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alan
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« on: May 14, 2005, 10:08:10 PM »

Special thanks to our mole: Poet K

Editor's notes in red.

In an opening statement, the University of Colorado Press Editor, G'Schwind, mentioned that the press added a Jorie Graham rule for their current contest. (He didn't refer to it as the Jorie Graham rule; no one on the panel or in the audience used the term).

Charles Flowers, Walt Whitman Award editor, read his press's guidelines out loud, saying that he personally disagrees with the policy that the press has the right to not to name a winner in a given year. (then change it!) No one mentioned the Zoo Press/U. of Missouri Press fiction fiasco or other times when presses took advantage of this clause.

Sarah Gorham of Sarabande Books said that her press had added a Jorie rule, but didn't mention that there was good cause (Charles Wright selecting James Kimbrell's manuscript). She also argued that "close friends" of the judge should be prohibited, but "friends" of the judge should be allowed. To defend this, she trotted out the "small world" argument, which turned out to be one of the refrains of the event.  (What are the stats of MFA grads again?  70,000?  Plus non-MFAs?)

Another refrain was that Iowa had come under attack, and that it's no surprise that so many Iowa grads win contests since they're such a good program. "They graduate 150 writers a year." said Gorham. (true?) "What would I have to gain by rigging the contest in favor of Iowa people?" asked G'Schwind. (Um -- Jorie and Revell editing Colorado Review maybe?) "It's important to remember that Iowa is a university, not a publisher," said Kevin Larimer of Poets & Writers (the panel's moderator). "University of Iowa Press is a publisher."

If you work for Pepsi, you're ineligible to take the prize even if you get the winning bottle," said one audience member. "We all agree with that," said Larimer, though he didn't want to discuss specifics about University of Iowa Press because, as one audience member called out, "No one from University of Iowa is here to speak for themselves."  Wah.

There was some debate about whether screeners and judges ought to see acknowledgment pages. The conclusion seemed to be that they should be detached from the manuscript that screeners and judges see.  Agreed!

Larimer suggested that judges ought to sign agreements prohibiting conflicts of interest.  Yes!  And screeners too!

A grant distributor in the audience suggested that a panel of judges would be fairer than a single judge. Also a good idea.

There was endless discussion of "What is a student?" They went on and on, agonizing over someone who attended a workshop session at a writers conference qualified as a student.  Gimme a break!

One of the panelists said that when the judge isn't announced, no one knows who the judge is, so no one can seek favors. The Pepsi man yelled out "The entrants solicited by the judge know who the judge is." Charles Flowers picked up on this point, but not for another ten minutes. He suggested a clause prohibiting judges from soliciting manuscripts.  Or a Jorie Graham rule is an even simpler solution, but what is a student?

There was an interesting question from someone about what happens when a press has a Jorie Graham rule, and the judge isn't announced. In that case, some people wondered, should students of the judge get their entry fees refunded after the fact, when the judge is announced? Yes.

Foetry was mentioned by Sarah Gorhan 42 minutes into the panel. If CLMP created a set of ethics guidelines, she wanted to know, what would happen if a press didn't follow them to the letter, "would we all end up on Foetry?"  Girlfriend is back on.  She's asking for trouble with her weird friend babble and her Four Way Books "prize."

An audience member named Jason Lee identified himself as the winner of Tupelo's fiction contest for 2001 or 2002 and said that they broke their contract with him. He said he won their contest, signed a contract, got a job that was partly contingent on the book coming out, and then had Tupelo back out. Larimer didn't want to comment much without knowing the specifics, but he suggested getting a lawyer, and Lee said a lawyer told him it would be too much of a hassle because he and the press were in different states.  Wow!  Is this true?

Janet Holmes, sitting in the front row (gag), said that she has veto power over every "no" vote that screeners make. So the screeners say the manuscript isn't any good, but Janet can glance at it, see that it's a friend of hers, I mean an objectively-verifiable masterpiece, and forward it to the judge.  

Larimer actually said "I hope everyone in the audience understands that it's always a last resort to run a contest and charge entry fees," and he went on and on about how these contests are not profitable. To support this, Gorham mentioned spending a total of $7200 per year on screeners.  What?  Is she misusing NEA funding or what?

An Alice James editor was in the audience, and she defended non-blind contests.  Of course she did.

The final question of the event was from a young woman in the back. "What about Foetry.com?" Larimer's answer: "The idea is good, but unfortunately, the execution is bad. ( much like the Contester?) Some of the accusations on Foetry are, frankly, unfair. I wouldn't use it as your sole source of information about contests."
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"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
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Alan Cordle
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2005, 02:49:34 PM »

The report on the ethics panel at AWP contains a number of inaccuracies. While I did participate in the discussion, I did not say any of the things attributed to me, nor was I the panel moderator.  Jeffrey Lependorf, the executive director of CLMP, was the moderator.

