Welcome to
draft: The Journal of Process

Featuring stories, first drafts, and interviews with authors of note, draft is a unique print publication emphasizing the importance and diversity of the creative process. We’re interested in mechanics, techniques, approaches, triumphs, failures, concussive frustration — everything that goes into crafting a great piece of creative writing.

"I think this is why second projects AKA 'the sophomore effort' tend to feel very different and are sometimes disappointing. By that point you are usually writing toward the finished book (or album, etc.) rather than not knowing where you're going. There is less randomness/discovery."
-Elisa Gabbert


draft has been used at: Bentley University, Cal Poly University, Coastal Carolina University, Depaul University, Drake University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Georgetown University, New Hampshire Institute of Art, Roanoke College, St. Charles Community College, St. John Fisher College, SUNY Geneseo, University of Illinois at Springfield, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Massachusetts - Boston, University of Washington, York College


Elisa Gabbert is the author of The Self Unstable, a collection of lyric essays (Black Ocean, 2013), and The French Exit, a poetry collection (Birds LLC, 2010). She lives in Denver. Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.

Rauan Klassnik is the author of Sky Rat (Spork Press, 2014) and two Black Ocean books: Holy Land (2008) and The Moon’s Jaw (2013). He lives in a suburb of Seattle with his wife Edith and their dog Camilla.



Lara Glenum is the author of five books of poetry: The Hounds of No, Maximum Gaga, POP CORPSE!, All Hopped Up On Fleshy Dumdums, and the forthcoming JUNK SHOT. She is also the co-editor, with Arielle Greenberg, of the anthology Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics. A second edition of the anthology, Electric Gurlesque, will be out in fall 2015. She teaches in the MFA program at LSU.

Rodney Koeneke's Etruria is just out from Wave Books. Earlier collections include Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006) and Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003). Recent work can be found in The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, Granta, Gulf Coast, The Nation, and at Harriet, where he was August’s Featured Writer. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches British and World History at Portland State.

Valerie Joan Taylor is a Southern born artist from Atlanta, Georgia. She paints as a vessel to experience and communicate what flies under the radar but is also sometimes right in our sight. Her paintings are inspired by movement, intuition, collective communication and how we sometimes store them as memories. The body poses are often awkward and reacting toward other objects within the work. She often thinks as her art as a story that is retelling itself in a circular motion. Her work is soft and light, but it also has eerie and dark components that speak truth and it all comes across as a sort of story telling realism. More of her work can be seen at valeriejoantaylor.virb.com


Poetry by Elisa Gabbert, Rauan Klassnik, Lara Glenum, & Rodney Koeneke

Short fiction by David James Poissant, Helen Phillips, & Amy Bloom

Essay, poetry, and short fiction by Joe Wilkins, Matt Hart, & Roxane Gay

Short fiction and poetry, drafts, and interviews with Alicia Erian & Donald Dunbar, along with bonus writing exercises

Short fiction, drafts, and interviews with Stacey Richter & Matt Bell

$12   per issue

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Creative Writing Exercises for jumpstarting your stories or for use in the classroom. Downloads available.

And if you have a good one, please share it with us!

World Building Through Map Making
World Building Through Map Making  by Hunter Liquore

Writers are creative animals. We like to jump right in when we get a new idea without taking proper steps to consider what the new world looks like. One way to get to the typing faster is to create a map. When we visually see what the story location looks like on paper, we can begin to identify what’s missing.

Let’s say you’re writing a story about a family that lives on a farm in the late 1800s. (Think O Pioneers by Willa Cather.) Your main character works in town, two miles from the farm. If you were to make a map, you would immediately mark these two locations. But what else is there? What surrounds the farm? What might your character encounter on that two mile journey?

Some questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Are there government buildings, like a sheriff, court, prison, a post office?
  • What natural features are present? Are there forests or lakes, rivers, hills, prairies, mountains, and so forth?
  • What stores might be in the vicinity? What other services are available, like a barber, smoke shop, bank, restaurants, and so on?
  • Are there places of worship?
  • What does the neighborhood look like? Who are the neighbors?
  • What historical events have happened in the area? Do any famous people live nearby?

