Tips from the Editors: Reviews
You’ve written it, but now it needs a home. How does a submission make the cut? In this series, the editors at Literary Mama offer their thoughts on the process. This month, Reviews editors Camille-Yvette Welsch and Jamie Sumner share with readers some insights into the pieces they love and the submissions they seek.
At Literary Mama, we want to champion the powerful, hardworking women who write about motherhood in its many guises. While we offer some critique, our purpose in reviewing is to spotlight the good rather than to flog the bad. We want to send people racing off to bookstores and libraries, eager to read new literature and find new literary kin.
We focus primarily on literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry, though we have been known to feature erotica and the occasional writing craft book. Ever eager to work with new writers, Jamie Sumner and C-Y Welsch, encourage you to read the tips below as you prepare your pitch/manuscript.
Pitching Us Pieces
We love to hear from new writers. When you are putting together a pitch, give us some insight as to what the book is and why you think it is a good fit for Literary Mama. Think too about how current it is and what it adds to a conversation about motherhood. Finally, give us a sense of why you are the right writer for the review. Do you have clips? Do you have an angle? Do you have a degree or relevant publications?
Talking About Technique
Stories can be riveting, so riveting that we forget to question the technique that makes them so. We are looking for commentary on characterization, setting, theme, plotting, diction, prosody, and more. Our reviews offer readers an opportunity to identify not only great reads, but strong technical examples.
Embedding the Reviewer
We like reviews to feel friendly, like a recommendation from a smart friend. One way our writers create rapport is to embed themselves in the review by answering questions like: What attracted me to this book? What surprised? How does this relate to my experience as a mother, a writer, a person with a chronic illness, a person with a particular religious affiliation, etc?
Credentialing the Author
Please let us know what the author has done in the past. Are we discovering a new author? Are we talking about a mid-career poet whose first book you might have read? Does this person write regularly about immigration issues or parenting a child with special needs? This information provides welcome context for the reader.
Teasing out the Theme
The best reviews leave you curious. They pique your interest with an introduction to the author, a discussion of technique, and all the things that grabbed you, as the reader, and made you want to keep reading. Theme is integral to this. It’s what lifts the review above analysis and into the world of ideas. We want to see reviews that touch on the heart of the matter and share a glimpse of the author’s vision of the world.
Addressing the Mothering Role
Literary Mama is first and foremost a publication that celebrates mothers and its focus continues to be “writing about the many faces of motherhood.” Within that framework, reviews of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry need to circle back to the mothering role. While this need not be the primary focus of the review, some light does need to be shed on its impact on the character(s), thematic evolution, or inherent tensions. Motherhood comes in all forms—biological, foster, adoptive, empty-nest, transgendered, grand, and more. This is why we love to explore writing that contributes to this genre.
For a full description of our guidelines, you can find the Reviews Submission Guidelines here.