Kevin Larimer
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alan
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2005, 03:02:51 PM »

Perhaps you could tell us some of the things you did say?
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"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
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Alan Cordle
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2005, 04:49:38 PM »

Kevin,
           now that you're here perhaps I could ask you why Poets & Writers has not reported on this issue. It seems crazy that a mag that bills itself as the place to go for the working writer (and they want my subscription and relentlessly pursue me with mass mailings) would not find all this of great interest. Let's say that what is posted here is not an accurate reflection of what was said that Alan got from a third party (and I'm sure it's hard sitting in the audience trying to keep with the conversation and who said what on a notepad) but then the point of this is that no one would actually go on the record about Foetry.com or any of the cheating, etc. I mean they'll sit on a stage and talk about parlor politics and dance around the most obvious issue at AWP but no one wants to talk about it.

When people who should be talking, who should be taking a stand don't then what are we left with? Charles Flowers and the Academy of American Poets should let their voice be heard. So should Poets & Writers. So should CCLM. So should reps for AWP. So should reps for the Association of University Presses.

It's like the old Soviet Union when the Writers Union controlled everything and no one speak up because they would be erased from the history books or exiled to Siberia. What's the difference between then and now?
What's the punishment for speaking up today -last in line at the cheese dip, people don't renew their subscription to P&W?

I thought this was an ethics panel. What could be more about ethics than "cheating"? What could be more appropriate to discuss than one writer manipulating events so that a friend or relationship is unfairly advantaged? The question that pops up is what proof? And when caught dead to rights writers deny. But then some clever fellow goes and files an Open Records request in Georgia and the list of judges and winners is revealed and there are still denials and so then a second Open Records request is made and still more records, correspondence, etc. is revealed that there was never a contest or competition but a solicitation of someone who never entered in the first place and the money was kept and the 1,000 writers who entered had their manuscripts pulped.

If people aren't willing to speak up they shouldn't sit on an ethics panel at AWP. I question the fact that AWP had an ethics panel to begin with.

Kevin, I'm baffled. Can you enlighten?
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missblue
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« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2005, 04:56:42 PM »

It's too much work.  They'd have to do real research instead of interviews with the latest hot writer.  

They'd have to ask hard questions, and let's face it.  Poets & Writers thrives off contests and prizes.  They don't want to deal with a problem there, right?  

Or maybe they will.  But I wouldn't count on it.
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2005, 09:22:13 AM »

Casteen (who is apparently the son of the President of the University of Virginia and an MFA from Iowa) and Genoways thought they could hijack the discussion of ethics in the writing business created by Foetry by setting up a “forum.” But look at who they wanted in it: Charles Wright, Jorie Graham, Janet Holmes, Alan Cordle. Genoways says we are going to ask hard questions of Alan but then turns around and says no questions of Jorie (he says he’ll ask her but you know her answer will be no). First of all get rid of Casteen. How can be objective? Secondly, let the VQR publish the forum but not sponsor it. Have it sponsored by Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and do it in a public place so an audience (not an AWP audience full of MFAs but a forum open to the public) can ask questions. Get a lawyer, a consumer specialist and two writers on either side -pro or con- to sit down and talk in a public forum with an audience and televise it on Book TV and then publish a transcript at the VQR website. Take the control factor away from Genoways and let’s see if the offer is for real. I suspect it is not. You don’t need AWP to sponsor a forum. Go to DC and let it be public. This would be the perfect situation to have a real airing of the issues. Genoways are you game?
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alan
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« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2005, 10:12:13 AM »

Someone from Poets and Writers is still lurking:
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"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
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Alan Cordle
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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2005, 06:41:27 PM »

Quote from: "Vermeer"
Kevin,
           now that you're here perhaps I could ask you why Poets & Writers has not reported on this issue.


It's a matter of economics. The magazine's main source of income does not come from subscriptions--that's gravy.  The magazine's main source of income comes from advertising.  Thumb through the entire magazine and not how many contests, magazines, presses and writing programs are advertised and then check out the advertising rates in the back.  Almost every Press and Magazine has a contest.  If your PW do you really want to bite the hands that are feeding you? It would take them about fifteen minutes to find or create another magazine to whore.
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Wils
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« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2005, 12:28:13 PM »

Oh please, the whole magazine is just one big advertisement for writing programs and their contests. That's the only reason it exists.

They sure took a big stand against those fake poetry.com contests. That took a lot a courage.  :roll:
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allie Urn


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Wilson
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« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2005, 04:33:05 PM »

Going after the shark that feeds on newbies and fools was a great move.  It made all the fish in pond drop their guard a bit.  That way the real sharks could have their feast, and pick up some of that newbie and fool money too! It was probably poetry.com fault for not buying full page ads in P&W.
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« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2005, 10:05:24 PM »

You are so right, Wils. They guide the eye to the carnation, while the money goes up the sleeve.
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allie Urn


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« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2005, 03:22:28 PM »

