By Meaghan Menzel
Assistant Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House Lindsay Lusby submitted a sequence of poems for the 2015 “Fairy Tale Review” in Poetry and Prose contest back in April. On Oct. 6, she received a phone call from Founder and Editor of the “Fairy Tale Review,” Kate Bernheimer telling her that she had won the poetry award.
“Unfortunately I was not in my office when the call came, so I learned about the news by means of a voicemail message about 10 minutes afterward,” Lusby said. “Usually the flashing green light on my office phone is a source of annoyance because it means someone wants something from me, and I probably have to call them back before the ordeal is over… so when I played the message back, I was so stunned that I felt physically faint. The downside of missing the call is that I didn’t get to sputter inarticulately into the phone while Kate Bernheimer told me some of the best poetry news I’ve ever received, but the upside is I can play back that message any time I want to hear it again.”
The prize for winning the literary contest in prose or poetry is $1,000 and publication in “The Ochre Issue,” coming out in March 2016.
Lusby said it was an “amazing and disorienting feeling” to win. She said, “I would describe it as that uneasy tingling sensation you get when that initial alcohol buzz sets in to your body. Your arms, head, and chest feel kind of numbed and you wonder if this is the first sign of a heart attack. There were cartoon drunk bubbles over my head, for sure.”
According to its website, “’Fairy Tale Review’ is an annual literary journal dedicated to publishing new fairy tales and to helping raise awareness of fairy tales as a diverse, innovative art form. Work from ‘Fairy Tale Review’ has been selected for inclusion in ‘The O. Henry Prize Stories Anthology,’ ‘Best New American Voices,’ ‘Best American Fantasy,’ and listed as ‘Notable’ in ‘Best American Short Stories,’ among other honors.”
“This is definitely the first literary contest I’ve won, and it’s also the first time I’ve been paid for my poetry— two new landmark moments for me,” Lusby said. “’Fairy Tale Review’ has been my absolute favorite literary journal for at least the past seven years… Kate Bernheimer [is] one of my literary idols… I submitted to ‘FTR’ for five years before I finally got a piece accepted. Seeing a poem of mine in 2014’s ‘The Emerald Issue’ was a landmark moment for me.”
The poems Lusby submitted for the contest are titled “Forestry (parts 1-3).” She said, “They are a poetic retelling of the Grimm fairy tale, ‘The Maiden Without Hands,’ and they are lyric poems in a free verse format, which is my go-to style.”
According to the judge of the contest, Joyelle McSweeney, “Lusby’s shivery sequence strews a trail of clattery syllables through fairy tale’s shadiest, most iconic location.”
“I think one of my strengths as a poet is that I have learned how to step back out of a poem just enough to get out of its way, in both the writing and revising stages,” Lusby said. “The thing with writing lyric free verse poems is that they do have a form, but it changes from poem to poem. If you are able to take one foot out of the poem, the language and images will guide you to their best form on the page, but you also have to be willing to cut lines that you may really, really love. The upside there, though, is that you can just save those discarded lines for future poems.”
Some advice Lusby has for aspiring writers regards contest entry fees. She said, “You will want to make some sort of a budget. It is simply too expensive to submit to every single writing contest out there when the chances of winning are always slim. Pick the ones that have a similar focus or aesthetic to your own work, that have some deep, personal meaning for you, [and] that have reasonable entry fees. Fairy Tale Review had a $10 entry fee— that was an amount I was personally comfortable gambling on the very small chance of winning this specific contest. You want to pick contests run by organizations or publications that you are proud to support (monetarily) regardless of whether you win because you genuinely love the work they do.”