  • What seasonal events might take place in this area? Is there an annual fair that people come from miles to go to?
  • What wildlife live in the area?

The key is to see your world from every angle. Even if your setting is only in one room, or a single building, you might consider what is beyond the four walls.


Make a map of your world. Start with the most obvious features. In the above example it would be the farm and nearby town. Now look at all the open space. What can you add in those bare spots to make your town more real?

Here are some ideas:

  • Library
  • Water tower
  • Prison
  • Ball field
  • Natural preserve
  • Carnival
  • Historic monument
  • continue reading

What you add determines the outcome of your world. For instance, if you add a carnival to your world, the characters will probably attend, or at the least, discuss it. The goal is not necessarily to add details randomly, but to enhance your overall setting. In doing so, you have the opportunity to create a unique world, one that you can now navigate with ease.

Creating a map every time you start a story will allow you to fully imagine and then create this new world. When you go to lay down those details in the story, they will no longer be vague. “The library’s over the next hill,” becomes, “The library sat adjacent to the town’s water tower, next to the dirt trail that runs past the sheriff’s office.” The more detail you can provide, the better your readers will see and appreciate the world you’ve created.Download

A Pushcart Prize nominee, Hunter Liguore earned a BA in History and a MFA in Creative Writing. Her “anomalous” work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Writer's Chronicle, Mason Road, The MacGuffin, Strange Horizons, New Plains Review, Barely South Review, SLAB Literary, Rio Grande Review, r.kv.r.y Quarterly and more. Her short story collection, Red Barn People, is now available. skytalewriter.com

MARY MILLER on Revision

I always loved Swink’s “Damaged Darlings.” Described as “an exercise in literary genetics whereby two fiction writers work collaboratively in a specific manner: the first offers a work-in-progress he or she has neglected for some time but still treasures; the second is brought on to take the blemished but beloved narrative and transform it into something new and more complete.” They published these collaborations in each of their three print issues, and they’re still my favorite stories in the magazine. In Newpages.com, Weston Cutter said of the “Damaged Darlings” in Swink 1, “The results are fucking brilliant, to be blunt, and both stories within, David Hollander and Nelly Reifler’s ‘Whatever We Were Beforehand’ and Amy Bloom and Chris Offutt’s ‘I Was Dancin’ with My Darlin’’ work as stories, as mysteries (which author wrote what?), as strange and beautiful harmonies.”

I have a handful of stories that I can’t finish, but I don’t want to trash them and I don’t want to strip out all the “good parts” and fit them into other stories, or (God forbid) try to turn them into poems. Why can’t I finish these particular stories? They often seem to be the ones in which I’m trying to follow the trajectory of what actually happened instead of allowing a nonfictional experience to spark a fictional story. How awesome would it be to have a writer who had no idea what had actually happened, or who these characters were, take over? Better yet, how about one of your favorite writers?

It seems that collaborative literature is coming back into fashion, or perhaps it never left. I recently opened up the new issue of PANK and read the first two poems, which were co-written by Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney. The poems are brief and have a singular voice, which makes them even more curious--did they take turns writing a line, pass them back and forth? Did they work in person or via e-mail? What if you hate what the other person has written? I don’t know, but I want to find out. I think we should start a clearing house, a place where we can post all of our “damaged darlings” and let somebody else have a shot at them.Download


John Gardner, though deceased and personally unknown to me, is a cool dude. He has two somewhat well known books -- the novel, Grendel, and the book on writing, The Art of Fiction. I happen to own a first edition of his excellent and out-of-print novel, The Sunlight Dialogues, which I have yet to have a conversation about, because no one's heard of it, let alone read it. For the most part, people will know The Art of Fiction, a book from which I hijack an exercise for my classes. Gardner's exercises go something like this: Describe a lake from the POV of a bird, but don't mention the bird. Or, Describe a barn from the POV of a man who has just committed a murder, but don't mention the murder. A good writer, he writes, should be able to convey to a reader that a man has lost his son in a war simply through describing a place, never having to mention the death. This is advanced writer territory, but its technique can be hammered home early in writing classes.

