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Burnside Does L.A.

Burnside Review was founded in 2004 by Sid Miller. The magazine received an Oregon Literary Fellowship in 2005.

Burnside Review is published every nine months, and Issue 4.1, the L.A. issue has just been released. The issue features an interview with Wanda Coleman and work by David St. John, Amy Gerstler, Oregon’s own B.T. Shaw, and many others. Sid’s adventures in the City of Angels are chronicled on his blog, Burnside Review – The L.A. Story. He recently returned from Los Angeles to his home in Portland, and was kind enough to answer some questions about L.A., Portland, and getting his own writing done.

Paper Fort: What made you decide to do an L.A. issue?
Sid Miller: A couple of answers. After spending nine winters in Portland I was ready to take a little break. My wife and I were both at jobs that were easy to say goodbye to, we had just sold our house and had a little money in our pockets. The idea for the issue came from knowing we would be living there. I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something a little different from the Burnside Review norm. Plus I know how much most Portlanders dislike L.A. and I really like stirring the pot.

Paper Fort: What surprised you the most about this issue?
Sid Miller: Unlike our previous issues, I’d say about half of the work in this issue was gathered through solicitation. The biggest (and nicest) surprise was how receptive the L.A. writers were to giving me work. I wasn’t turned down by anybody. In Portland, the journal is fairly well known and respected. It was really gratifying to see the level of respect it was given outside of its home city.

Paper Fort: What did you miss most about Portland when you were in L.A.?
Sid Miller: One of my biggest problems is that I have a hard time lying. The answer is not much. That being said, I’m also happy to be back. Portland’s kind of weird like that, there’s not really any one great aspect about the city, just a conglomeration of good stuff that makes it so livable. Plus, it’s become home.

Paper Fort: What do you miss most about LA, now that you’re back?
Sid Miller: The weather is the obvious one. The food. My wife is a chef and I’m a bartender, so we’re serious about our food. Portland likes to think it’s a great food town, but L.A. kicks its ass in just about every category. It’s not even close. My family. Half live an hour south, the other half an hour north. Everything that comes with living in a major city. I enjoyed how I felt anonymous there. Here I feel like I’m going to run into someone I know around every corner. The energy. I think Portland is a city of contentedness. People in L.A. are striving. I’m a striver and enjoy being surrounded by like minded people. But don’t get me wrong, L.A. isn’t Eden by any means, there’s also a list of things I don’t miss. (ed’s note: If you’re interested in what he doesn’t miss, check out the end of Sid’s blog posting as he prepared to leave L.A.).

PF: How much of the work published in Burnside Review is from unsolicited submissions?
SM: The L.A. issue was different from the norm. But as we move to Issue 5.1, a regular, open issue, I would guess that of the forty or so poems that we’ll publish, at least seventy-five percent will be from unsolicited work.

PF: How do you, Bill and the others who work on Burnside Review make time for your own writing?
SM: That’s the big question. I can only speak for myself here, but without a doubt the amount of time I spend on my own writing has suffered at the hands of the journal. Over the last few years I’ve come to the understanding that this is going to be the case; in order for me to put out a quality journal, there’s going to be some sacrifice. I’m okay with that. I take as much satisfaction putting together a good issue as I do seeing my own work in someone else’s (maybe more).

But the real answer is that time has to be regimented. If I’m working on my own stuff, I will assign a certain time slot to where I can only work on my writing; no reading submissions, no correspondence, etc. I still write all first drafts with pen and paper, so this lets me get away from the computer and all possible distractions and find a spot of grass to work for an hour or two.
(ed’s note: Some of Sid’s recent work can be found online at Softblow).

PF: Do you have any advice for writers hoping to appear in Burnside Review?
SM: The first thing that people have to realize is that we’re accepting less than one percent of the poems that we receive. The best advice I can give is to buy and read a copy before submitting. I’d say about one percent of the people submitting to us have actually seen an issue of ours before they send poems. Just like all journals we have our likes and dislikes; the more aware you are of those before submitting, the greater your chances of appearing within the pages.