In our manifesto, which I admittedly wrote in the midst of a complex personal crisis* two and a half years ago, we say: “Tradition means something more than just doing the same things that people before you did with slight variations. Tradition provides a set of conventions and a set of expectations, and all of these can be reinterpreted and remolded and put to new uses. At Steel Toe Review, we strive to find literary and multimedia art that challenges and re-invents traditions.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea lately, almost obsessed with it. For the last year or so I’ve been teaching college English, and it seems one of the things I find myself trying to convey most often is an awareness of genre conventions, whether the genre is an academic essay or a vampire story. At a conference in Charleston earlier this year, I presented a paper about the ways in which Voltaire appropriates and repurposes the conventions of older genres to create a new kind of literature. I wrote another paper recently about how Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy pick up conventions used by other Southern Writers and modify those conventions to fit their own aesthetic agendas. I think this is one of the main things that we do as writers. We master some conventions from the literature we have always read, and then we alter them to suit our purposes and to give them new voice. In poetry, this might mean experimenting with traditional forms. In fiction, it might mean looking at Southern gothic traditions, folk tales, shaggy dog stories, or ghost stories.
We’d love to hear from contributors about how they think about/use/appropriate conventions of traditional genres in their own work.
We are very excited to announce the publication of our Volume 2 Anthology, featuring all of the fiction and poetry we published online in 2012. You can purchase the anthology by clicking this link. For a limited time, you can purchase the anthology at 20% off the cover price.
By now, any contributors or kickstarter backers to whom we owe copies should have them. If not, contact us (steeltoereview AT gmail). We might not have your mailing address.
You can support us also by purchasing our beautiful t-shirts. They are $20 plus shipping and handling. Go to our Donate page to purchase.
*The “personal crisis” is relevant because it seems to me our minds work in unusual ways during those times. Things that used to seem important aren’t any longer, and other things rise up from the effluvia of past experiences, observations, and emotions that suddenly seem worthy of recognition and further examination. That is to say, I’m not sure I really knew what I was saying at the time, but as time goes on, what I said then continues now to resonate as true in more and more contexts.