What I do with this exercise is ask all the students to write down an event or series of events that have put them in a particular mood. Some actual examples that students have written:

"Waking up, the first day after my partner died." (Certainly conjures a mood)

"Miraculously not being charged an overdraft fee by the bank when I had clearly overdrafted." (I love this one)

"Deciding to quit my job, and literally one hour before I was going to quit, being fired." (How would you feel?)

The students write down these events that elicit a specific mood-response, emotional response, then fold the paper, hand it to another student, but they do not look at the event on the slip of paper. These examples are from the adult education creative writing course, not the college. That's important to note, because what we do next is head to a bar.

At the bar, I tell everyone to get a drink, if they like, find a place to sit, get out a notebook, and then open up the slip of paper to find out what has just happened to them -- so, you're at the bar, and today you were not charged an overdraft fee when you had clearly overdrafted. Now, look around the room and describe everything you see -- the bar customers, what they are saying to each other, the bartender, the servers, the floor, the crap on the walls, the smell in the air, the beer on your tongue, the music from the jukebox, the displays on the megatouch game, and on and on. But don't mention what happened to you.continue reading

There's no such thing as a chair -- if you just lost your spouse, it's an empty chair. Everything in our sensory world comes through our mind and heart and looks, feels, smells, sounds, tastes different given our emotional state.

For the college kids, we go to a park if it's nice. Everyone likes a little field trip, don't we?

Then we come back together, share what we've written and everyone in class guesses what the emotional state was or the events that created it. It's a cool game.Download


Psychological tests are very weird and typically rely on verbal interpretation, two attributes that comprise a good writing exercise.

Rarely do products of writing exercises become anything substantial. Perhaps a line, an idea that can be expanded, but on the whole they are what they are: exercises. Practice. Necessary when you're not performing, creating, inspiring yourself. At their best, these psychological tests as writing exercises get your brain going crazy, which allows you to do something new, which is what you want, isn't it?

The image above is a Rorschach "ink blot." How it works: ink is dripped onto a sheet and reflected when the sheet is folded. These are all symmetrical images, and the patient is to interpret what the abstract ink blots are. So if you say, It looks like a butterfly, then you're free to go. If you say, It reminds of the twisted monster in my demented heart, then you're likely not free to go. To use this as a writing exercise, simply list everything the image could be; then everywhere the "thing" could be; then everything the thing could be doing; then all the inner feelings of the thing. This creates possibles. Just possibles. And you created all of them. If none of these possibles is truly striking, at least your brain is being creative out of thin air. It jumpstarts the creative half. This

is a good thing.

A psychological test that seems designed for writers is the Thematic Apperception Test or TAT. Here is one of the test's prompts:

Pretty creepy, right? Yeah. This psych test is a series of suggestive drawings, from which the patient writes a paragraph detailing what has happened just before the moment captured in the image; a paragraph detailing what is happening currently in the image; and lastly, what happens next. Great writing exercise. To make it more exercizeish, simply write out what happened before, what's happening presently, and what will happen, then rewrite the same scenes as comedic, then horrific, then romantic, then baroque, then minimal, then maximal, and on and on.

I do these with the writing classes, but I don't tell the students the origin of these prompts. This makes reading and hearing their interpretations a sort of sick game of discovering the hidden psychology of the group. Then I tell them where the images are from. Then we all eye each other. Then we laugh.Download


One technique I've found useful in revising is coming up with one word that my story is about in an effort to find a center. For instance, say I finally realize that the story I've been trying to wrangle for months is about "hope." Great. Then I ask myself, Does the main character lose hope or gain hope? (Normally, they will abandon all hope in my stories.) Then, I have some sort of idea that the story begins with a scene that demonstrates hope, then contains more scenes with emblems or messages of "anti-hope," and finally ends with a loss of hope. Thinking in really simple terms like this helps me see where I'm going more clearly. "How does this scene communicate 'anti-hope'?" I can ask myself. "Is the half-eaten donut an emblem of anti-hope?" You get the idea.

This might seem somewhat simplistic, but when I'm writing around in circles, unsure of what I want to say or why I'm writing the story or what the story even is, this has helped. I find if I just try to write something that I hope my audience finds interesting, sometimes it devolves into something scandalous or shocking, and then, after a while, it just feels like US Weekly (which has its delights, but that's not the effect I'm going for). It also, generally, gets me nowhere, because I am really concerned with plot and quirkiness and cleverness and not concerned with what the story means. In a story, infidelity for the sake of titillation is boring, but infidelity as "anti-hope," or whatever, just might work.

