Laurence W. Thomas has published books of poetry, fiction, humor, and creative nonfiction. His poetry has appeared in Blue Unicorn, Third Coast, The Antioch Review, Third Wednesday, 5 AM, The Midwest Review, The Dan River Review, The Bridge, and many other publications. He lectures annually at the Lucidity Poets’ Retreat in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and is founder and editor of Third Wednesday, a literary arts magazine. His recent poetry collection A Bird in the Stone is available (online order) from The Last Automat Press.
Jan: Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk about your wonderful literary arts magazine, Third Wednesday, published by Gravity Presses (lest we all float away) Inc. How did Third Wednesday come into existence? And tell us about the name.
L.W. T. In 2005, a group of writers began meeting at Barnes & Noble (and later at Borders Books) on the third Wednesday of each month. Two years later, it looked as if getting together regularly was becoming difficult so I suggested resurrecting an earlier magazine, Now Here Nowhere, edited by Mike Barney, and call it Third Wednesday.
Jan: How did you go about assembling your staff? Do you have much turnover?
L.W. T. Most of the regulars at our meetings jumped on the bandwagon. Janann Dawkins, Todd Maddocks, Sophie Grillet, Carl Fanning, Joe Ferrari, Paul Kingston, each came with individual skills and interests. At that time, we all knew each other. Later, other friends joined as some of the original group wandered off. Alex Cigale, a University of Michigan friend living in New York, joined. He is now teaching in Tajikistan and reports from there via the Internet.
Robert Fanning and Ken Meisel were associates for several years and are now pursuing other careers full-time. Josie Kearns, writing professor at University of Michigan, remained with us for a couple of years. Lisa Rye, after several years as associate editor, is on leave to concentrate on personal matters. I met Philip Dacey through the Internet and he has judged our annual contest for three years and is an associate editor at TW. He introduced me to Karla Huston from Wisconsin who joined us as associate editor. George Dila agreed to become fiction editor, and Judy Jacobs became art editor after Sophie left. Of the original group, Carl Fanning, Joe Ferrari, Paul Kingston, and I still remain.
Jan: What sets Third Wednesday apart from other similar publications?
L.W. T. I can’t speak for other publications, but a couple of words come to mind in answer to the question: balance and diversity plus, possibly, clarity. All creative effort is experimental which we recognize and encourage so long as what we accept is not too avant-garde nor too lacking in originality. Our editors are diverse, coming from academia, the professional world, and with wide experience in writing and publishing. Each has an equal say in what is accepted or rejected. We look for a balance between formal, i.e. sonnets, villanelles, etc., and free verse. We try to include some light verse, some poetry and fiction of sterner stuff, artwork that demands attention, nature poetry along with love and other human concerns.
I’m sure all publications are ‘reader conscious’ or mindful of what the market demands. I know that our editors are ever-mindful of what readers want which is borne out by the letters of appreciation we receive. We are always on the lookout for ideas expressed in new, fresh ways. Also, TW pays its writers. It isn’t much – $3 to $5 per item – but it gives our authors a feeling of being professional.
Jan: What is Third Wednesday’s involvement in The InsideOut Literary Arts Project?
L.W. T. One of TW’s aims is to find new voices, and where better to look than amongst our younger writers? The InsideOut Literary Arts Project goes into Detroit schools and develops skills of expression, teaches the do’s and don’ts of good writing, and inculcates in young people the satisfaction of self-expression and publication. I can think of no greater way to encourage a future in good literature than to invest in our youth in this way. TW receives consistently favorable input for our InsideOut Feature.
Jan: Third Wednesday has another feature: Featured Poet. How is this poet selected?
L.W. T. The Featured Poet sends in 6 or 8 poems and a brief statement about the poems or whatever the FP wants to say. The poems are not edited and are not forwarded to the associate editors. I find poets whose work stands out who I feel our readers should know better. They can be well known in the world of poetry or newcomers. Their selection is subjective and somewhat arbitrary, so nobody need apply.
Jan: What are you looking for in the stories and poems you select for publication?
L.W. T. Your question omits our artwork which is important to us. Judy Jacobs, art editor, complains that she receives too few submissions. We need black and white pictures that reproduce well in all media, but we also need the occasional color one for the cover. Our web site goes into this in greater detail.
The appeal to the senses is part of the picture in writing as well, a picture which steps out of its frame and gives more than it shows. “Show, don’t tell” may have worn thin, but works well for us if it’s properly understood and applied. Readers must find direct involvement in what’s being shown, not just told about it.
As for fiction, George Dila, fiction editor, says, “I want to know who is involved and what’s at stake right away. Another way of putting this is – I need to know ASAP why I should give a damn about this at all.” His excellent essay appears on our web site. One problem is that most short stories are much longer than our 1,500 word limit.
We are looking for meaningful work by experienced writers and artists. ‘Experienced’ implies basic skills, not necessarily wide publication. We hope to discover new voices on their way to becoming recognized and established.
Another answer to the question is that we are looking for work that will sell. TW depends – financially — on subscribers and a few generous benefactors. We would welcome more of both.
