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.
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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. For our open submissions cycle starting March 2015, you'll be able to submit original stories, poems and essays written on air sickness 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 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.
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.
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 beta phase, nearly all the bags we’ve received have appeared on the site. As we move into the first open submissions round, 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?
Our screening process is pretty straightforward: Is the writing legible? Is it erotica or full of graphic violence? Is it heavier on art than on text? Is it an original work? Does the bag scan well? Did the writer provide a bio or other attribution when asked?
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 sent in my bag 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.