I also wanted to share this passage from Louis Menand's essay "True Story" in The New Yorker a few years ago. I think it's quite nice.

A short story is not as restrictive as a sonnet but, of all the literary forms, it is possibly the most single-minded. Its aim, as it was identified by the modern genre's first theorist, Edgar Allan Poe, is to create “an effect”-- by which Poe meant something almost physical, like a sensation or...a frission. Every word in a story, Poe said, is in the service of this effect. It's all about...getting the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes possible. Sometimes the fewest strokes can be a lot, but at the end there has to be the literary equivalent of the magician's puff of smoke, an outcome that is both startling and anticipated. The reader of a story expects an effect, and expects to be surprised by it, too. If you try to name the sensations that stories deliver, you find yourself with the sort of terms that (if you were a college teacher) you would write “vague” and “ugh” next to when you saw them in a paper: a pang, a shiver, a mental click, or what you might call (if you were a college student) a general sense of “Whoa.” Whoa is not exactly a term of art. You know it when you feel it, though.

In that same article, Menard also wrote that a good story will provide “a sudden apprehension of the way the world unmediatedly is.” Kind of like Mamet's uninflected scene obsession (for those in screenwriting). Fine goals, I think, to uncover "the way the world unmediatedly is," to create frission and smoke. All very cool. All very difficult.Download

INTERVIEW WITH The Southern Review Prose Editor, Emily Nemens

In 2013 The Southern Review accepted one of my stories. Before publishing the piece in 2014, the Prose Editor, Emily Nemens, sent me edits and suggestions. I thought she had a particularly good eye. Emily did great line-editing, but what was more impressive was her overall understanding of the story and what it needed. She helped to maintain consistency in character. She asked questions about some of my language choices that pushed my style in many places. I thought that it might be cool to share some of these edits and to explore this Prose Editor's editing process. Emily kindly agreed to answer questions and reveal some of her process at The Southern Review with draft.

- Mark

Say I’m an unsolicited submission to The Southern Review (TSR), what is my step by step journey to publication? The logistical stuff. Literally. Do I end up in a bin in the English Department at Louisiana State University? Do interns or first-readers pick me up and read me in an office? Who are those people? Is there a big slush pile I am in with others of my species? How long am I in the pile for? When do I meet you? And so on?

You want nitty-gritty? You got it. We still do mail submissions, which means the first weeks of September, there’s a flood of manila envelopes in our office (which is, since 2011, housed in the offices of LSU Press, on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge). I’m talking vertical feet. We have a handful of work-study undergraduate students who log everything and sort the pieces by genre. Jessica Faust, our poetry editor, reads every poetry submission. I’ve got a graduate assistant from the English MFA program reading prose and evaluating it (by the way, that’s how I got my start at the journal). He reports to me and flags the promising pieces, but I review every piece as well. I’ll write some encouragement on the replies for pieces I like but have to reject, and the fiction and nonfiction I’m most excited about I’ll share with Jessica (she does the same with me for promising poems). We compare notes and decide if, and where, the piece could fit in the journal. I wish this could happen with the snap of my fingers, but the quickest we’ve accepted something is within a couple weeks. More often, it’s a few months to much longer … I might take six months to see how upcoming issues are shaping up before I make the final call on a promising piece. We try to respond to everyone, yes or no, within six months.

When you read a submission, are you reading off a screen? A hard copy? Are you reclining on a sofa in the office? Do you read at home? What’s your reading and considering environment? Do you try not read too early in the morning or too late at night or just after lunch or anything like that?

With all these mail submissions, we read on paper, which feels like a luxury but also like we’re doing important work to save USPS from insolvency. I also believe, in a totally nonscientific way, that it’s better on the eyes, given our volume. I’m in the office five days a week, so most of my reading gets done there. (I have a comfy sofa in the office but also a comfy desk chair; I’ll move around the office some as it suits me and my circulation.) I try not to read when I’m zonked—there’s plenty of administrative e-mails to send and bookkeeping to do when I’m in a tired place—and I generally approach a reading session like I’m reading an anthology of new fiction. At the end of the day, I’ll ask myself, what stood out? Which were my favorites? I’ll set those aside to read again in a few days.

