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Business of Writing, Fiction, Poetry

Counting Down to Tahoma Literary Review’s Launch

TLR wordmark 3T-minus 21 and counting. T, in this case, standing for Tahoma Literary Review. The response to our announcement last week of the launch of our literary journal was far bigger than either co-Publisher Kelly Davio or I had anticipated. Between our two blogs we received more than 1,000 hits, as well as hundreds of tweets, retweets, Facebook likes and emails from well wishers.

We’ll attempt to keep the good vibes going this week with the launch of our web site. With luck we’ll make an announcement in the next couple of days when the site goes live.

Plus we’re planning several appearances at the annual AWP writers’ conference in Seattle at the end of February. Plenty to keep us busy until the event, and then the real work starts, as we dive into submissions.

Perhaps the best news of the last few days, though, was that my wife and I have finally received an offer on our house in Michigan. With a little more luck I’ll be able to join Dona in Tacoma in a few weeks, and operate the journal from where it will be based.

But life is not all roses. My local writers’ group has been conducting an extensive online chat about rejection, prompted by this missive I received from an agent regarding one of my novels:

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for sending me Curtain Calls and for giving me the opportunity to consider your work.

This was a difficult decision as I was really impressed with your submission. The writing is engaging, the idea is appealing and you write with real energy and imagination. However, while there was a lot I enjoyed about your submission, ultimately, I did not feel convinced I could find a publisher for it and therefore I don’t feel able to offer you representation for this project.

Best wishes,

So let’s recap. The agent liked the writing, liked my style, and liked the idea. So, naturally, the query had to be rejected. Huh?

My friend Stewart Sternberg offered to translate:

Dear Author,

You’re incredible! What imagination! What talent! I had to rest every fifteen minutes for fear of being overcome by the power of your writing!!!!!!!

Unfortunately, I’ll have to pass. You’re just too good to be published. However, if you have anything with a bit more passive writing, less challenging vocabulary, and characters which are basically stock, then I might be able to do something with your work in the marketplace. Perhaps you have something dealing with housewives who like to fool around on their husbands while dallying in light bondage?


Humorous as that is, it speaks volumes about how unimaginative are the tastes of the mass market (which I’ll save for future discussion). And it brings to mind a serious point about what we’ll choose to publish in TLR. We originally entertained the idea of TLR because both Kelly and I believe that professional-quality creative writing deserves fair compensation, and our journal is a bit of a grand experiment to see if it’s possible for writers and publishers, working together, to sustain that concept. But as we began to plan, we also realized the opportunity we had to publish writers who aren’t interested in mimicking what’s popular, but in exploring writing that lies beyond those boundaries. Rejections like the one I received Friday (and I get a lot of those “encouraging” rejections) only make me more eager to pursue our literary adventure.

More real soon…


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


12 thoughts on “Counting Down to Tahoma Literary Review’s Launch

  1. Geeze, for a minute there, I though you’d somehow gotten one of MY many, many (many) rejection letters! Unfortunately, not uncommon, my friend! This is one of the reasons why I went Indie. Tired of the “your writing’s great, love it, but don’t think I could find a publisher for it.”

    Keep fighting the good fight, and congrats on the offer!

    Posted by fpdorchak | February 8, 2014, 2:37 PM
    • Okay, Joe, I couldn’t stand it. You made me do this! :-]


      Write on, man, write on!

      Posted by fpdorchak | February 8, 2014, 3:32 PM
    • And even the “personal” rejection letters are often phony. A friend recently emailed one she received from a big-name journal that sounded so nice and encouraging. It sounded so familiar that I searched my email files, and sure enough, I got the exact same letter a year before. Needless to say, we won’t be doing that at TLR.

      Posted by jpon | February 8, 2014, 5:02 PM
      • Oh, gimme a break! Is nothing sacred—not even our individual rejections?!

        Sometimes…I just wanna bury my head in the sand.

        Well, here’s to TLR! May you prosper and restore the needed humanity in our literary ways! :-] Looking forward to it!

        Posted by fpdorchak | February 8, 2014, 5:22 PM
  2. Im so excited about TLR for all the reasons you’re inspired to publish a lit mag. I’ve dreamed of doing it myself for the same reasons. So I’ll be paying close attention and doing what I can to spread the word.

    As for the rejection, I spent a year getting those mood bombs in my mailbox before we published My Call to the Ring. And once that was done, a whole new slew of problems arrived.

    Congrats on selling the house! I can’t wait to read the first issue of TLR.

    Posted by Darrelyn Saloom | February 8, 2014, 3:34 PM
    • I love that term, “mood bombs.” And I don’t even want to know about the hassles that came after your acceptance.

      Thanks for all the support and good wishes, Darrelyn.

      Posted by jpon | February 8, 2014, 5:04 PM
  3. Dear Joe, It’s great that you’re going ahead with conviction and enthusiasm to show those agents and publishers just what can actually be done with good writing, be damned to the marketplace as a showboat for the mediocre. I wish you all the best, and congratulations also on having found a buyer for the house. It looks like you’re really going places, in both the literal and figurative senses!

    Posted by shadowoperator | February 8, 2014, 3:47 PM
  4. Congratulations and good luck with Tahoma Literary Review, Joe. Whenever I start submitting again, I’ll put it at the top of my list. I’ll be following the progress with great interest. Also — wonderful news about the potential sale of the MI house. Here’s to everything going as smoothly as possible. Fair Winds!

    Posted by Robert Hoffman | February 8, 2014, 6:04 PM
  5. mazel mazel on these devlopments. and thanks for the uh translation….

    Posted by Stephanie Barbé Hammer | February 9, 2014, 4:02 PM
  6. I love what you’re doing, Joe. I’ll be following you guys every step of the way.

    Posted by Gwen Stephens | February 10, 2014, 1:07 PM

Tahoma Literary Review Now Open for Submissions

TLR is officially open for submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. To find out more about this new (paying) literary journal, please visit us at Tahoma Literary Review.

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