Last Updated: February 14, 2017

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“Two Cents (and some change)” — Commentary by Editor M. Scott Douglass

Main Street Rag will be CLOSED FOR HOLIDAY BREAK December 23, 2016 through January 2, 2017 


It’s been a while since our last posting. First there were the holidays, then there was prepping for the AWP in Washington, DC last week. We are back from Washington and ready to move forward with upcoming projects.

Main Street Rag has an ambitious publishing schedule planned with a dozen books and chapbooks scheduled before the end of April and over 20 scheduled by June. Many of these are books selected through both the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Contest as well as the Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Contest.

Some have already been posted on the Coming Soon Page of the MSR Online Bookstore. Others will be finding their way there shortly—so watch for changes to the Coming Soon Page as the projects work their way through Advance Sales and into production.  


I tend to prefer smaller conferences to the big ones, but I love the AWP. It’s taken me places I haven’t been before (or in a while), allowed me to visit with old friends and make new friendships.

Washington, DC is the most expensive one I’ve gone to for a number of reasons, but this location was head and shoulders above the last one they had here. What I’m really looking forward to are the next few: Tampa next year, Portland after that, followed by San Antonio and Kansas City. 

I spent a lifetime in the Tampa metro area one year. It will be good to return and (possibly) visit the old stomping grounds. Read that as: places where I was asked to leave.  

Portland is another one of those places it’s easy to fall in love with. I’ll probably hang around for a week afterward to visit Bend (Deschutes Brewery), Crater Lake, and the wine valley.

Of course, I’ve got friends in Kansas City—where I go frequently—so that will be a chance to hang out with some GREAT performance poets who are just a lot of fun.

The wild card is San Antonio. I’ve never been there. It’s Southern. It’s a long ride. It’s the kind of trip where I just might send the stuff ahead, hop the motorcycle and make a little adventure of going and coming back. It’s a few years away. We’ll see.

All I have to say to my fellow publishers, fellow writers, upcoming and new writers: You need to go to one of these conventions at least once. You’ll never get to see or hear everything—and that’s fine—you shouldn’t even try, but you will experience great folks with whom we all, whether writers, editors, publishers, teachers/instructors, share a kinship, a fellowship that transcends so many of the ways we are different.


The deadline has passed. Some of the first round results are already trickling back. We are ahead of schedule due largely to a smaller than usual turnout, but we expect to announce a winner in early April.


Reading for this contest opens March 1—it’s right around the corner. We have a new staff of editors who will be judging this year and several guideline changes.

First, the new staff:  Anne Kaylor, Kim Blum-Hyclak, and David Radavich. Many of our friends in the Carolinas will recognize these new judges as they are active in a variety of literary activities in both North and South Carolina. We will be posting their bios on the Kakalak Facebook page as well as the Kakalak Guidelines page.

Guideline changes:

1)      We streamlined the reading fees for images. Now there is only one fee for images and ALL will be considered for cover design. There will be one prize for cover art winner, one for inside art winner, but both will be selected from the same pool of entries and there will be a single entry that covers both.

2)     We will no longer restrict eligibility to North Carolina and South Carolina residents or people who lived here at one time. Now, as long as a contest entry—whether poem or artwork—references the region, a person or event from the region, it will be considered eligible.

Visit the Guidelines page for additional details: Kakalak 2017


In the past, Main Street Rag has paid shipping for all contributors’ copies. Though I hate to change this policy, when the price of shipping for a year triples the cost of paper (after a 10% increase in the cost of paper), adjustments will need to be made. We’re going to start by splitting the cost with contributors to the magazine, anthologies, and copies of authors’ books. If that doesn’t slow the bleeding, we will need to charge full shipping.


I am the only full timer here at Main Street Rag and too much of my day is being eaten up doing paperwork and answering phone questions or taking orders over the phone. As some have experienced this fall, I stopped taking credit card orders over the phone and went to a process of invoicing THROUGH PayPal which allows me to invoice at my time and buyers to pay when it’s convenient to them. The benefit (for me) is not having to stop in the middle of something to answer the phone and write up the information. That will all be handled by PayPal and the buyer. It also better ensures shipping address accuracy.


On December 6th I spent $247.50 sending 11 packages–16 books–to overseas contributors. I do not want to exclude overseas writers from appearing in our publications, however, at a cost of $20+ (on average), it is simply not viable for us to continue to ship contributor copies outside the US. Starting in 2017, all contributors to our anthologies and literary magazine will be emailed a PDF en lieu of a hard copy. I’m sorry, but postage is simply too outrageous and unreliable to continue to send books the old fashioned way.


Starting May 15, we will be accepting submissions for the next theme: TATTOOS TOO. Details available soon on the website.

The BARS theme will start loading and moving toward the runway for a fall take off. Look for it on the Coming Soon Page this spring and summer.