Who are the people you discuss the submissions with? How do you reach a consensus? Does it have to be unanimous?

Jessica and I have a lively back-and-forth on what will go into an issue, which takes the forms of written editorial reports, conversations in the office, and sometimes on the field (we’re on a soccer team together). I’m also getting feedback from our grad assistant. I have opinions on poetry, and she has hers on fiction, and we try to reach a consensus, but ultimately it’s up to the genre editor.

Have you really wanted a piece that did not make it into an issue? Have you disagreed with a final editorial decision? Does that happen?

Once or twice I’ve been in love with something, then shown it to Jessica, and she’s pointed out the cracks. Then I read it again, and I see the cracks, and more cracks. Then I realize it’s not right for us after all. I think I’ve done the same to a couple of poems. Even the most diligent reader will miss some things, sometimes. That’s a disappointment, but not a disagreement, per se.

Do you solicit? How do you find the writers you solicit, and how do you approach them?

I’ve had limited experience with this in my first year (I began as prose editor and coeditor in August 2013). When I started I really wanted to see who was sending to us—folks who had The Southern Review in mind—and so I leaned heavily on regular submissions for my first season of acquisitions, and I came up with what I think is a great set of writing. I have started to solicit work from writers I admire—that’s the primary criteria, whether I’ve loved them for years or have just seen their first story in another journal—and I approach them from every angle: meeting folks at events/readings, cold-calling authors (generally by e-mail), contacting agents. Even as I begin to solicit more work, I’m still looking to regular submissions for the majority of our prose selections.

TSR has a great variety in style and subject matter in its content. What style of fiction or nonfiction or content of fiction or nonfiction do you gravitate toward?

My goal for the journal’s prose is for it to be a satisfying—no, a flat-out great—experience for our readers. I want people to hang on to the journal because the stories are memorable and they’ll want to read them again. Or they’ll pass the issue along to a friend, saying, “Read this”—that’s one of the best compliments (after a subscription!) an editor can hope for.

We’ve got roughly 105 pages of prose an issue, so if I gravitated too much toward any one style, I fear it would get boring for said beloved reader. There’s no formula of “a funny one, a sad one, something fabular…” but I do like to balance the table of contents across diverse styles. And I like to see stories in conversation with one another within an issue. There were a few pieces set in L.A. in the summer, for instance, and a pair that consider disappearing lovers (though don’t they all?) in the fall.

Are you a writer yourself? What do you write? Where do you send out, if you do? Is there anything that being a prose editor has taught you about sending out?

I do write, mostly fiction, though I’ve been known to cross into other genres. Right now, I’m finishing up a collection of stories set in Arizona during baseball spring training. I am embarrassed to say that last year I sent out a few of them before they were done (of course, I thought they were done at the time!), which got near-miss rejections at some pretty major journals. And that’s the biggest thing I’ve seen as an editor, too. So many great pieces that just aren’t done yet. Not pushed and polished as much as they could be.

TSR is a print publication. Are there plans for digital versions? How do you feel about ebooks, ereaders, digital literary magazines, the little revolution that is happening/has happened in publishing?

We have a digital version for institutions, distributed through Project MUSE, and that has been great—lots of people are accessing The Southern Review that way, and it’s a not insignificant revenue stream. We’re working to develop an end-user digital issue, which you’ll be able to buy on our site just like you’d buy the print journal or a subscription. Stay tuned.

On a personal level, I love the revolution! I mean, there are parts of it that are great. I mean, I still read books made of paper. We have nine gigantic bookshelves at home, all full. I go to the library twice a week. I’m always going to like books and print journals because that’s how I learned to read, because I studied art history and worked in archives and have this romantic notion of the book as a valuable object. But that being said, I think there’s awesome stuff going on in online journals—I read those as often as I read print ones—and new technology offers huge, exciting possibilities for distribution. And more fundamentally, I like technology. I just don’t want print and the possibility of libraries, personal or community collections of actual books, to go away just yet.

