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Two years ago at a book fair and writing conference in Los Angeles, Hotel Amerika staff passed out eye-catching promotional postcards. On the front, an image of dancer Fred Astaire mid-leap, a manic smile stretched across his face. On the back, a quote by author James Geary: “When in doubt, remain in doubt.”
The image appears on the cover of Volume 14, dubbed the TransGenre Issue. The Geary quote speaks to the playfulness of the issue and to the 15-year-old literary magazine’s particular aesthetic. “We love work in any genre. We’ve published startling essays, poetry, fiction, prose poetry over the years,” says editor David Lazar. “But I and my fellow editors also like to confuse the issue.”
Tone, editorial content
Lazar describes Hotel Amerika as an “eclectic international magazine supporting writing in all its provocative and transgeneric forms.” “Transgeneric” refers to work that can’t be easily categorized into recognizable genres such as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. “We aren’t immune to the ways, etymologically and in terms of zeitgeist, transgenre seems to fit the cultural moment,” Lazar says.
Last year, editors held a contest for transgeneric forms that culminated in an issue of the journal devoted to work published without identifying genre labels. “The genre of the work was the piece itself, as presented. We found this liberating, as did many of our readers, apparently,” Lazar says. “We found it so useful in the promotion of work that couldn’t be easily categorized into available, known, created genres…that we decided to keep it as a running ‘formless form’ or ‘genderless genre’ for our contents page.”
A glance at the most recent table of contents includes pieces grouped by essay, fiction, poetry, prose poetry, and transgenre. Editors also publish work in translation, along with some interviews.
Past contributors to Hotel Amerika include Maxine Kumin, Floyd Skloot, Phillip Lopate, John Ashbery, Billy Collins, and Sue William Silverman. Issue 13, 2015, includes an excerpt from Margaret Barbour Gilbert’s booklength prose poem Sugaring Off, titled “First Snow.” She writes:
“Snow was coming down in big, white clumps, and I felt very empty inside. I remember the snow that cold autumn and the stillness. There was a grim hush about the city and cold, icy winds, gusts of freezing air, swept down Park Avenue. At night the city was deserted. It felt desolate. In the early mornings, I could hear the sirens from the ambulances, all day I felt the brutality of Christmas.”
Lazar looks forward to publishing “Fragments Toward an Index of Birds” in the 2017-2018 issue of Hotel Amerika. He describes the author, Desirae Matherly, as “one of the most interesting younger essayists writing today. Her work has a combination of formal play and intellectual expansiveness that I don’t see much,” he says.
He’s also eager to share Lee Ann Roripaugh’s story, “Space,” in the same issue. “A wonderful, dreamlike story,” he says, “which I haven’t been able to shake.”
Advice for potential contributors
Interested in studying Hotel Amerika’s quirky aesthetic before submitting your own writing? A selection of pieces appears online, archived on the journal’s website. Readers can also order single back issues of the magazine for $10.
Editors welcome submissions in all genres (including work identified as transgenre) with a particular interest in pieces that offer insight into little-known demographics and settings.
“We are publishing an essay in our 2017-2018 issue by a writer who has been in jail recently,” Lazar says. “This essay, called ‘The Pussy Room,’ jumped out at us.”
The author, Michael Fisher, was released from state prison in 2015 and is currently working on his MFA degree. While Hotel Amerika receives numerous submissions from prisoners, this particular submission commanded editors’ attention. “Exceptionally well-written, and experientially a world we don’t see represented very often,” Lazar says. “Who could resist that combination?”
“Work with a quirky, unconventional edge – either in form or content – is often favored by our editors.” Annual print/online, $15. Genres: All. Reading Period: Sept. 1-April 1. Length: Varies. Submission format: Email via Submittable on website. Contact: Editor David Lazar. C/O The Department of Creative Writing, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605. Email: [email protected]. hotelamerika.net
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of the forthcoming Better with Books: Diverse Fiction to Open Minds and Ignite Empathy and Compassion in Children (Sasquatch, 2019). Web: melissahart.com
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