The FAST FOOD/DINERS theme came up short on prose. We have all of the poetry we need, but most of the fiction that was accepted was of the flash fiction variety, so while our target is between 50-100 contributors and 300 pages, we have  about 60 contributors accepted, but because the pieces are short, our page count is too low. We need about 20K words of fiction or creative nonfiction. If you write either, please send us something. It doesn’t need to be ABOUT a diner or fast food joint, they just need them to make an appearance in the story somewhere.

NEW THEMES. New themes often require new ideas, new editors. We’re looking for both. If you think you have what it takes, contact me:

TWO CENTS (& some change)


If you’re accustomed to coming here for political commentary, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’m taking a break from the greatest con job on Earth. Some of my friends on the right are now cheering. Those on the left are surely saying, “NOW is when our voices need to be loudest.” To them I say: I was plenty vocal before the chaos hit, you just weren’t listening and too many of you sat home and let this debacle unfold. If you really wanted to be active, it was last year. Elections are over. They have consequences. We’re going to have to live with the consequences of this past one for a LONG while, long after the folks who were put in charge are gone. You should have been this concerned about it a year ago.

Today I want to talk about WRITING. I have invested a lot of time over the past 20 years helping others get published. It’s my turn now. So, I am out among you doing all of the things I’ve advised many of you folks to do. I’m getting accepted. I’m getting rejected. That’s the way it works.

I spend about five hours every week juggling the submissions, researching new options, preparing files to fit publishers’ guidelines. I spend several more hours—mostly on weekend mornings—writing and rewriting. Suddenly I feel like a poet again and getting results like I did on the 90s.

But the playing field has changed. Once upon a time, publishers had the upper hand. You send something out and it was tied up for however long the publisher decided to hold onto the work. Submittable has streamlined organization for both sides, but in so doing gave an edge to authors. Simultaneous submissions are now the norm and that makes it so much easier for authors to accumulate credits.

But now that I, too, am out in the arena having my work shredded by (often) undergrad interns with next to no real-world experience to use in their own writing and a need to prove to a professor, publisher, or editor that they are brilliant with a tastefully elite literary predisposition, it’s not as much fun as it used to be, but a lot less messy, a lot less expensive (if all you are doing is emailing submissions).

I’ve even sent off to several contests and in so doing I’ve learned a little about our own processes for Main Street Rag contests, what poets like and what they don’t like. For one thing, waiting on a contest is grueling and, inevitably, when you thought you were done, you weren’t. So a manuscript is entered in a contest, you’re still tweaking it, and each time you’re done tweaking it, you’re convinced you wasted your money entering a contest. The version you sent is four generations back. You don’t even like it anymore. In fact, if contacted today to be told you did not win, you’d disown it, pretend someone else wrote it, that you gave them permission to use your name and contact information because they wanted to remain anonymous.  You’ll pass the message on to the loser.

I swear I have 20 versions of the same manuscript under at least 8 different titles.

But this is the business. I just wish some of the folks who have sent work here and complained that we didn’t give it enough respect, spent as much time researching publishers and guidelines as I did. I had one publisher at my table at the AWP get startled when I recited her guidelines back to her… verbatim.

For me, I have a goal. I published my first book here through Main Street Rag and even though I applied for and earned a grant for that very purpose, there are those who consider it and all of my other books self-published because they carry the Main Street Rag label. As proud as I am of my label, I want this one to carry someone else’s. I want the acknowledgments on the inside to be as good as any book Main Street Rag has published.

To that end, I’ve been taking notes out of who is accepting work by authors we’ve published, authors whose work is similar to my own in some way. Then I made a list of targets. I also rub elbows with many publishers. We exchange copies. I have a library of some 5000 literary magazines and I know the ones with which I am most impressed. Add them to the list. I will send work to those on my list first in the hopes that they will find something they can use. I’ve already gathered nearly a dozen acceptances since October this way.

But timing is critical for me. I WILL have a book out this fall. It already has a name and a publisher, a publisher who knows it is still in several contests and doesn’t mind waiting for that to play out. I have done this many times for our contest runners up over the years:  played the fallback position.

I want to get as many individual pieces published as possible before we move toward design and marketing phase. While I‘m waiting, I will—as Main Street Rag—produce over thirty other titles, many of them from start to finish with designing, printing, binding all while waiting for my own to progress through the submission/contest process.

This is what being a writer is about. It’s not just laying the words on paper (monitor). It’s learning how to use the tools of the trade (software, internet, etc.). It’s keeping a paper trail. It’s seeking feedback and using that feedback to make the manuscript better. It’s rewriting. For a poet like me, it’s molding a group of poems into a cohesive manuscript. If you’re not doing these things, you’re not taking the job seriously—and that’s fine—every business has hobbyists as well. Writing is no different. But, if you want to be a professional, act like one. Take guidelines and procedures seriously if you expect those on the other side of the business to reciprocate.  


M. Scott Douglass
Publisher/Managing Editor
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
P.O. Box 690100
Charlotte, NC 28227