Six Questions, Jim Harrington has been inviting editors to share their views on what they consider "good writing" (particularly when it comes to fiction). Our answers are on deck to appear on the site, but since we've just re-opened to submisssions, I thought I'd post them here too.

Thomas Dodson
Editor, Printer's Devil Review

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

I trust my editors in poetry, nonfiction, and visual arts to select the best work from those sections. Jess Barnett, one of our arts editors, had this to say: "For visual arts submissions, I look for originality, movement, an artist who has gone beyond the normal framework and created something deeper. I look for multi-layered pieces—the ones that hang on a wall and you notice something new each time, and the ones that make PDR readers and viewers think."

Bonnie Rubrecht, one-half of our poetry team, notes that she doesn't care for poems about boyfriends, girlfriends, and exes, and that "poets that pay really close attention to the language and diction seem to fare best."

I work most directly with my fiction editor selecting and developing short stories. Here are a couple of things we look for in a fiction submission:

Good Scenes. To my mind, a story is a set of interrelated scenes—moments that are fully rendered, that we observe happening (they tend to have actual, rather than reported dialogue, for example). Good scenes require what, in his book The Art of Subtext, Charles Baxter calls "staging":

Staging in fiction involves putting characters in the scene so that some unvoiced nuance is revealed. Staging may include how close or how far the characters are away from each other, what their particular gestures and facial expressions might be at moments of dramatic emphasis, exactly how their words are said, and what props appear inside or outside.

We also like stories that trust the reader, that provide information when it is needed instead of front-loading it at the beginning of a story. Part of the pleasure of reading good lit are those little eureka moments when you discern something illuminating about a character through some small action--"Oh, that's why he behaved that way a couple of scenes ago; it seemed like something he would do, but now I understand why." Simply being given a list of character traits at the beginning of a story (as some beginning writers do) short-circuits that kind of pleasure. Similarly, for the attentive reader, over-explaining the action is, at best, boring, and at worst condescending. No kidding, trust the reader.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

Well, there is, of course, failure to pay attention to our submission guidelines. Usually this takes the form of stories that are shorter than what we publish. We don't have anything against flash fiction, but there is just so much of it out there and so many places to publish it that we don't feel compelled to make space for it in PDR. By contrast, it can be very difficult to place a story that's 7,500 words or more, and sometimes the writer needs that amount of space to create the world and tell the story. We try to provide a home for some of those longer stories that other magazines won't even consider.

I mentioned good scenes before. Some beginning writers have a tendency rely too much on exposition, even rendering their most dramatic or thematically important moments in exposition. If it's important to your story, give us a scene.

When it comes to the feelies, we're just as likely to be turned off by ironic cynicism (anti-feeling) as we are by sentimentality (faux-feeling), though we tend to see more of the latter. So, we like stories that present us with characters and situations that elicit emotions from us. This is different, however, from stories that are trying (usually way too hard) to provoke a very specific emotion from us. We're all subject to emotional manipulation in so many forms every day—in advertising, political discourse, Hollywood movies, crap TV. We think fiction ought to offer readers a different kind of emotional space. A good story should present us with dramatic situations, but not suggest in advance how we're supposed to feel about them. To sum up, we're looking for stories that move us without aiming for stock reactions.

At this point we've published several stories having to do with pregnancy, miscarriages, and the like. We chose these stories because they were the most moving and well-written submissions we had for those issues. Given that history, though, any new story with a pregnancy-type theme isn't likely to rise to to the top of the pile for at least a few more issues.

We also tend to look with a lot of suspicion on stories about writers or writing.

SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.

It's a cliched image, but I sometimes think of fiction writing as a kind of juggling act of formal elements: character, plot, dialogue, description, point of view, and so forth. A skilled writer has to be able to keep all of these elements in motion and in relation to one another for the duration of a given work. This kind of mastery can be fantastically difficult to achieve, but partial mastery usually doesn't have the power to move and excite a reader the way fiction ought to. We often see works in which some elements are brilliantly done, but where others seem to have been neglected or even botched. We may send an encouraging rejection in such a case, but we won't be able to publish the story.

SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in Printer's Devil Review?

It goes without saying, but read modern and contemporary fiction and poetry. Be at least as familiar with your genre as your readers are. Think about how you relate to writers who have come before you and those who are working now. Have some ideas about how your work relates to these predecessors and contemporaries (even if that relation happens to be antagonism).

And, continuing in this prescriptive mode, revise your work. Don't send your first draft to a magazine. Set the story aside and come back to it a few weeks later; see if you can economize, combine characters that are serving the same function, punch up the dialogue, etc.

