Here’s the Plan: Themed Issue Previews

We don’t have time for new year, new me because we’re too busy with the new ALP!

Over the course of an amazing year establishing antilang. and putting together our first three issues, we noticed contributors tend to gravitate toward certain themes and genres. So, to encourage good short writing in these areas while giving our issues more cohesion and nuance, we’ve decided that our next three issues (antilang. no. 4-6) will be themed. We’re hoping to invite guest editors to help out with each issue (we already have two on board for no. 4—stay tuned for the big reveal!) and lend broader and more diverse perspectives to our team.

“But what are the themes?” you ask. Without further adieu, here’s the plan:

antilang. no. 4: Succinct Speculations (Spring 2019)

  • SciFi, fantasy, weird, horror, alternate history/present/reality, etc.
  • Details on guest editors, their definitions of “spec fic,” and what they’re looking for in submissions coming soon!
  • Submissions open Feb. 1st
no. 4 font idea
font prototype for antilang. no. 4

antilang. no. 5: Pithy Politics (Fall 2019)

  • Bold poems, outspoken prose, and micro manifestos
  • Just in time for the Canadian federal election!
  • Submissions open June 1st

antilang. no. 6: Blunt Blogs (Winter 2020)

  • Creative writing from your blog (any genre/topic)
  • A platform for your ‘previously published’ work (because many mags don’t accept work if it’s been on a blog before)
  • Submissions open Oct. 1st

See our Submission Guidelines for full details.

A note on soundbite: our audio publication will be open for general submissions during the same windows as antilang. Contributors are welcome to send audio submissions that match antilang.’s themed issues but we’re happy to hear byte-sized readings on other topics as well.

New Work from 32 Contributors!

We’re so excited to launch our latest issues of antilang. and soundbite! Check out some amazing short work from established and emerging writers across Canada and beyond.

Read antilang. no. 3 and listen to soundbite vol. 2 and tell us what you think!

On Canadian Content: By the Artists

In our last post on CanCon, we talked a lot about numbers, requirements, and how to reach them; now we’d like to look more closely at what makes something “CanCon.” Canadian radio requirements follow the MAPL system—yes, as in “maple,” we aren’t joking and we couldn’t make this up—to determine if a song/band meets CanCon standards. MAPL stands for music, artist, performance, and lyrics. To be considered CanCon, two of those four factors must be Canadian. But the standards in literature are far more fuzzy, and Canada has a long history of ‘borrowing’ and ‘claiming’ authors from abroad as its own.

For example, postmodern prairie poet and novelist Robert Kroetsch wrote and published all of his early books while living, studying, and teaching in the United States despite the texts’ overtly Canadian content. By contrast, French Canadian Nicole Brossard’s novel Le désert mauve (Mauve Desert) is set in the U.S. and nearly all of the characters are American yet it’s a canonical Quebecois novel. Science fiction trailblazer William Gibson first came to Canada from the U.S. as a draft-dodger but has been adopted as one of the fathers of our speculative fiction tradition. Alix Ohlin was born in Montreal and now lives and teaches in Vancouver, but most of her education, writing, and publishing happened in the U.S. And the list goes on and on, with each of these grey zone cases being adopted or sometimes even assertively claimed as part of Canadian literature.

The question then becomes “what makes something CanCon?” especially when we aren’t dealing with a famous author that people have ruled on. Some of our contributors live abroad but write about Canada, others live, study, and write in Canada but aren’t citizens (and some are in the process of becoming citizens). We would love to consider all those people as “Canadian writers” in the same vein as Canadian writers have always been claimed, but we don’t want to hurt our chances for funding that would allow us to pay contributors or help cover operational costs.

So, how do we decide what ‘counts’ as CanCon and how we can best—literally—count our CanCon for grant applications? We have decided to go with a fairly clear understanding of “Canadian”—someone who has citizenship or permanent residency (the latter being an immigrant granted permission to live in Canada indefinitely without citizenship). We decided that permanent residents will be considered ‘Canadian’ for us because we aren’t in charge of voting stations—we’re a non-profit literary hub trying to build community—and to us this means celebrating a diversity of views and experiences, including those of immigrants who help create the mosaic that Canada boasts it is.

In our previous post on CanCon we asked our readers to let us know how they would like us to count the amount of CanCon in our issues (by page, contributor, piece, etc.) on Facebook and Patreon. We received arguments in favour of each way of counting, but having then considered who counts as ‘Canadian,’ we decided that we will be counting our CanCon by contributor. This will make our jobs easier when putting together our issues because we won’t have to do complicated math to balance page numbers (i.e., ‘if we take this 5 page international submission, then we need 25 Canadian pages before we can take another international’). Counting contributors also makes counting soundbite easier, especially as we are considering the combined total of our contributors from both publications together (the grants ask for our CanCon by project, and we consider The ALP one project).