Ultimately, we look for beauty. Beauty is so subjective, but with poetry and fiction and artwork, it comes down to beauty of expression, meanings, emotions, and a general handling of the media, in other words, that which we deem to be, well, beautiful.
Jan: Most of the published selections in Third Wednesday are poetry. Is this the focus for the journal or is this due to other factors?
L.W. T. We have one fiction editor, one art editor, and six poetry editors, and maybe that tilts the scales. Submissions for poetry arrive every day; the fiction and art editors scramble about soliciting material. We would like our focus to be on all three.
Jan: Tell us about your poetry contest.
L.W. T. THIRD WEDNESDAY ANNUAL CONTEST: Send up to three unpublished poems with an entry fee of $10. Each poem should not exceed two pages. The top three winners receive $50 each, and their poems appear in Third Wednesday. Other entries will be considered for publication. Mail poems, SASE, and check to: Third Wednesday Poetry Contest, 174 Greenside Up, Ypsilanti, MI, 48197. Deadline: the last week of January.
Jan: What are the basic submissions guidelines that writers must follow in order to be considered for Third Wednesday?
L.W. T. Check our web site. What it doesn’t mention are things that should always be followed by experienced writers. All writers should have someone to proof-read their work. Typographical and spelling errors can usually be sorted out, but they tell us something about the author. We do not accept submissions sent through the mail (except for our annual contest which must be handled through the USPS).
Jan: What do you often wish you could whisper softly in the ear of aspiring writers who submit work to Third Wednesday?
L.W. T. Study the works of other writers, from Third Wednesday, of course, but from all such literary journals and publications. Find writers on your wave length and learn from them. Don’t copy, but utilize what you like and make it your own. W. H. Auden once said to me, “Be honest.” It took me a while to know what he meant.
Jan: What is the most difficult part of being Third Wednesday’s Editor?
L.W. T. That’s easy: the details. It’s astounding the number of little steps it takes to get a submission from receipt to publication (or rejection).
Jan: What inspires you? AND What makes your day as Editor?
L.W. T. That’s two separate questions. My day is made if I manage to keep up with the magazine’s demands. When I get through a pile of work, or at least a satisfactory amount, my day is made. Finding an uplifting manuscript is inspiring. Having it rejected by the other editors is not.
Jan: Which literary journals do you read regularly?
L.W. T. Blue Unicorn from Kensington, California, is a beautiful collection of poetry I’ve been reading (and have been published in) for years. I subscribe, off and on, to many literary magazines, too many to list. Is Poets & Writers a literary journal? I advertise in it and like its coverage of the contemporary scene.
Jan: Tell us about your own writing and publications. What are you working on right now?
L.W. T. When I returned from teaching in Uganda, Costa Rica, and Saudi Arabia, I collected the poetry I’d written and published my first book, Pursuits, in 1986. Since then, I’ve published 10 books of poetry, essay, humor, and creative nonfiction plus any number of chapbooks. Man’s Wolf to Man, poems of war and man’s inhumanity, is a favorite, along with Homage to Carl Rakosi and The Autobiography of William Shakespeare. Among my best chapbooks are Moment of Comfort, The Bird in the Stone, and Beyond the Bridge.
I have several manuscripts looking for publishers (A Walk with Charles Bukowski and Spindrift)and am just completing a small collection of poems about a niece and nephew I love and their beautiful home in northern Michigan.
Jan: What is the most useful advice you’ve received as a writer and editor?
L.W. T. Don’t quit your day job.
Jan: And what advice have you chosen to ignore?
L.W. T. Don’t quit your day job.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Please tell readers how to subscribe or donate to Third Wednesday and/or The InsideOut Project.
Third Wednesday subscriptions ($30 a year) or donations to:
174 Greenside Up
Ypsilanti, MI, 48197
Third Wednesday website: thirdwednesday.org
Submissions email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Editor’s email address: email@example.com
InsideOut Project’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
An Editor’s View
A literary magazine like Third Wednesday attempts to establish and maintain a balance between what is being written – and read – today and what anticipates changes in creative expression. Acceptability is a matter of satisfying literary tastes, present and future, and our editors always have an eye on what readers enjoy today as well as tomorrow. And enjoyment, in its broadest sense, is what poetry, fiction, and artwork are all about.
Variety is important to balance, variety of subject matter, the backgrounds and experience of those who submit works to TW, those who edit what we receive, and those who read the magazine. Our policy is to present works of a serious nature offset by some humor, the more formal styles counterbalanced by those of individual invention, pieces that reflect the human condition from a personal viewpoint to those that make more objective observations.
At Third Wednesday, our hope is that we include many ‘new voices’ on their way to greater publishing success. Our editors are always looking out for undiscovered talent, writers and artists who deserve greater exposure than they may have already found. Of course, we are pleased to welcome works by experienced writers, those who have many books to their credit, whose names are well known already. We hope to balance our books by presenting both.
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Folio, The Potomac Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, and many other journals. A recent story was an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s November 2012 Short Story Award for New Writers. She won the 2011 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction, and her work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Short Stories, and a PEN/O. Henry Prize. She is working on two short story collections and seeking a publisher for a third collection. Learn more at www.janbowmanwriter.com