Spend some time getting a firm grip on the mechanics of prose in general and fiction in particular. Stop relying on your gut to tell you where that comma should go, for example, and spend some time with The Copyeditor's Handbook or The Chicago Manual of Style (or your style guide of choice) and nail that down for good. Pick up a copy of Browne & King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and get a handle on dialogue mechanics and point of view (persistent problems with focalization—shifting in and out of third person limited without justification, especially—is one of the clearest signs that a fiction writer doesn't quite know what he is doing). Verb tense is another dead giveaway—I doubt anyone starts out knowing how to effectively render a flashback or background in a story that is already being told in the past tense; most of us had to learn to do that well by studying up on craft.

These may seem to some like picayune pursuits, but editors can tell whether or not you've taken the time to ground yourself in the basics. We've definitely been in the situation of rejecting a work by an obviously talented writer because we don't have the time to devote to overhauling an otherwise good story that has significant mechanical problems.

SQF: Your About page describes Printer's Devil Review as an open-access journal. I haven't heard this term in regards to a publication before. Can you briefly explain what this is?

Open Access is a concept with roots in academic journal publishing, where the purpose of any given article is to share ideas with the scholarly community and the greater public. It's long been recognized by advocates for open access that when journal publishers charge high subscription fees for access to scholarly literature and insist on publishing contracts that restrict the author's ability to disseminate her own ideas after publication, society as a whole is harmed.

This plays out in the context of our magazine in two ways. First, although we make a print-on-demand version of the magazine available (sold at cost), we make the same PDF file that we send to the printer available for free download on our website. Our purpose is to promote work we admire and we don't want any barrier to stand between artists and the communities that form around their work. Thus, we make all of our content available for free to anyone with an internet connection.

Second, we license all of our content under what's known as a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. This means that anyone can reproduce a story, poem, or essay from the magazine (posting the text to their own blog, for example), so long as they abide by the following restrictions:

  1. The work must be attributed to the author and it must be stated that it first appeared in our magazine.
  2. The work cannot be used for commercial purposes--no one can make money off of the distribution (online or otherwise).
  3. Derivative works are prohibited. This means, for example, that it's not okay to write and distribute a screenplay based on a work of fiction published in the magazine.

Of course, none of these restrictions apply to the contributor herself. The author is still the copyright holder; she's just granting us (and others within the limitations of the license) the ability to distribute the work. The author can sell copies of the work, get a book deal, write a screenplay based on a story—whatever she likes.

Essentially, we want the contributor's work to reach the widest audience possible, while at the same time protecting contributors' rights. We think this form of the CC license is the best way to do that. In this video, our cartoon animal friends explain how this works.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

People who first hear about us are sometimes confused by the journal's title (e.g., "Is that some kind of death metal fanzine?").

The term "printer's devil" used to refer to a kind of errand boy in a print shop and was still in use in nineteenth century America to describe ink-stained apprentices. In fact, two of the founding fathers of our national literature started out as devils. At twelve years old, Walt Whitman stood over a type case in the office of the Long Island newspaper, the Patriot and, under the direction of a master printer, pressed words in line with a composing stick. Long before Samuel Clemens piloted a riverboat or took up the pen name Mark Twain, he worked as a printer’s devil for the Hannibal Courier.

We chose the name as a way to acknowledge our status as apprentice publishers. At the same time, we wanted to indicate our desire to encourage writers and artists who are, like us, in the journeyman stage of their creative careers but, like the young Whitman or Twain, may end up exercising a significant influence on American letters. So, I guess you could say the title is meant to suggest about equal parts humility and hubris.

Kissing Oscar Wilde Party at Oberon

September 30, 2013

Jade Sylvan. Photo by Caleb ColeWill the fête for poet Jade Sylvan’s new memoir Kissing Oscar Wilde live up to its moniker: “The Best Book Release Party Ever”? Well, with music by Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, and Katie Kat; a reading by Krysten Hill; Wilde-inspired cocktails created by Booze Époque; and the lovely Karin Webb mastering the ceremonies, we think it just might. Get your tickets and find out yourself this Thursday night at Oberon.

We’re excited to be featuring an excerpt from the book in our Spring 2013 issue (due out in early November). The publisher, Write Bloody, describes Kissing Oscar Wilde as:

A modern version of A Moveable Feast, by an adventurous American woman in Paris. She went to Paris to chase a man but was awakened by the endless open doors provided by new lovers in all forms. This high concept erotic memoir reads like poetry as we follow her through her world of artists, food and sex.

