Tony Burnett from the Kallisto Gaia Press kindly agreed to answer our questions and provide publishing tips.
The Press was set up in 2017 by a group of “Texans ” who decided to form a nonprofit in support of literary excellence.” Since then, Kallisto has published poetry and fiction from all over the world in different publications:
- The Ocotillo Review
- The Texas Poetry Calendar
- The Acacia Fiction Prize
- The Saguaro Poetry Prize
- The Chester B. Himes Memorial Short Fiction Prize
- The Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize
- The Joshua Tree Novel Prize
and various single-author compilations.
The ambition of the founders was “to give disenfranchised writers and literary artists from underrepresented communities the chance to have their work published in a print journal alongside established literary voices.” And they have been doing just that ever since.
About Tony Burnett
Tony Burnett is the Executive Director of Kallisto Gaia Press, a nonprofit literary press, publishing The Ocotillo Review as well as several single-author works and literary compilations per year. He served as president of the Writers’ League of Texas from 2013 to 2017. He has a full-length poetry collection, The Reckless Hope of Scoundrels (2016) and a collection of short fiction, Southern Gentlemen (2013). His debut novel, Watermelon Tattoo, winner of the Watertower Press’ novel contest, releases February 14, 2023. He splits his time between central Texas and Guanacaste, Costa Rico.
Tony kindly agreed to answer our questions and in doing so provided excellent advice and great insight into the publishing process. Thank you, Tony!
Anita: You set up the Kallisto Gaia Press in 2017 to showcase writers from underrepresented communities. Does that mean you feel that getting poetry published depends on factors other than the quality of writing?
To an extent “quality of writing” is a subjective term. Though there are common tropes and structures that are accepted academically, the social mores of a specific race, gender, or life experience dictate the visionary interpretation that a particular poet will write from. Any editorial staff will approach their job with ingrained expectations and biases. This is unavoidable. The goal is to balance these to achieve a system that gives the underrepresented artists a forum to express their unique voice and outlook.Tony Burnett
Anita: What other factors come into play and how does your selection process differ from other journals?
We have always used the system where both the literary artist and the editorial staff have their identities and credentials concealed. While this is a beginning, it doesn’t solve the issue completely. We strive to diversify our staff and to employ editors from the communities we hope to represent.Tony Burnett
Anita: Do you believe in positive discrimination when it comes to poetry?
I prefer not to use the term “discrimination” as it tends to trigger a particular bias. I do feel that “inclusion” is an honorable goal to seek. In today’s literary culture it is still not easy to achieve, but over the previous decade giant steps have been made toward that goal.Tony Burnett
Anita: Do you often find yourself forced to reject a great poem due to lack of capacity?
As a primarily print-only journal we often must reject work that’s well-crafted and meaningful in favor of a submission that fits the organically developing theme or vision of a particular issue. Occasionally, we will contact the person submitting and ask if we can include it in a later edition.Tony Burnett
Anita: Could you please describe your selection process?
For our general submissions for the journal, our genre editor selects the work for that genre. Some of the editors use assistants. In the genres with high numbers of subs, such as poetry, the editor selects a team of assistants. They make those decisions without my interference. Our contest selections are far more complicated but are explained on our website.Tony Burnett
Anita: What makes a poem publishable?
It needs to make a point. Coming to poetry from a songwriting and lyricist POV, I prefer a hook. Approaching a topic in a way I haven’t seen is always a plus.Tony Burnett
Anita: What are the key mistakes unpublished poets make?
Poets who don’t study the craft are usually obvious. Also, if you’re going to rant you had better be extremely good at it. It usually comes off whiney.Tony Burnett
Anita: What resources can help budding poets?
Read poetry. Read the poetry you love but also read the poetry you don’t connect with and try to determine why. Attend poetry readings. Read more poetry. Speak your poems out loud.Tony Burnett
Anita: What is your top piece of advice to a poet who’s yet to get published?
Revise, submit, revise, submit. Find a mentor or poetry group who can supply positive feedback. Submit, submit, submit. Rejection is one person’s opinion on a given day. Don’t take it personally.Tony Burnett
Anita: How can people improve their poems?
Try to find and polish the emotional connection. If it still doesn’t work, it’s okay to throw it away or take an alternate approach. Make sure it has a strong connection to your belief system and you can justify its existence.Tony Burnett
Lates Kallisto Gaia Press Contest
The Saguaro Poetry Prize is currently open until the end of the year. A $1500 prize and publication goes to the winning chapbook.