Wow. Remember the bananas that was the BlazeVOX scandal? First, down in flames for changing its funding model to include author contributions; then, up from ashes.

Now it looks like those authors published by BlazeVOX are prohibited from receiving an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship (deadline was March 1), unless they redefine their publication history. HTMLGIANT published a letter just sent to an author from the NEA, which reads:

Dear XXX:

It has come to our attention that BlazeVOX books has asked authors to contribute to the cost of publishing their own books.

The eligibility requirements for the NEA’s Creative Writing Fellowships prohibit applicants from using publications from presses that require individual writers to pay for part or all of the publication costs (

Therefore, you may not use a book published BlazeVOX book to establish your eligibility. You have until 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Friday, March 9, 2012 to establish your eligibility for the fellowships using alternate publications. Please email your new Summary of Applicant Publications to me at [email protected] by the deadline. Any applicant failing to meet this deadline will be deemed ineligible for the fellowships.

Please contact me if you have any questions.


B— B—

Division Specialist| Literature Division

National Endowment for the Arts

1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | Rm. 703 | Washington, DC 20506

202.682.5757 | 202.682.5481 FAX [email protected]

Some of the comments at HTMLGIANT:

Expanding on what Mark C. said concerning only a select few having to pay -- I don't expect the NEA to pool the resources to actually pursue this matter any further -- but shouldn't this be a case-by-case basis? What if a press publishes something by one of its editors -- isn't that "pay[ing] for part or all of the publication costs"? Does that mean that entire press is debunked in the same fashion as well?

And, furthermore, where is the NEA's proof that author's actually contributed funds to publications?

The NEA is not providing nearly enough proof/information/energy to justifying the withdrawal of funds, in my opinion. Hearsay shouldn't be enough, but I guess in bureacracies it sometimes is?

Also: 2 days to reapply: short fucking notice, much?

And we can't forget Richard D. Allen's note on the original blowout at We Who Are About to Die [note: BlazeVOX did not close, to our knowledge]:

In my eyes, Gatza’s only real wrongdoing was trying to have it both ways. He wanted to split costs with poets, but didn’t want the publishing world to know, lest BlazeVox become known as a vanity press. Similarly, he didn’t provide potential contributors with a full accounting of his production expenses (BlazeVox is a POD press, so some found the stated publication cost of $2000 surprising). And it appears that he may have wanted to reserve the right to publish some books without a contribution from the author, arguably reducing the contributors to second-class status among BlazeVox authors.

That said, BlazeVox is a very small press with an impressive back catalog but very low sales. If we want small poetry presses to exist and publish our work, poets are either going to have to

a) buy tons of their books to keep them flush;
b) acquiesce to entering contests with high entry fees;
c) help them secure funding from foundations and other charitable organizations; or
d) take on some of the financial risk of publication.

With this said, it's also true that BlazeVOX is probably not the only small press to accept financial help from its authors; this natch begs the questioning of what transactions might apply in defining a vanity publication. We're curious how the NEA investigates what's admissible.

Originally Published: March 8th, 2012