The Writer's Alliance of Gainesville (WAG) will host a special event on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. for the 2021 launch of its 12th annual Bacopa Literary Review, a literary journal that publishes submitted works.
Named for a small, medicinal flower found worldwide, WAG has released the literary review since its start in 2009, typically in the Fall with submissions accepted in Spring.
WAG presents the top two authors in each genre with a cash award―$300 for first place and $100 for second.
Hundreds of authors submitted their works in this year's genres of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and prose poetry, and Bacopa editors shrunk the pool to 68 works for this edition.
J.N. Fishhawk, associate editor of the journal, said the poetry section alone pulled in around 1,000 submissions.
The editors read the submissions without any knowledge of the author and select the few works that will make the cut into the Bacopa.
“It can be a little tedious,” Fishhawk said in a phone interview. “We get a lot of submissions so it’s a lot to get through. But on the other hand, it’s just really fascinating to see what is on people’s minds and what styles they’re writing in.”
At Sunday's event, selected winners will read portions or all of their winning pieces. Typically, the release event highlights local and regional authors whose pieces made it into the journal and can visit in person.
“We’re taking advantage of the fact that we’re doing this thing online via Zoom to have some of our prize winners who are scattered around the country read for us in addition to some of the local and regional folks,” Fishhawk said.
While the Bacopa Literary Review is a smaller publication, many successful writers send submissions for consideration that Bacopa has published.
Fishhawk said the diversity of authorship keeps the review unique. One poem might be penned by an author known in their field while the following poem constitutes the entire published work of a writer.
The journal's flexible submission guidelines also keep the review fresh. Each year the editors select what categories to solicit.
While fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry stay constant, Bacopa sometimes publishes humor, short stories or haikus.
For Fishhawk, the best part of the publication process is reviewing submissions without knowing the author or their background. After selecting the winning works, the editors can change the settings to learn about the authors.
“Then we can see who these people are and what their backstory is and where they’re from, and it’s really fascinating,” Fishhawk said.
The journal recieves submissions from around the world, from English speaking countries like Australia and England to India and Pakistan. One winner this year is from Nigeria, and many are from Gainesville or other parts of Florida.
Despite these differing backgrounds, themes tend to materialize naturally in the author's works.
Over the last two years, Fishhawk said COVID-19 has shaped the submissions Bacopa reviews.
“The last two years, there have been a lot of people writing about COVID or grief or loss and things like that because it’s been a rough couple of years for pretty much all of humanity,” he said.
But some themes are unrelated to world events. He said birds flew into this year's journal, with various authors incorporating the animals.
“That’s another fun aspect to just see what are the themes that can be found that connect across the genres and from writer to writer,” Fishhawk said.
All Bacopa Literary review editions are available online. WAG prints hundreds of each, but most are distributed to WAG members as part of the membership fee and each year’s contributors. WAG also sells the journal at events throughout the year.
“I’m really proud of this year’s journal,” Fishhawk said. “I think we’ve got just some really great content.”
The 2021 genre winners:
- First Prize: Shana Ross, "If Betelgeuse Explodes I Will Be Sad"
- Second Prize: Shoshauna Shy, "Key Lime Pie"
- First Prize: Nicole Farmer, "car wash orgasmic whirl"
- Second Prize: Les Epstein. "Grenadine"
- First Prize: Gerald Ryan, "And The Road Goes On Forever"
- Second Prize: Lora Straub, "A Fragile Inheritance"
- First Prize: Tomas Baiza, "Huitzilin"
- Second Prize: Fern F. Musselwhite, "The Vanishing Heart"