Sophia Pfaff Shalmiyev
None of the Above

We ask you to pick a box when you submit us your writing: Poetry. Fiction. Nonfiction. You may have a fixed identity as a poet. You may feel that fiction is the most magical weapon for telling a story. You may want to capture a social movement through your nonfiction narrative. But what if you swim in between all of the genres and forms and wish to choose “none of the above” as your box? Unfortunately, like the large majority of journals, we do not have that option. Journals don’t usually have submission guidelines that say: Please don’t tell us where you have been published or how you perceive your writing, but just send us the work and we will print it if we think it’s worthy sans labels. For many, this would present a moral quandary and unwelcomed chaos. There’s the fact-checking challenge that the larger-scale publications have to take on with nonfiction. There’s the conversation over what is and what isn’t poetry (I have been told that nothing is off the table) and who actually reads the stuff “out there.” There’s some consensus that when in doubt about labeling the thing you penned, even if it’s journaling your dream from last night, just label it fiction to be safe, to be taken seriously, or take yourself more seriously, and to be more “literary.”

I don’t know why Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict became a confessional novel and not an experimental memoir. I don’t know why On the Road became an autobiographical novel rather than epistolary travelogue essays. So much writing belongs in the “none of the above” box from where I stand and read. This became especially salient after slowly making my way through I’ll Drown My Book, an anthology of conceptual writing by women, released last year by Les Figues Press. I highly recommend having your brain scrambled and re-shaped by this gorgeous book that asks many questions about the nature of the authorial voice, reappropriation, gendered language, obliteration of genre, and all sorts of “otherness” that belongs in our “none of the above” box. My vote for trying on new literary submission templates is to add a “feminist” box to the mix and see what turns up. I would welcome the kind of heat that illuminates the forest for the trees in our writing practice.