We’ve all heard stories or warnings -- maybe they’re myths -- about submissions being chucked in the trash if they contain typos or clumsy grammar. Do you practice submission-trashing because of grammar, typos, etc.? Does this stuff really matter when considering at TSR?

Nope, I don’t trash something for a typo, because accidents do happen, but I ask writers to be considerate of our time and only send work that is looking its best. What I do hate to see—I won’t trash it but I will hold a sneer for a while—is a generic cover letter to “Dear Sirs.” The Southern Review is run by two women!

How do you feel about cover letters? Do you read them before reading a piece? Can they color your consideration? What happens to submissions without any sort of introduction like a cover letter provides?

I like cover letters because they help me place writers with whom I’ve had a conversation (through previous promising submissions, or I’ve read/admired them in other journals, or we’ve otherwise crossed paths at conferences, etc.), but a good story is a good story is a good story—the cover letter won’t change that.

You edited a story of mine for TSR, and I was impressed with the hyper-detailed edits, suggestions, and criticisms. You went well beyond the sentence-level mechanics and into questions of clarity, consistency, meaning, style, and character. How long do you spend with the material when editing? Do you enjoy the process of getting into the editing once a piece has been accepted? Can a disagreeable back-and-forth with a writer render the piece unpublishable?

Aw, thanks! I love the editing process; my goal is to get everyone’s work looking its absolute best. For me, editing is an iterative process and so I read a piece many, many times. I’ve not counted, but basically, I’ll go over it a few times when I’m considering it, then again after Jessica’s read it and I’m about to accept it. Then, before production, I read the whole upcoming issue to see if anyone needs revision (bigger edits, like a new ending or a reordering of sections), before we get into the line-level stuff. We still use paper and pencil for edits, so I go over it twice while editing, Jessica goes over it once, then I’ll read it again when I’m keying the changes into Word. I send to the author, review their replies (there may be another back-and-forth or two after that, for outstanding issues), accept their changes, and read it again to make sure everything’s been incorporated correctly. Then we set the piece for the designer—I read it again—and proofs come in. I read those twice, make corrections, and then send PDFs to the author for final review. While proofs are mostly just for typos, I’m notorious for still noticing stuff—a less-than-great word choice or a comma that could be better placed—in proofs, and I’ll query the author one last time. Tired yet? In a perfect world, the prepping-an-issue process would take about four months—note the overlap, as we’re a quarterly—but sometimes it’s squeezed into ten weeks or so.

I’ve never had such a disagreeable experience that we haven’t published a piece, though we do have a clause in our publishing agreement to get us out of some impossibly sticky situation. But I hope we’re reasonable enough in our perfectionism that we’ll never have to use it.

Have you had issues with a writer who perhaps didn’t like your suggestions? We can be a pretty touchy bunch! How often do you consider your tone when giving suggestions and criticism and edits?

I always consider tone. I’m not coddling, but I try not to be a jerk, and if I’m asking a lot of an author, I attempt to be particularly kind. I know it can be startling for authors, if they’re used to journals that just correct typos, to open up a story from The Southern Review and there’s a whole lot of red … Most often folks are grateful for the attention, but if we have differences of opinion, we work them out—I’ll make concessions, too. Occasionally—and especially with some of our older contributors—we can’t resolve our edits over e-mail, and I’ll pick up the phone to talk them through our suggestions.

You do a lot of reading for your job. How much do you read for pleasure after all that reading for work? What have you read recently, outside of TSR, that you’ve liked? What have you read that you did not like?

I read a lot for work—submissions, but also other works by our authors (so I have a sense of their style and history before I edit them), authors I’m interested in soliciting (in journals, in new or well-reviewed books), peer journals (to get a sense of the field), and back issues of TSR (another thing measured in vertical feet—we’re turning eighty next year, so there’s something over twelve feet of journals on my bookshelf). Did I mention I’m a slow reader? So no, there’s not a lot of time for leisure reading. Most of what I pick up is with a purpose—either filling a hole in my personal canon (and there are some holes!), or an author who could help my own writing, or someone whose career I’d like to follow. I’m reading Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins, and enjoying it quite a bit. I can’t wait to read Diane Cook’s debut story collection (Man V. Nature, published in October 2014), because she’s a great writer but also a very generous one—she gave me the best kind of schooling when I met her at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

What is the unwritten story that you’d love to see come to TSR through an unsolicited submission? Is there a plot set up or character you want someone to create and submit?

