A Day in the Life of the Editor-in-Chief for Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, Steven Wittenberg Gordon


Terrie Leigh Relf: What types – and forms – of writing do you do? Since you’re also an editor, what is your niche

Steven Wittenbeg Gordon: I am the Editor-in-Chief of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, which takes up just about all of my creative energy these days. I occasionally self-publish my own poetry in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, and am still waiting for that “big break” of which poets and writers dream, for several poetry collections, a high fantasy novel, and several short stories and essays.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What is your area(s) of subject matter expertise? How did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: As it happens, I am a really good poetry editor, if I do say so. I discovered this niche gradually after “training” myself by closely reading and critiquing at least one poem a day for an entire year.

Terrie Leigh Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I am fortunate in that I am able to find part-time work as a physician at a generous rate of pay. This allows me the free time to indulge in my poetry and literature habit. Even so, there still never seems to be enough time in a day for me to accomplish all that I would like.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: If you are not making a living–paying your rent/mortgage and all your bills–as a writer or editor, then stop considering yourself to be a “professional.” Yog’s Law is NOT for you. You are a hobbyist, and there is nothing wrong with that. Please see my essay on the subject here.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: When it comes to writing, the creative process is interesting to me in that something is created out of nothing. A sculptor starts with a rock or some other substance and creates something else out of it. A potter starts with clay. Even a painter starts with a picture, whether real, as in a photograph, or imagined, as in a picture in one’s mind, and then manipulates another substance–paint–to create art. Poetry and other creative writing start with nothing – a blank page, a void. And then something magical, transcendent, happens.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where do your ideas come from?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: Ideas come from primitive emotions and drives. They are filtered through experience and observation. Finally, they are expressed through speech, writing, song, or action (dance, gesture, creation).

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: In addition to occasional self-publishing in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, my poetry has appeared in:  Apex, Asimov’s, Eternal Haunted Summer, Hospital Drive, Mirror Dance, New Myths, and Poetry Pacific.

Duotrope has agreed to sponsor the next Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Award Contest. I am hopeful that this recognition will help spread the word about the contest and the e-zine.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What are you working on now?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: Songs of Eretz Poetry Review has made the transition from financial drain to financial gain, however slight. My goal for this year and the next several years is to take Songs of Eretz Poetry Review rom avocation to at least a part-time vocation.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: The biggest challenge is marketing. As tedious as that sounds, good marketing is important for any writer that wants to grow beyond the self-indulgent or hobbyist levels.

Terrie Leigh Relf:  How do you meet your challenges?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I follow Heinlein’s Rules.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer and/or editor?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I learned to have a thick skin. I learned that a one percent acceptance rate is the norm until (presumably) one is “discovered” and learned to accept that. I learned that, with rare exceptions, “no” means “no.” If a venue gives you a generic rejection the first time you submit, you will receive the same after the second, third, and seventy-fifth time, too. If a venue gives you an encouraging, personalized rejection, consider submitting one more time–but give up on that venue if the answer is still no.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you plotter and planner or a discovery writer?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I am a discovery writer. As Ernest Hemingway once said (and I am no Ernest Hemingway), I “sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Well, I use a laptop computer, but the metaphor still holds.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently a writing mentor? If so, what are your thoughts on mentoring?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I like to think of myself as a mentor for the Frequent Contributors to Songs of Eretz and, to a lesser extent, to every poet that submits to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review. If I see a way to make a poem stronger by making a little tweak, I pose the question to the poet. About half the time, this generates a conversation that results in my obtaining a deeper understanding of the poet’s original words and ideas, and I wind up publishing the original poem as it was. I get as much or more than I give.

Terrie Leigh Relf: If you’re a fiction writer, who are your favorite characters?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: My favorite character is a balladeer named Danule from my unpublished high fantasy novel.

Terrie Leigh Relf: How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?

 Steven Wittenberg Gordon: Danule came to being as a minor character, a shipmate of the novel’s swashbuckling superhero protagonist. What I love about Danule is his ability to use his gifts of poetry, song, and storytelling to change his world a little bit for the better–and that others with whom he comes into contact enjoy his company as a result.

The only thing I loathe (the interviewer’s word, not mine) about Danule is that he is closeted homosexual. As such, he can never really embrace who he truly is, and will never have a wife and children. Maybe I will change his fate in future tales, but for now, he is what he is – and not all that he could be.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever been, in a writing group? Your thoughts?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I am not nor have I ever been in a writing group. Don’t you have to be invited? I hope one day that my writing and/or editing will be recognized enough to be invited to a fun and productive one, preferably one that also involves hot hors d’oeuvres and craft beer.

Terrie Leigh Relf: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: I have found LinkedIn surprisingly helpful. The key is to thank each person for joining your network and to start a conversation. Most go nowhere–but a one to two percent “return” on this kind of “investment” is considered good.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on having an agent?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: You cannot get published in one of the big houses without an agent. You cannot get an agent without getting published in one of the big houses.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on self-publishing?

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: If you establish a venue that reaches a decent number of readers, go ahead and self-publish! It was good enough for Walt Whitman, after all. I self-publish some of my own work in Songs of Eretz, which has a pretty good readership–somewhere between 1,500 and 7,000 (without selling subscriptions, it is difficult to be more precise). However, self-publishing for vanity is a waste of time and money, akin to a painter displaying his own work in his private home for no one to see.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked? For example, what would you like to see more of in your specific genre? In the publishing field? Where do you see yourself in the next year? Next five years? etc.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon: Within the next five years, I would love to see Songs of Eretz Poetry Review supplying at least one third of my income–enough to cut back on my physician work from three days to two days a week. I would love to see the fine art side of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review expand to the point where there would be frequent contributors for art and a yearly art contest–my son, Jason Artemus, is helping me achieve that goal by assuming the role of Art Editor. And I’m still hoping that Neil Gaiman will agree to be a guest judge for the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Award Contest one day. He turned down the job through his agent for this year–but at least he considered it!

Terrie Leigh Relf: Thank you again, Steven, for the honor of interviewing you! And readers, please check out his other links and bio below!

Personal blog: http://www.StevesOfGrass.blogspot.com

Twitter: @SongsOfEretz

Instagram: @SongsOfEretz

Facebook: “Steven Wittenberg Gordon”

Poet, writer, editor, physician, and gentleman songster, Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD is the Editor-in-Chief of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review. He was raised in what was once the dairy country of upstate New York and received his BA from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He returned to upstate New York to earn an MD from Albany Medical College and then completed a family practice residency in Wisconsin.

After practicing medicine for several years in various locations, he volunteered for service with the United States Air Force and had many memorable adventures as a flight surgeon. While on active duty, he played a small part in the military’s response to the tragic tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004.

Dr. Gordon continues to maintain a modest medical practice serving the immigrant population and works part-time at the Kansas City Military Entrance Processing Station (Freedom’s Front Door) performing medical screens on military volunteers. He resides in Kansas with his human family and a poorly trained Airedale terrier.





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