The roots of American folk music defy time and place, elude genre and category, and are as diverse as both the immigrants and native inhabitants of this country. If traditional folk music consists of the songs, styles, and themes passed down through generations, contemporary folk music continues this American record of lives, loves, struggles, triumphs, and tragedies informing our collective human existence. From the sorrow songs to Delta blues, bluegrass, gospel, Appalachian mountain music, Native drum circles, Cajun, Hip Hop, and more, American Folk Music reflects back at us something deep and unshakeable about who we are, in ways few other art forms or even historical records can.

We call for essays that carry forward this notion of American folk music--what it means to us as individuals, as Americans, and how it continues to give shape, expression, and meaning to our lives.

Submission guidelines:

● Submissions are open November 1, 2023–February 1, 2024.

● A reading fee of $8 must be paid at the time of submission.

● All submissions must be in English.

● We accept previously published essays as long as the author discloses the publication history of the work in the cover letter accompanying the submission and retains publication rights.

● We accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify Madville immediately if the essay is accepted elsewhere and you wish to withdraw it from consideration. There will be no refunds of the reading fees.

● Writers may submit more than one essay, but each must be submitted separately.

● Submissions should be blind. The author’s name should not appear anywhere on the submitted document.

● Use 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced, with pages numbered.

● 4000 word maximum.

● Cash prizes for the two essays the editors like best. $200 for first prize, and $100 for second.

● For more information, visit https://madvillepublishing.com/submission/ 

Editors Bob Kunzinger and Drew Lopenzina sitting on brick steps, laughing together. Bob is balding, Drew has a ponytail and glasses. Both wear sneakers and hold guitars. 

The Editors
Bob Kunzinger is the author of works, including The Iron Scar: A Father and Son in Siberia (2022), A Third Place: Notes in Nature (2019), Blessed Twilight: The Life of Vincent van Gogh (2018), and Penance (2008), still a popular book in Prague, the subject of the narrative. He has taught American Culture in Russia, Prague, Amsterdam, and Norway, and Creative Writing, Art Appreciation, English, and Humanities in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area for more than thirty years. While he owns several guitars and made a living playing the folk circuit during and after college, his callouses have retreated.

Drew Lopenzina is Professor of English at Old Dominion University who teaches in the intersections of Early American and Native American literatures. He is the author of Through an Indian’s Looking Glass: A Cultural Biography of William Apess, Pequot (2017), described as a “tour de force” by the journal Native American and Indigenous Studies. His other books include Red Ink: Native Americans Picking up the Pen in the Colonial Period (2012) and The Routledge Introduction to Native American Literature (2020). Lopenzina plays guitar and mandolin and is part of the duo Wine Dark Sea, known in the Tidewater area around Norfolk, VA, for their epic acoustic folk and harmonies.


Poster for the Robert Earl Keen Anthology, with Ron and Sandra Cooper judging. The poster is yellow with bright colored lines to suggest the shape of a guitar. Madville Publishing's logo is superimposed on the guitar. 

After 40 years of singing, songwriting, and touring, Alt-Country/Americana artist Robert Earl Keen is retiring from the road. Long-time fans Sandra Johnson Cooper and Ron Cooper believe the time is right for a book that illustrates how Keen has inspired not only a generation of younger songwriters but also has influenced writers of poetry and fiction. Keen is as much a storyteller as he is a songwriter, and this anthology will be a monument of sorts to his literary talents.

  • You may submit multiple pieces (two short stories or three poems) each inspired by one of REK’s songs. 
  • If you submit multiple pieces, they should all be in one document, and each piece should start on a new page.
  • Times New Roman, 12 pt. is our preferred font. Double space the stories, and single space the poems.
  • Please include page numbers.
  • Each piece should have the title of the song it is inspired by, but please seek approval from the editors before you submit to avoid us getting too many pieces based on the same song. Use the contact form on our website https://madvillepublishing.com/contact/
  • Word count. Three poems maximum, and 4000 words maximum for short stories.
  • Submissions open September 15, 2023, and close December 1, 2023.
  • Pub date September 2024.

What the editors hope for is pieces that take REK's songs into unexpected directions, say, the narrative told by a minor character in a song. Bring fresh perspectives, and please make sure that you pick songs that he wrote, not covers from other songwriters.

Madville Publishing