Friday, January 28, 2011

Outside the Box: PALABRA
by Melinda Palacio

elena minor, photo courtesy of PALABRA

The editor and publisher of PALABRA, a Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art, keeps a fairly low profile. However, she was adventurous enough to meet with La Bloga. I’m lucky in that I have an insider’s view.

When I first heard about PALABRA in 2006, I sent many poems and short stories to the magazine, which were rejected. As someone who relishes rejection, I kept sending work to the magazine until I finally had a breakthrough with two poems in 2009 issue 5.

One important memo I’ll divulge has to do with the magazine’s visual aesthetics, a bit of information that might help potential contributors to the literary magazine. PALABRA is always spelled with capital letters and the publisher’s name is always spelled with lower case letters, as in “elena minor.” If you get this visual quality correct, she won’t frown at your submission or be in a bad mood when she reads your promising manuscript.

Remember, persistence. I don’t take anything for granted. PALABRA is an annual publication that rejected my work for three straight years, published my work in 2009, and rejected everything I sent in 2010. I’m happy to report that PALABRA has accepted my poetry for the forthcoming 2011 issue.

The Bay Area native started PALABRA in 2006 because she wasn’t finding any Latino literary magazines that published the kind of work she wanted to see. “I wanted writing that wasn’t geared to an Anglo audience, whose interest didn’t lie in trying to explain us (Chicanos and Latinos),” she said. “I wasn’t interested in footnoted Spanish. I wanted work that was different and unapologetically Latino.”

Over the past five years, PALABRA has taken on a life of its own. Also, she gets the word out by attending AWP, the Association of Writers and Writers Programs conference; this is her fourth year at the roving conference. In addition, she started the PALABRA readings at the REDCAT Lounge in the Disney Center in Downtown Los Angeles three years ago. She also gives authors who’ve been published in PALABRA the opportunity to read and feature their books at REDCAT. Working for CalArts at REDCAT helped secure the lounge’s excellent reading space. PALABRA Press will soon publish single-authored books of short, unconventional fiction.

Being the publisher, marketer, and editor of PALABRA takes its toll on minor’s writing time. She hopes to retire someday from all her jobs and devote more time to her writing. She’s an award-winning dramatist who also writes fiction, poetry, and hybrid works. She is currently polishing a poetry manuscript and working on an episodic novel. The MFA grad from Antioch puts her name out there and also rides the acceptance and rejection roller coaster. “I want to make sure they know Latino writers exist,” she said. “There are still a lot of editors of lit mags who have no clue about Latino literature.”

Eventually, the publisher would like to hand off the editorial decisions to someone else. For now, she thrives on finding exciting work that’s different. “I’m not a big fan of trying to repeat a formula,” she said. “I’m looking for writing that’s working from some well spring of originality.” She’s such a fan of originality, she tries to give that element of surprise in every issue and page of PALABRA: “I try to surprise people. Surprise is a reflection of the many different ways we write.” She’s also happy to discover new writers: “I enjoy the response of writers who’ve been published for the first time in PALABRA.”

This weekend I will attend the Fiction Bootcamp Intensive in Oxnard. You can join the next one March 11, 12, 13. Contact Toni Lopopolo or Shelly Lowenkopf. Shelly Lowenkopf is an editor and fiction instructor from Boyle Heights. He’s lived in New York and Mexico City and may surprise you by correcting your prose and Spanish. Toni Lopopolo is an East Coast agent, former executive editor at Macmillan and St. Martin’s press in New York City. The literary agent since 1991 is seeing novels written by Latinas. Try your luck with this NY agent, now based in Santa Barbara. The March intensive is for advanced novelist. So you think you’re advanced? Send some pages to to find out before signing up for the 3-day intensive. The fee, including reception, is $350 for the March workshop that’s limited to 15 people.


Thelma T. Reyna said...

Hi, Melinda. Another excellent column! I've had the pleasure to meet Elena Minor (pardon the caps!)personally, at the REDCAT Lounge reading by authors of the 2010 issue. There were four of us, and I totally enjoyed chatting with Elena and meeting my fellow writers. Elena is soft-spoken, gracious, smart, and perceptive. Thank goodness for people like her, who took her wish to see more Latino literature published, and had the dedication, talents, and energy to make it happen on her own terms. I'll be sad the day she retires, but I'll look forward to seeing her own writing in print again. Either way, Elena has unselfishly enriched the world, not just the Latino world of letters, but the world of letters generically. More success to her!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog about PALABRA.
I'm sure Shelly and Toni appreciate the plug also.
Jaime Alejandro
(La Beluga)