When we recently profiled Safety Harbor literary scenemaker Laura Kepner, we could only scratch the surface of her dozens of cool projects. But we wanted to dig a little deeper on one of the most impressive, the literary journal The Odet — especially since they’re currently seeking submissions for their second volume, and offering some very enticing prizes for the best of them.
Kepner put together the first issue of the journal starting last year, with help from the rest of the Safety Harbor Writers and Poets group, and, particularly, from her co-editor Warren Firschein. The two had already collaborated on a book about the history of Safety Harbor, and Firschein has also published his own young adult novels through his Chapter Two Press imprint.
Those experiences shaped The Odet (pronounced Oh-Day), which is named for the planter Odet Phillippe. Philippe is credited with introducing citrus trees to what is now Safety Harbor — but for Kepner, his identity as a notorious tale-spinner is more resonant.
Kepner and Firschien unearthed Philippe, and his stories, as they researched Safety Harbor’s history. He claimed to be a classmate of Napoleon, the nephew of King Louis the XVI and a charmer of notorious pirates. But according to Kepner, many of these stories were made up — in her words, “He was pretty much a liar.”
But The Odet wants to reclaim Philippe as an entertainer rather than a mere fabricator. His stories, the journal’s founders say, were concocted to entertain fellow settlers and Philippe’s grandchildren. “We see him as the area’s first storyteller,” Kepner says. In the announcement of The Odet’s launch, Firschein described him as “the genesis of the rich artistic community and imagination that now exists in Safety Harbor.”
That feels like an appropriately carnivalesque foundation on which to (re)build a Floridian literary tradition, but the Odet team has also called on the spirit of a more straightforward local literary figure: a French-Canadian émigré by the name of Romeo Lemay. Lemay lived in Safety Harbor for much of his life, and wrote unpretentious stories about his upbringing in the Ottowa Valley. Though he passed away in 2013, Lemay’s family helped establish the Romeo Lemay prize, which now awards $600 in cash prizes to the top submissions for each year’s edition of The Odet.
Oh yes, the submissions. The Odet is currently accepting them (guidelines here) for their second volume, and it’s a really spectacular opportunity for writers, artists, and photographers. Many journals charge a submission fee these days, but The Odet doesn’t. And for their second edition, the journal is stepping up its game, transitioning from black-and-white to color illustrations. The editors say they’re looking for work by Florida residents only, and Floridian themes are welcome, though not required.
Speaking of themes, the theme of the 2018 edition is discovery, and the journal is seeking fiction, memoir, poetry and art that invoke revelations in any creative way. Submissions are due July 10. Visit theodet.com for details.
So if you’ve got a short story or a poem burning a hole in your desk drawer, we’d sincerely urge you to submit it before the July 10 deadline. Literary journals not run by universities are a rare thing, and those with a community focus are even rarer. The team behind The Odet is trying to do something really exciting —but they can’t do it without liars like you.