What does this mean? It means we’re going to start asking our submitters to declare if they are Canadian citizens or permanent residents in their cover letters. We will never share your personal information with anyone, but you will become a statistic (either part of our 80% CanCon or our 20% international). But don’t worry—we’re already looking into globalisation grants that don’t have such strict regulations on CanCon (however, we need to have existed for a longer time to qualify for those, so, until then we will play by the funding rules and count our CanCon contributors).

On Why You Hear “Yes” Before You Hear “No”

We all know how lit mags work: you send something in, and the longer you go without hearing anything, the longer they are taking to decide if they want your work (so, if you hear “no” just before the issue comes out, well, then at least you can take comfort knowing that your piece made the editors’ long-list). On the flip side, if you get a “no” within a month of submitting, then you know they really didn’t like it. Either way, with a “no” it’s rare to receive any type of feedback (so if you do get an encouraging note about your work, celebrate!)

By contrast, when we read submissions to The ALP, we categorise each piece and then go through work we’ve flagged for our issues (antilang. and soundbite). We do the edits for these pieces (the ones we accept for publication) before we send out our rejections. We also adhere to a tight schedule—we give ourselves around a month to edit and send out our acceptances and to put together both publications.

Because of this quick turn-around, things can get a bit awkward—sometimes we’re still sending out rejections after the issue has launched online. However, we post on our social media accounts (@antilangmag) when we have completed all our acceptances. So, if you haven’t heard back from us by then, you’ll be receiving a “no” with feedback.

Do we edit or give feedback on every submission? No. We are a publisher that prioritises editing, but we are not a free editing service. When people send us work that is not even close to being polished (obvious first drafts, an abundance of clichés or abstractions, etc.), then we send a generic “no thanks.”

For our “no with feedback” submissions, we put comments in the body of an email and typically address the strongest element of your work (the spark we see in it!) and any major issues. We do accept work that requires edits, but usually we don’t accept work that requires structural changes (i.e. switching the tense or perspective, rearranging scenes, or other edits that would take substantial time). So, our feedback will not be line edits, but rather comments and questions about the construction of the piece. These are pieces we feel are so close to being what we want, but need some sort of change that would take longer than our one-month deadline to incorporate (but that’s just us—a lot of these pieces do get scooped up by other lit mags that focus on elements outside of concision).

At The ALP, we do things differently. We know good work doesn’t emerge from a vacuum—while you sit down and physically write by yourself, the rewriting and editing are often done by sharing your work with trusted readers and editors. We want to highlight this communal element that is inherent to the writing process (and often overlooked).

On Canadian Content: By the Numbers

If you’ve ever listened to a Canadian radio station, you probably noticed an over-abundance of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, and the ever-berated Nickelback. This is because most stations in Canada are required to play at least 40% Canadian content (or as we lovingly call it: CanCon), and there are similar rules for Canadian periodicals. If you want to be supported by the Canadian Periodical Fund, as The ALP does (because we’re in this double bind of having no money yet wanting to pay our contributors), then a certain percentage of your content needs to be Canadian. This number varies somewhat from one grant to another, but for lit mags it’s often as high as 80%.math-1500720_960_720

We’ll jump into the hot mess of “what makes something Canadian?” in Part 2 of this mini blog series, but the big question, for now, is “how do we calculate that 80%?” This might seem like it has a straightforward answer, but many of the grant applications let you decide how you calculate your CanCon so long as the calculation is clearly explained and justified. So, do you go by number of pages, number of contributors, or number of contributions? This distinction can drastically swing the final number since many poets submit numerous short pieces that get published together while prose writers tend to take up more pages but usually only have a single entry. Consider Jessica Mehta’s two poems on the first two pages of antilang. no. 2 in contrast with Michaela Stephen’s five-page single story: who is contributing ‘more’ content to the magazine? And how problematic is it to imply, through the criteria we choose, that a one-page poem has the same content ‘value’ as a five-page story or, from the opposite approach, that a story has five times the ‘value’ as a poem? These issues get even more flustered when dealing with soundbite, which doesn’t have pages but could be considered in terms of time or number of pieces. And, though we consider these as distinct entities, or sister-publications, do they actually count as such, or should we be accounting for the total amount of CanCon published by the entire organisation?

At this point, if you haven’t gotten bored of all the math questions, you might be wondering “so what? just pick the formula that makes the most sense and send in your numbers.” At The ALP we want to publish the best short writing that we receive and we feel it’s unfair that a great piece might be cut or bumped to the next issue simply because of the contributor’s nationality (the complexities of which we’ll delve into in the next post). We hate the subtext of implied value systems and hierarchies that any one of these formulas imposes. This might sound a little melodramatic, but these questions of CanCon cause us to wrestle with what give writing its value. So, when caught between the rock of grant regulations and the hard place of financial dependence, we’re going to do everything we can by the numbers to ensure the largest quantity and the greatest possible diversity of good short writing appears in our publications. And to help us with this, we want your input! What do you think would be the best solution: page count, by piece, or by contributor? Leave your input in the comments (either on our social media posts or on our blog) and join in the conversation.