Check or Hold? War Poetry, Sci-Fi Anthologies

This blog post regards two publishing opportunities presented by the founders of the September 2012 Sangria Summit, a for-profit conference for military writers that, to my knowledge, was never repeated. A couple of disclaimers are in order.

Disclaimer No. 1: As the writer of the Red Bull Rising blog, I was paid to assist with and attend that event, and effectively wrote the press release describing same. Organizers also partially underwrote my blog's content between October 2012 and March 2013.

The esoteric name of the event referred not to "military" themes of blood ("sangre" in Spanish) or war or strife, but to the organizers' love of fruited wine.

The 501(c)3 non-profit "Sangria Summit Society" was formed in 2018 by James Burns, who has, since 2017, published not less than 30 chapbooks of poetry.

Disclaimer No. 2: Some members of the Sangria Summit Society organization are also Aiming Circle patrons. As should be evident, these connections did not affect or influence the following critical assessment.

The most-concrete mission statement currently available from the Sangria Summit Society is: "We are an American literary society that connects writers from the military community to a larger audience." There are no further published details regarding the "Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How" of the organization.

In response to Aiming Circle queries regarding the organization's membership and mission, Burns instead pointed to the Sangria Summit Society listing on the GuideStar directory. At that listing, the organization's purpose is described as "Help new authors within our community gain a wider audience." Populations to be served are "veterans" and "military personnel."

Both the GuideStar listing and the Sangria Summit Society website each mention two affiliated websites: Cross Creek Cats and Poets to Save America. On those sites, there are no overt mentions of "military community" (or veterans or service members) or military-themed content. Neither site features a clear mission statement.

The Sangria Summit Society has issued two calls for submission, toward the publication of two anthologies in 2019. Deadline for each is May 31, 2019:
The first is for "an anthology of science-fiction." Title of the anthology is to be "Future Wars, Future Tears." Beyond the title, no description of desired content is provided. (For example, do editors plan to include science fantasy? Space opera? Military-themed science-fiction?) Also, editors do not specify between new and original work, versus previously published work. Whether simultaneous submissions are accepted is also not specified. Editors seek short stories of 1,000 to 3,000 words. Payment is $50 U.S. for each accepted story. The society acquires archival rights and non-exclusive worldwide print and digital rights.

The second, and potentially more problematic, call for submissions is for "an anthology of war poetry." Title of the anthology is "The Poetry of Modern Conflict." The prototype cover (see above) looks like something more likely to be published by the U.S. Army University's Future Warfare Writing Program than a literary or poetry press. Beyond the title, no further description of what types of poetry are to be considered applicable is provided. (What do the editors define as "modern conflict"? What themes and perspectives do they intend to feature?) Submit up to five new and previously unpublished poems. Whether simultaneous submissions are accepted is not specified. Payment is $5 U.S. for each accepted poem. The society acquires archival rights and non-exclusive worldwide print and digital rights.
While it appears benign, the Sangria Summit Society seems to lack a high potential for editorial value or literary achievement. In my experience as a contributor to other, similarly vague "war poetry" anthologies, I have found that comparable efforts are often rife with poor editing, content quality, and marketing. Having ignored the warning signs in those cases, I have later regretted having my work appear in such projects. I would prefer to have others avoid such experiences. That is, in fact, one of the reasons for creating The Aiming Circle.

More objectively, using the exclusive Aiming Circle evaluation rubric, the Sangria Summit Society science-fiction project scores a 2.1 on a 5.0 scale. The poetry project scores a 1.9 on a 5.0 scale. The caveats placed on these ratings are respectively "Be cautious" and "Be wary."

Overall, Sangria Summit Society actions and announcements give the appearance of a "vanity" project, driven by a small number of people. Members may be driven more by good intentions (or, more negatively, self-promotion) than by experiences with or connections to the military. Previous samples of the organization's websites, as well as indirectly related print content, do not indicate a high degree of literary accomplishment, curation, presentation, or effective outreach or marketing.

As always, however, Aiming Circle members should perform their own due-diligence, read the respective calls for submission, consider all factors, and decide for themselves whether submitting work to a given publication matches their own writing and publishing objectives.

Questions and comments regarding the above analysis can be directed to the author: sherpa AT redbullrising DOT com.


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