Julie Gardner worked and published in the early childhood education and counseling fields for over 40 years. During the last decade she returned to writing and studying the art and craft. Daily, she writes as a spiritual practice. Less frequently, when she's not lured away by wandering in the city or Olympic/Cascade Mountains, she works on a book from her Seattle home. As an Amherst Writers and Artists Affiliate she leads writing groups and retreats. Julie loves leading weekly writing with homeless/formerly homeless women at Mary’s Place, a day shelter which helps women to reclaim their lives.
Follow her on Twitter.
Read more of Jonathan's work at his website.
What's the point of this site?
The simple answer: Paper Bag Writers exists to showcase how people are tapping into their creativity by using a familiar object in a new way.
If this all started because of air sickness bags, why aren’t you using those?
Because it is so much easier to find brown paper lunch bags. :-)
Did other passengers think you were weird for writing on air sickness bags?
Probably. There was one instance where two young girls in my row asked me what I was doing, and admitted they thought I didn't know what the bag was for.
Do you still write on air sickness bags?
Yes. Once I get on the plane and settle into my seat, I pull out the air sickness bag and my trusty Sharpie, flip open to a random page in the in-flight magazine, set the timer on my phone for 5 minutes, and begin writing. I'm usually done before the flight attendants do their safety checks.
Can I interview someone at Paper Bag Writers for an article I'm writing?
Sure! Send us an email.
What comes in the submission kit?
Each kit comes with a brown paper lunch bag, a writing prompt, instructions, and a self-addressed stamped envelope for you to return the bag to be considered for publication on the Paper Bag Writers website.
How much is the kit?
The kit costs US $10 plus sales tax for California residents.
What does the cost of the submission kit cover?
Shipping, supplies, and keeping the site online.
How many can I order?
Good question. We ask that you limit yourself to two kits per mailing address.
How do I pay for it?
We are processing all orders using PayPal, which accepts AmEx, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. It's a very safe, secure way of doing business.
Where do I input my mailing address?
As we understand it, PayPal will check first to see if you have an address on file with them and will provide us with that information. Prior to mailing out kits, we will send you an email to confirm the address we received from PayPal. If you don't have a mailing address on file with PayPal, we'll contact you to get the correct mailing address.
How long will it take for me to receive my kit?
We're going to assemble and mail kits in batches, so it may take up to 2 weeks for you to receive your kit.
Once I send back my bag, how soon will I find out if I'm going to get published?
We'll respond within 6-8 weeks of receipt. This is typical of most literary journals and publications. Thanks in advance for your patience.
I live outside the U.S. Can I still order a bag?
Sorry, but this second beta round is limited to U.S. residents only. Shipping and self-addressed stamped envelopes get way more confusing when we're dealing with international mail.
I live in the Sacramento area and I'd prefer to purchase my bag in person.
It's very possible we will do some pop-up shops and special events in the Sacramento area in the coming months, so be sure to Like our Facebook Page and/or follow us on Twitter to stay updated on what's happening.
I'd like to order kits in bulk for my writing group.
Contact us at email@example.com to discuss your needs.
What should I write on the bag?
Whatever you feel moved to write. A short story, a poem, a personal essay, creative nonfiction. We do ask that you refrain from erotica or graphic violence.
Do I have to use the prompt that came with the bag?
Nope. It’s there to give you a jumping-off point if you need it.
Do I have to return the prompt?
Nope. It’s yours to keep.
How many words fit on the bag?
Approximately 500 handwritten words fit on the bag - that’s 250 words per side.
What if I make a spelling mistake on the bag?
To avoid mistakes, we highly recommend writing your first draft on a sheet of paper or in a word processing program, then transcribe it onto the bag. Just keep in mind that it's approximately 500 words.
Can I add artwork to my bag?
Yes, within reason. What’s acceptable: A line drawing that supports your story/poem/essay; word art. What’s not acceptable: decoupage, stickers, origami, paper mache. No crafty nonsense. This is about writing.
Can I do a cartoon?
No. We may solicit those eventually, but for now, we’re focusing on word-centric pieces.
Can I transcribe something I already wrote onto the bag?
Yes, as long as it hasn’t been published elsewhere.
What kind of pen should I use?
Felt tipped pens work well. Ultra fine point Sharpie permanent markers are also great. Black or blue ink only, please.
I really prefer to write in pencil.
That’s fine, but in order to ensure that your bag scans clearly, the letters need to be crisp and dark - pencil tends to smear easily. You can always type out your piece first, then transcribe it onto the bag with a black or blue ink felt tipped pen or a permanent marker.
My handwriting is terrible. Can I have someone else handwrite it on the bag for me?
Yes, but it’s up to you to double check their work and it still needs to be YOUR original work on the bag.
Will you transcribe my bag?
Will my bag be returned to me?
No. We recommend you keep a scan or copy of the bag for your files.
Why can’t I just write on a paper bag and send it to you?
It’s a matter of quality control. We want to be able to track requests and stay in contact with our writers should they run into any issues. It also ensures that everyone who orders a submission kit gets the same size and style.
Getting Published on PBW
What will you do with my bag once you receive it?
We read your submission and determine whether or not it’s a good fit for our site. If we decide we’d like to publish it, we send an email to let you know it’s been approved for publication. If you want it to be published, we send you a contract for publication for your signature, along with an image file of your bag as it will appear on the site. We also request a 50-100 word bio, how you want to be attributed on the site, and any links to a website, blog, or other online resource where people can read your work.
Do you post every bag you receive?
During the first beta phase, nearly all the bags we’ve received have appeared on the site. As we move into the second beta round and the official launch, we reserve the right to select only those bags we feel best represent what Paper Bag Writers is about.
What’s the screening process for the featured writers?
During the second beta phase, our screening process is very simple: Is the writing legible? Does the bag scan well? Did the writer provide a bio or other attribution when asked? Is it erotica or full of graphic violence?
Will I get paid for being a featured writer on the site?
I got approved for publication on the site and received a contract for publication. Why do I need to sign and return the contract?
First of all, congratulations! The contract protects you and Paper Bag Writers in the event of plagiarism or copyright infringement, and it outlines your rights as the author of the work. Contracts for publication are standard in the publishing industry.
I placed my order on PayPal but never received my kit.
Send us an email.
The prompt wasn’t inside the kit I received.
Send us an email and we’ll email you your prompt.
I sent my bag back and it was approved for publication, but it hasn’t been posted to the site yet.
We queue our posts for the site based on the order we receive the bags and when we receive the signed contract, bio, links and attribution information from the writer. To ensure your bag gets posted in a timely manner, make sure to respond to any emails from the editorial team requesting a bio or other information.
I have other questions.
Send us an email. Please be patient - we get a lot of messages, so it can take us several days to respond.