I just read Kevin Larimer's issue "Who's Doing What to Keep Them Clean" in the July/August 2005 Poets & Writers.  In it, Larimer write "In May, a little less than two months after the roundtable discusion at AWP, Foetry posted a report on the event by an anonymous 'mole' referred to as Poet K, which included comments by Cordle.  The report contained a number of inaccuracies, including misattributed quote and a reference to me as the panel moderator."  The panel members mentioned their names quickly at the beginning of the panel and I couldn't see their name tags (they were sitting down and the name tags were blocked).  So it's possible that I mixed up Jeffrey Lependor, the executive director of CLMP, and Larimer.  My apologies to both.  It was an honest mistake, similar to the ones corrected monthly on the letters to the editor page of Poets and Writers.  I see that there are two such errata corrected this month in Poets and Writers.  When they get facts slightly wrong, they can print a retraction.  But when I do it, somehow it's an "example of what has led some to a major disappointment with the Watchdog's (Foetry's) modus operandi."  By that logic, the two retractions they printed this months should lead to a major disappointment with the modus operandi of Poets & Writers.  (Actually, my major disappointment with the modus operandi of Poets & Writers  is that they continue to be the chief advertising engine for corrupt contests, even as their senior editor participates on forums where he pretends to be concerned about the corruption).

Larimer hasn't challenged any of the substance of my notes from the panel, and neither has anyone else who was there.  I think Larimer is being more than a little disingenuous here.  If he were really serious about stopping contest fraud, he could at least refuse to advertise contests run by proven cheaters.  In his own article, he identifies the Yale Younger Poets Prize, Zoo Press Award for Short Fiction, the Associattion of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Award Series in Short Fiction, and the Bakeless Literary Publication Prize in creative nonfiction among those contests who have failed to refund entry fees in years in which they ran contests but didn't choose winners.  If Poets & Writers wanted to do something substantive, they could refuse to print any more ads for those contests.  

As for Lependorf and CLMP, by Larimer's own account they did nothing about contest fraud until prodded by Foetry's presence:  "Like it or not, Foetry got people talking about some important issues.  In response to the increasingly common discussions among the more than four hundred-fifty members of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP), executive director Jeffrey Lependorf decided to schedule a series of formal symposia with writers, editors, and publishers in order to establish a set of guidelines for contests, including a code of ethics, which he hopes to publish on the CLMP Web site this fall."  Good for him.  Better late than never.  

I invite anyone who was at the panel to read my notes at the beginning of this thread and point out any substantive inaccuracies (besides mixing up two panel members).  My notes were not a smear job directed at Larimer or at any of the other panelists.  They are just one person's account of the events, and anyone else who was there can add their own account.  My notes contained very little editorializing, but here is my overall impression:  a lot of people with a lot of stake in the contest system were going into verbal and mental contortions trying to find a way to make this unnecessary system work.  Sarah Gorham at Sarabande did say that she spends $7200 per contest on screeners.  With digital print-on-demand technology (the same technology and the same printer now used by University of Colorado Press, Wordtech Communications LLC, and Holyridge Press, who recently re-released Dean Young's Beloved Infidel), and an easily-assembled all-volunteer editorial staff, my own small press could easily bring out a half a dozen new books.  I'm sure that most of those books would be at least as good as The Gatehouse Heaven, written by University of Virginia graduate James Kimbrell, selected by Kimbrell's thesis advisor, University of Virginia professor Charles Wright, and published by Sarabande Books as the winner of an open contest that charged a $20 entry fee to each of the several hundred people who entered.
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alan
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« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2005, 04:02:55 PM »

Thanks for clearing that up, K.  And thanks again for your report from AWP.

When Larimer came here to state there was a problem, we invited him to clarify and he chose not to do so.  Now that's disingenuous!  He came back to troll the site repeatedly after that; I kept the log files.

It's interesting that Larimer gets so hung up on that accidental mixup of two panelists when his own article contains a MAJOR inaccuarcy that he could have fact-checked very easily.

Here's the article.

Larimer says, "Foetry remained anonymous for about a year before an anti-Foetry blog (whoisfoetry.blogspot.com) revealed the identity of its creator."

Wrong.

Janet Holmes hired a personal injury attorney to send a scare letter to the company which was supposed to register my domain by proxy.  They canceled my account, without contacting me first, and my private information then became available through the whois service.  Note that my address is not even available in the phone book.  The irony of that situation is that inadvertently, Janet will be funding all future foetry.com operations.  Foets, be sure to thank her.

But if Janet is whoisfoetry, as some people believe, then Larimer is correct, but she has denied it.

I'm also amused that there's a poll at the end of the article:

Opinion Poll
Of the 1,000 readers who responded to a Poets & Writers Magazine opinion poll two years ago, 41 percent believed that a judge should be allowed to give an award to a former student.
 

then he asks if opinions have changed -- the poll is being conducted again!

I'm not sure we need to poll a thousand poets, when a lot more time and energy could be used to just ask an attorney.  Or as Mole K says, P & W could implement advertising ethics.  Stop taking ads for bogus contests!

Ooh.  I just had an idea for a poll.
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"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
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Alan Cordle
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« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2005, 04:47:49 PM »

I guess that poll was conducted in Iowa City.  

Or maybe they polled third graders.
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alan
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« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2005, 07:16:09 PM »

The new P & W features letters about the piece in the print version.

http://www.pw.org/mag/letters.htm

And because response was so great, more on their site.

http://www.pw.org/mag/letters2.htm
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"You especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it -- don't cheat with it.” -- Ernest Hemingway
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Alan Cordle
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