Jade Sylvan’s first collection of poetry, The Spark Singer, was published in 2009 by Spuyten Duyvil Press, and she’s had work in PANK, Bayou, basalt, The Sun, Word Riot, Decomp, The Pedestal, and others. She won the 2011 Bayou Editors’ Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2012 basalt Bunchgrass Poetry Prize and the 2012 Write Bloody Book Competition. One of her poems was also selected for inclusion in Best Indie Lit New England, Vol. 1. Kissing Oscar Wilde, a memoir about her experiences as a modern working poet in Paris, will be officially released on October 1st.

Framed at PRC Gallery

September 9, 2013

The Filling Station, Caleb ColeThe work of PDR contributor Caleb Cole is featured in a new exhibit at the PRC Gallery at Boston University.

Framed: Identity and the Photographic Portrait,” which runs through October 12, also includes portraits from African American photographer Myra Greene’s series My White Friends as well as Lorenzo Triburgo’s photographs of transgender men set against painted landscaptes.

A review of the show in The Boston Globe describes some of the self-portraits from Cole’s Other People’s Clothes:

The ten photographs from Caleb Cole’s series … are about constructing whom out of what. Cole chooses an item of clothing or ensemble, imagines the sort of person who might wear it, then finds a location where such an individual might be found. He then takes a self-portrait wearing those clothes in that place. The classic actor’s dilemma is whether to assemble a character from the inside out (the Method being the most famous example) or outside in. Cole is an outside-in man. The results range from the melancholy to the amusing. All are distinctive, some disturbingly so.

You can find Cole’s series Odd One Out (along with an appreciation by PDR arts editor, Joshi Radin) in our Fall 2012 issue. You can also view the photographs (without commentary) in our online gallery.

Be Our Intern!

September 4, 2013

Are you interested in independent literature, contemporary art, and publishing? Are you completely awesome? Like the idea of joining a misfit band of artsy weirdos as we try to promote poetry, fiction, and art that might otherwise go unpublished? Well, friend, you could be Printer’s Devil Review’s new communications and marketing intern, helping our readers stay connected with the magazine between issues by writing for our blog and managing our social media presence. It’s unpaid—but you’re not alone there; PDR is non-commercial and the editors all volunteer their time because they care about independent art and lit. Sound like fun? Check out the full listing below:

Communications & Marketing Intern, Printer’s Devil Review

Position Description

Printer’s Devil Review, an independent literary journal focused on new and emerging writers, is looking for a communications and marketing intern to help us build and sustain relationships with readers through blogs, social media, audio-visual projects, interviews with contributors, email newsletters, promotional materials, and outreach to news media.


Depending on the candidate’s interests and strengths, she will:

  • Evaluate our current communications strategy and recommend improvements.
  • Compose, update, and post content to the magazine’s site and social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr). The intern will work with closely with the editor to develop a lively and accessible voice for the magazine’s online presence that also reflects PDR’s guiding values: support for emerging writers and artists; editorial independence; and a commitment to providing free, open access to art and literature.
  • Monitor and analyze website traffic and social media engagement.
  • Disseminate calls for submissions to online groups, message boards, and writing programs.
  • Prepare our monthly email newsletter.
  • Design promotional materials (posters, broadsides, buttons, apparel, etc.).
  • Pitch stories to local (Boston/New England) and literary news media.
  • Assist with the planning and promotion of release parties and readings (approx. 1/year)
  • Respond promptly to communications and requests from magazine staff.
  • Possibly produce and edit audio or video recordings for online posting.


Demonstrated interest in creative writing, contemporary literature, visual art, graphic design, or literary publishing. The editors are all artists and writers who volunteer their time to make the magazine happen. We want someone on our team who is as passionate as we are about at least some aspect of what we do.

Excellent verbal and written communications skills. 

Proficiency with (or interest in learning) basic web technologies (e.g., HTML, CSS) and graphic production tools (e.g., Photoshop, Illustrator).

Familiarity with social media platforms and their audiences.

Some proficiency with Drupal, WordPress, or other WCMS a plus. 

The ideal candidate would live in (or be easily able to travel to) the Boston area or otherwise be available for the occasional in-person meeting. That said, we’d be open to a purely remote work arrangement with the right candidate.

Why Volunteer with PDR?

We can offer a unique experience for someone interested in a career in publishing or the arts. You will gain experience in all aspects of the editorial and production processes for a literary magazine on the cutting edge of new technologies. 

We are not looking for someone to get us coffee or make copies. We are looking for someone who would like to build her resume and develop new areas of expertise. 

Depending on what you’re interested in and your existing skills, we can teach you how to:

  • Design magazines and print books.
  • Make ebooks.
  • Produce audio features and interviews.
  • Shoot and edit video for the web.
  • Design responsive web sites.
  • Produce graphics using the latest Adobe tools.
  • Develop websites using Drupal.
  • Copyedit your work and the work of others.
  • Code in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript/JQuery.
  • Write better fiction.
  • Launch your own magazine.

