Submission Guidelines

What we’re looking for

Rootstalk seeks submissions aimed at a community of readers with a lively interest in the Midwest region. We vastly prefer unpublished pieces, and after publication all rights will revert to the author/artist. Though we are a journal, we take a broad view of what that means. Thought is expressed 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. Whether you consider your work to be 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. Think of what follows as guidelines. They are as concrete as we can make them, but they are not absolute.

It may also be helpful to know, in a more general way, what we’re hoping to do with the mix of content we assemble for each issue, and the form in which we want to receive your submissions of content from various areas, in order to be able to consider them.

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 Additionally, we’re looking for historical documents, journalism, articles and writings in diverse forms which concern culture, economics, politics and history.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trucks, a report on the role urban gardens are playing in the local foods movement, a set of poems from a previously-unpublished prairie restorationist, a short story from the owner of a bike shop in Omaha, an innovative urban plan for the transformation of a mid-sized city’s downtown district, an account of polio treatment during the 30s in a small Minnesota prairie town, a debate about GMOs that pits a lab chemist from Monsanto against a biology professor, a chapter from a book of reminiscences 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 small breweries to prominence. Heterodox is a fancy word, but it captures what we’re after.

Most prose contributions should be less than 5,000 words long, though we will make space for remarkable writing which is longer. Just know that the longer your submission is, the higher the bar is generally set, and the longer it may take us to get back to you.

You should contribute no more than one prose piece at a time, but if your submission is poetry, feel free to send us up to five poems at a time. Whatever genre of writing you submit, use a twelve-point font, single-spaced, and (with prose) include a word-count. If you’re submitting poems, we prefer one per page.

Visual art, including short film
We are excited by the evocative and the incisive in probing our subtle cultural and physical landscapes in all their aspects—rural, suburban, urban, or the interstices. 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 you want us to consider a submission of digital visual art (a category comprising photography, images of two- and three-dimensional art pieces, film and other moving images), then you should be sure to conform to the following requirements. We prefer that you submit images of two- or three-dimensional art pieces in *.jpg or *.pdf format. Submit three to five images, labeled “Lastname_Firstname_2.pdf,” and include with the images the artist’s name, the work (’s/s’) title(s), dimensions (L x W), medium, plus a short description of intent or processes. 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. You should submit your video work in *.avi, *.mp4, *.mov, or *.flv format.

Whatever your genre or format, be sure to accompany your visual art submission with a cover letter containing contact information, bio, and an explanation of your intentions with your project.

Music and soundscapes
Part of what we hope to do with Rootstalk is to use it 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 you want to bring a new symphony to our attention, or a particularly plangent interpretation of a traditional song by a local string band, or your light-hearted study of the ways people start conversations with strangers while standing in queues in different Midwestern towns and cities. Maybe you wish to send us a patchwork of samples from late-night preachers you’ve encountered on AM radio while driving the Interstates. Maybe you’ve found a reel-to-reel recording of a campaign speech by Joseph McCarthy in the bottom drawer of your grandfather’s rolltop. Or maybe your band has written something that exactly captures a particular aspect of that elusive thing, the Midwestern Spirit. If you think 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 surprised and delighted. 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, be sure to accompany your submission with a cover letter containing contact information, bio, and (if it seems desirable) an explanation of your intentions with your project.

Sending us your work
As an electronic journal which publishes online as part of the Open Journal System (OJS) , we prefer to handle submissions electronically through our online system. Our use of this system insures that your submission will be handled with the greatest efficiency, and it reduces both the expense you 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.

Just to review: your submission must be in one of the following file forms: *.doc, *.rtf, *.pdf, *.docx, *.txt, *.wpd, *.odf, *.mp3, *.mp4, *.avi, *.mov, and *.flv. If you don’t use a file extension that’s on this list, we won’t be able to consider your submission.

Simultaneous submissions: We accept simultaneous submissions, but ask that, if you should receive an offer of publication from elsewhere while we’re still looking at your work, you let us know right away, so we can pull it from further consideration.

Timing: 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.

After your submission has arrived
Each contribution—whatever its form—will be considered first by staff editors. If our staff editors are intrigued, they will pass the submission on to the appropriate section editors. From there, green-lighted submissions will be sent to the appropriate member or members of Rootstalk’s Board of Consulting Editors. If the contribution makes it through this round of consideration, it will then be reviewed by the Editor-in-Chief, in consultation with the Director of Grinnell’s Center for Prairie Studies, for a final decision, and to schedule its appearance in an appropriate number of the journal. Depending on the amount of content we’ve assembled for a given issue, we may ask the submitter if we can hold their work for future publication. In the event we elect to publish your work, we’ll ask you to give us a brief bio (four sentences or so) if you haven’t already, along with a high resolution (200 dpi or greater) headshot.

Careful consideration of this sort takes time
We’ll do our best to get back to you about your work within six to eight weeks, but it will sometimes take longer. If you republish your work after we have, we ask that you note its initial publication in Rootstalk: A Prairie Journal of Science, Culture and the Arts.