Jeez! Tough question. I’ve never considered myself that kind of guru, sending solutions out into the universe. I’ll read a story about everything, or nothing, or all of it. Just make it great.

Emily Nemens is coeditor and prose editor of The Southern Review. Her writing has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Eleven Eleven, and the chapbook Butcher Papers (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), and she was selected as the inaugural Barry Hannah Scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference. As an illustrator she's collaborated with Harvey Pekar and painted miniature portraits of all the women in congress, a project that garnered national media attention. She is working on her first collection of stories.

Sample Edits to Mark's story by Emily Nemens, Prose Editor, The Southern Review

MARGINALIA WEB SERIES: all things writing, reading, & learning

We're looking for writers, editors, student-writers, interested readers, disinterested readers, champions and adversaries of the writing world, writing profs and instructors, artists, and any combination thereof to write something for our ongoing web series MARGINALIA. This can be anything: writing exercises, dispatches from the classroom, anecdotes from revising, editing, submitting, triumphing, failing, laughing, what-have-you.

If you would like to propose a regular column for our blog, please send a good example and a description of the project. If you'd like to submit a single post, we'd love to read it. Please visit our blog and read other Marginalia posts before submitting in order to get an idea of what we're looking for.


We are always looking to feature visual art on our front and back covers from exciting new artists. For our purposes, we need to see a final, finished, work accompanied by several images of the work as it was in progress. We are a journal of process and want to show the visual art in stages — from rough sketches all the way to final product.

Size limit: The best quality images you have.


draft: the journal of process, is an educational literary journal that features first and final drafts of stories, poems, and essays along with author interviews. Our mission is to emphasize the importance and diversity of the creative process, especially for new writers and students in writing classrooms.

In draft, we’re interested in mechanics, techniques, approaches, triumphs, failures, concussive frustration — everything that goes into crafting a publishable piece of creative writing through revision. We ask authors to reveal their tricks behind the illusions. To tell us how it’s done, or try to.

We hope our detailed examination of the important and mysterious work that goes into writing will help to illuminate your own process.

draft was founded in 2010 by Mark Polanzak and Rachel Yoder and has since been featured in The Boston Globe and The L.A. Times. Our journal has showcased the drafts of luminary writers and poets such as Amy Bloom, Roxane Gay, Matt Hart, Matt Bell, and Joe Wilkins.

In 2015, draft became part of The James Gang, an Iowa-based community-building organization through which the journal now secures its non-profit status.


Editor: Mark Polanzak has published stories in Third Coast, The Southern Review, and The American Scholar, among others. He teaches writing at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Editor: Rachel Yoder has written for The New York Times, The Sun Magazine, Kenyon Review, and other publications. She won the 2012 Missouri Review Editors' Prize in fiction. She teaches writing classes in and around Iowa City.

Editor: Lisa Ciccarello is the author of four chapbooks, including the recent Sometimes there are travails (Hyacinth Girl Press) and the forthcoming (the shore in parts) (Greying Ghost Press). Her poems have appeared in Handsome, Tin House, Denver Quarterly, Leveler, Everyday Genius, and Corduroy Mtn., among others.

Designer: zzGassman design workshop provides the graphic design services for the printed draft and this online presence. www.zzgassman.com


Compare and contrast specific phrases in the draft and the final writing, while immediately grasping the change that has occurred between the two.

Insight and advice from the authors on writing, process, and revision.

Convenient wide margins allow space for classroom notetaking and references to related interview questions and exercises.

Each issue features a new piece of art and discovers the process of revision in the visual arts.

draft publishes first drafts and final works on the same page layout for a distinct, analytical perspective on the process of revision.


We thankfully accept tax deductible donations to support our publishing costs.


Website Release!

April 1st, 2012

draft is releasing a newly designed and updated website. Look around, learn about draft enter our contest, and purchase the journal.


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draft headquarters
1106 Yewell Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

draft sales
5 Everett Street, #1
Cambridge, MA 02138


website by zzGassman