How to Apply

Send a resume and a brief cover letter explaining your interest in the position and what you hope to get out of it to editor@pdrjournal.org. If you currently write a blog about some topic (or contribute to one), please include a link so we can see a sample of your writing online.

Get a First Look at the New Cover on Pinterest

August 30, 2013

PDR CoversYou’ve seen our covers—flaming car wrecks above Taipei, backporch brawls with lobsters, zombies and ghosts at Mt. Rushmore. Today, we’ve posted all of our cover art to Pinterest, including a preview of Dorielle Caimi’s cover for our upcoming Fall 2013 issue.

Follow us to see more images by groundbreaking painters, photographers, and digital artists.

The One Thing You're Not Supposed To Do

August 26, 2013

Christine GentryWriter, storyteller, and teacher Christine Gentry (whose fiction appeared in our first issuewas featured in a recent episode of This American Life, The One Thing You’re Not Supposed to Do. Christine grew up in a house in Texas where her father had one important rule: “we have loaded guns in the house, and even though I’ve taught you how to shoot them, no one can ever touch them without me being there.” But one day, as a teenager, Christine broke this rule.

You can also hear Christine talk about a series of remarkable moments with animals in this episode of The Story Collider. Thomas Dodson, founding editor of Printer’s Devil Review, also interviewed Christine about the craft of writing flash fiction for Champs Not Chumps, Episode 5: Flashback. You can find more recordings of Christine, including readings at The Moth StorySLAMs, at her website.

Working on a Novel?

August 19, 2013

Kate Racculia, photo by Sagebrousso PhotographyWant some guidance and solidarity while you’re working on your novel? Then consider Kate Racculia’s course Continuing a Novel in Progress at the Grub Street creative writing center in Boston.

The workshop will connect you with a community of writers similarly in-progress. At least twice during the semester, you’ll have the opportunity to share short sections of your novel for big-picture feedback or to bring questions about your project to the group for discussion. By the end of the course, you’ll have a surer understanding of where your novel is headed and how to get there, and have that much more of it written.

Kate’s first novel, This Must Be the Place, was published by Henry Holt & Company in 2010 and named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. You can read an early excerpt from her second novel, Bellweather Rhapsody, in the first issue of PDR. Her new book will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2014.

National Poetry Slam Comes to Boston

August 12, 2013

Franny Choi performs on the Finals stage of the 2011 National Poetry Slam. Photo by Marshall Goff, art by Melissa Newman-Evans.Tomorrow night the 2013 National Poetry Slam officially kicks off in greater Boston, our home megalopolis. During this week-long festival, seventy-two teams of poets from all over the U.S. and Canada will compete for the title of 2013 NPS champions. There’s more to NPS than the evening competitions, though; there are also day and youth events and late-night events through Thursday. Download the festival guide for all the info. You can also keep up with the play-by-play of the tournament by following the SlamCenter podcast.

PDR has always been more “page” than “stage,” but we’ll be stepping out all this week to hear from this amazing community of performance poets. We’ll also be rooting for the home team, two of whom (Jade Sylvan and Sean Patrick Mulroy), are featured in the Black Key Press anthology Best Indie Lit New England.

Cover Artist for Fall 2013

July 29, 2013

Dorielle CaimiDorielle Caimi’s portraits of women are psychologically complex, honest, and often disturbing. We’re excited to announce that our Fall 2013 issue will feature one of Caimi’s paintings, Until Proven Innocent, on the cover.

In an interview with Combustus, Caimi explains her attraction to the female nude:

As a female artist, I can’t seem to escape the subject that I most innately relate to: women. People tell me that I should paint more men, but the truth is, I’m painting from my own psyche, which manifests itself in the female form … I think women are beautiful creatures who make the most sensual of subjects, but I’d like to add something more to that sensuality: intellect, self-respect, intuition, sensitivity, humor, etc.

There is much to admire in Caimi’s paintings—their purely aesthetic appeal, their technical achievement—but there is also something uncanny about them. Caimi embraces this strangeness, insisting that our encounter with the best art ought to be discomforting: “it’s only when we are uncomfortable that we are forced to delve deeper within ourselves … [to] bring out parts of us we didn’t know we had.”

Dorielle Caimi was raised in New Mexico. Her mother is Hispanic and one of thirteen siblings, whose family goes back over ten generations in New Mexico. Her father is Italian-American and a second generation artist. Her early training began with her father’s instruction. In 2003, she began studying painting at Central New Mexico Community College, followed by a few semesters at the University of New Mexico. She then transferred to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2010 with a BFA in painting.