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What we're looking for
Rootstalk is aimed at a community of readers with a lively interest in the Midwest region.
We take a broad view of what it means to be a journal. Whether your work is formal or informal, avant-garde or mainstream, urban, rural or small-town in its focus, ecologically forward-thinking or socially retrospective, as long as it has roots in life on the prairie, we want to know about it. Our only restriction is that the submissions should be aimed at an intelligent general reader who cares passionately about the prairie region.
Humans express thought in many more forms than words, and we feel that, as an online journal, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to bring art, commentary and culture together in unexpected ways. Therefore, we accept submissions of prose, poetry, music, and digital visual art ; (including film, photography, and images of two- and three-dimensional art pieces).
What follows are guidelines. They are as concrete as we can make them, but they are not absolute. They will continue to evolve through time, and that evolution will be reflected in what follows.
Previously published work
We vastly prefer unpublished work, but will consider reprinting on a case-by-case basis. If you're submitting a previously published work, please do us the courtesy of telling us when and where it has previously appeared.
We accept all forms of writing, including articles aimed at the popularization of science and the humanities, as well as creative works such as short fiction, novellas, poetry, plays, narratives, personal essays and other forms of creative nonfiction such as memoirs. Additionally, we’re looking for historical documents, journalism, articles and writings in diverse forms which concern culture, economics, politics and history. We will consider ourselves to have been successful in our aims if we should ever produce an issue which offered (for example) a history in words and pictures of small town fire trucks, a report on the role urban gardens are playing in the local foods movement, a set of poems from a previously-unpublished prairie restorationist, a short story from the owner of an Omaha bike shop, an innovative urban plan for the transformation of a mid-sized city’s business district, an account of polio treatment during the 1930s in a small Canadian wheat town, a debate about GMOs that pits a lab chemist from Bayer against a college biology professor, a chapter from a memoir about being in a 1950s garage band that played sock-hops in high school gyms across the Dakotas, and an economic study concerning the return of craft breweries to prominence. Heterogeneous is a fancy word, but it captures our aspirations.
*We prefer writing to be submitted in Microsoft Word (*.doc, .docx) format. Whatever the genre a contributor is submitting, he/she should use a twelve-point font. We prefer Times New Roman. Prose submissions should be double-spaced. Contributors should submit no more than one prose piece at a time, but if a submission consists of poetry, we will accept up to five poems at a time.
Poetry submissions should include one poem per page, with each poem single-spaced, and with the poet’s name and contact information at the top of each poem. Prose contributions should include a word-count and the writer’s name and contact information on the first page. Most prose pieces should be less than 5,000 words long, though we will make space for remarkable writing which is longer. The longer the submission, though, the higher the bar is generally set, and the longer it may take us to get back to an author.
Visual art, including short film
We are most excited by visual artworks which take evocative and surprising paths in probing our subtle cultural and physical landscapes. As an online journal, we’re interested in art which explores the possibilities of the digital arena, mixing genres and media, or else cleaving to more traditional modes of expression, but doing so in a way which rotates the jewel that is the prairie region to expose new facets.
If a submission consists of digital visual art (a category comprising photography, images of two- and three-dimensional art pieces, film and other moving images), then contributors should be sure to conform to the following requirements. We prefer they submit images of two- or three-dimensional art pieces in *.jpg or *.pdf format. They may submit three to five images, with a filename such as “Lastname_Firstname_2.pdf,” and they should include with the images the artist’s name, the work (’s/s’) title(s), dimensions (L x W), and medium. Images should be scalable, and should be in the highest possible resolution.
Video submissions may be short films, documentaries or other forms of video art which are up to 15 minutes in length. Contributors may submit their video work in *.avi, *.mp4, *.mov, or *.flv format.
Whatever the genre or format, contributors of visual art should be sure to accompany their submission with a cover letter containing 1) contact information, 2) a bio, 3) an explanation of their intentions with their project(s), and 4) (if appropriate) their processes.
Music and soundscapes
We want Rootstalk to present our community with the ever-evolving soundtrack of Midwest life. That means music, of course, but much more than that as well. We’re interested in novel approaches to representing the prairie’s complex aural character. Maybe a contributor wants to bring a new symphony to our attention, or a particularly plangent interpretation of a traditional song by a local string band, or his/her light-hearted study of the ways people start conversations with strangers while standing in queues in different Midwestern towns and cities. Maybe a contributor wishes to send us a patchwork of samples from late-night preachers he/she has encountered on AM radio while driving the Interstates. Maybe he/she has found a reel-to-reel recording of a campaign speech by Joseph McCarthy in the bottom drawer of a grandfather’s rolltop. Or maybe that contributor’s band has written something that exactly captures a particular aspect of that elusive thing, the Midwestern Spirit. If it sounds interesting, maybe we will, too, and maybe we’ll want to share it with those who come to our journal, hoping to be informed, surprised, and maybe even delighted.
Audio submissions should be CD-quality, in 44.1KHz/16-bit .wav files. We will accept stereo (two channels, left and right) or mono files, and will permit audio files that use only one channel. As with visual arts, above, contributors should be sure to accompany their submissions with a cover letter containing contact information, bio, and (if it seems desirable) an explanation of your intentions with your project.
Rootstalk's electronic submission system
We prefer to handle submissions digitally through our online system. Our use of this system insures that our contributors’ submissions will be handled with the greatest efficiency, and it reduces both the expense they incur in submitting (no postage!) and the expense we incur in filing, tracking, considering and communicating—all the activities, in short, which might otherwise keep us from spending the maximum amount of time paying careful attention to what you’ve sent us.
We anticipate publishing two issues a year, in the fall and the spring. Submissions may be sent to us from the first of August through the end of April. Depending on the amount of content we’ve assembled for a given issue, we may ask the submitter if we can hold his or her work for future publication. In the event we elect to publish a contributor’s work, the developmental editor in charge of that piece will ask them to give us a brief bio (four sentences or so) if they haven’t already, along with a high resolution (200 dpi or greater) headshot. If a contributor republishes his or her work after we have, we should ask that he or she note its initial publication in Rootstalk: A Prairie Journal of Science, Culture and the Arts.
Just to review: contributors’ submission must be in one of the following file forms: *.doc, *.rtf, *.pdf, *.docx, *.txt, *.wpd, *.odf, *.mp3, *.mp4, *.avi, *.mov, and *.flv. If a submission doesn’t use a file extension that’s on this list, we won’t be able to consider it.
We’ll do our best to get back to our contributors about their work within six to eight weeks, but it will sometimes take longer. Careful consideration takes time.
Editorial workflow & publication rights
Each submission—whatever its form—will be assigned to a Developmental Editor, who will track it through our system. It will then be considered by a pair of staff editors, who will render an initial decision. Contributions deemed worthy of further consideration will be passed on to the appropriate member or members of Rootstalk’s Editorial Board. If the contribution makes it through this round of consideration, it will then be reviewed by the Editor, in consultation with the Director of Grinnell’s Center for Prairie Studies, for appearance in an appropriate issue of the journal. After publication all rights will revert to the author/artist. If you republish your work later, we ask that you note its initial publication in Rootstalk: A Prairie Journal of Science, Culture and the Arts.