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Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

gratitude (2)I got a story turned down a few days ago. Instead of feeling the normal sting of rejection, I felt a profound relief. Truth is, it wasn’t a story I was proud of. I was, and am, very proud of the writing, of the setting and the characters. But there was always something about the story itself that never quite jelled. There were no comments attached to the rejection email, but who cares? I didn’t need them. I know in my heart that the story had a major weakness, which I could never quite pinpoint, but which was nevertheless unsettling. If I had been honest with myself from the get-go, I never would have tried to market the story. I’m grateful for all the fine editors out there who, intentionally or not, end up protecting me from myself.

 

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Hemingway2I’m reading Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, by Lesley M.M. Blume (which I recommend).

The author recounts that in early 1920’s Paris, Hemingway became the deputy editor for a literary journal called transatlantic review, started by Ford Madox Ford. It didn’t go well. In addition to editorial differences, Hemingway “had begun to suspect that Ford was praising his own work under pseudonyms in the transatlantic (he was correct).”

Apparently sockpuppets have been around since well before the Internet. Plus ça change and all that.

 

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 Deadlines. They seem so far away when I first pencil them into my plans and schedules. But time speeds by, other unavoidable tasks crop up, or I underestimate the difficulty of the project. I try, try to train myself to start early, to get a jump on things, or to create a fake, earlier deadline in order to get moving. But my untrickable subconscious knows very well that it’s a fake deadline and blows it off. Yet, I keep trying. After all, I’ve managed to do it with other appointments. I leave plenty early for the dentist, for movies and lunch dates. And while I used to respond well to deadlines, now they render me immobile with stress.

More importantly, I’ve learned that trying to do things at the last minute is a dangerous practice. If I wait till the day of the deadline for a contest, anthology or other call for submissions to send off my entry, I know I’ll be plagued by some catastrophe or roadblock.

For instance: As I make the last tweaks to the manuscript, Word will hiccup and screw up the formatting for the entire text. I won’t know what happened, so I’ll tear my hair out for hours trying to reverse it. “Undo” will be strangely ineffective. The online support and forums will be mystified or useless. Worst of all, I will have once more broken my “rule” about saving a slightly earlier draft, so I have nothing to go back to.

If that doesn’t happen, my cat will need emergency surgery, my internet will go down or the fire department will knock on the door with a mandatory evacuation order due to a gas leak. The local library or cyber café will be under the same order and besides, I haven’t saved the work in a portable or cloud form.

Okay, so sometimes it works out. I wait till the last minute and succeed. But that just allows me to think it’s a practice that’s safe to continue. Also, it will never be perfect. Even if I get better at working ahead, life will occasionally throw an unexpected punch. Still, starting writing projects early is habit I want to add to my skill set. Now if I could just convince my subconscious to cooperate.   

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p1000927I wrote about getting an emotional lift from gaining a new follower. I also wrote about the consolation of sharing the experience of “rejection” with other writers. A third thing I sometimes do to get out of my pit of despair is to remind myself of past successes. This is easy when poems, stories or essays are included in journals or anthologies, which can be lined up on a shelf. But I have a ton of newspaper, magazine and newsletter work, which can be hard to preserve and access. I tried loose leaf binders, but they soon got so full and bulky, they were hard to handle, store, add to and review. That system just wasn’t working. Somehow, I hit upon the idea of putting them all into book form.

I hired my friend, Stephanie, to work with me. A brilliant organizer, she also does editing and graphics. She scanned all the loose material into her computer. Since she has publishing software, she was able to clean up stray marks, enhance text and otherwise improve the original copies. In this case, you can see how, by procsimple4outlining my contribution in red, she was able to make my “helpful hint” stand out from a whole page of them.

After the images were as good as she could make them, she uploaded them into Shutterfly, making sure each entry had its proper citation. I logged on, chose the colors and fonts, created the spine labels and title pages, and added any explanatory text.

We ended up with four volumes (so far): Book Reviews, Columns, Confessions and a volume I called Incunabula and Ephemera. This one is a collection of interviews, essays and other material that doesn’t fit anywhere else. It actually includes the very first time I appeared in print, in my Junior High newspaper. (Thanks, Mom, for saving it all those years!) The volumes are accessible, portable, sturdy and sit neatly on the shelf with all my other print work in anthologies and journals. Now I can look back and see that, yes, I have done good work in the past, and if I did it then, I can do it again. Very reassuring. The set also acts as a backup, as the paper copies continue to deteriorate.

I’m not recommending this method for everyone. It was expensive and time-consuming. Nor am I touting Shutterfly. I’m sure there are other services out there that can do similar projects. Although if I understand Shutterfly, the projects stay there forever, so, you know, in case the house ever burns down . . . (I’m not kidding. A poet friend of mine lost irreplaceable manuscripts and writing memorabilia in a warehouse fire.)

One thing to note: When I first began publishing in newspapers, I had the great good sense to photocopy the articles onto acid free paper, along with the accompanying heading at the top of the page. That made it a lot easier and more efficient for Stephanie to deal with. I also kept careful records of every publication, so I have confidence that the bound collections are reasonably complete. Sure, there are a few missing pieces, but nothing’s perfect.

 

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rejectedIn my previous post I talked about an emotional lift I got from gaining a new follower for this blog. That was in response to being “stuck” due to the sense that I was not reaching a single reader. But I can also get “stuck” when I keep getting editorial rejections. In this case, one consolation is to know that we’re all in good company, that rejections are all part of the life of any artist. If you’re not involved in a group of other writers, you can share the sting, and gain some comfort, online. One of my favorite sites for doing this is Rejectomancy. The owner, Aeryn Rudel, not only shares his experiences with “rejection” but often has advice about how to use it to one’s advantage. One of my favorite posts from this site is Michael Bracken’s description of a rare form of rejection, “The Unacceptance Letter.”. Bracken calls these rejections “disheartening” and yet his professional response to them still shines through.

 

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thIFFW6ZP3A few weeks ago, I described a 30 year journey of one story from creation to publication in The 30 Year Story. Not long after that, Sarah M. Chen wrote a related guest post about perseverance and resubmitting one’s work on the Do Some Damage blog. Lest we leave you with a dismal view of the writing life, I hurry to say, it’s not always that hard. Last year, I placed two stories on the second try for each of them. I had written the first one for a contest in January. It failed to win, but, being familiar with the markets, esp. the online markets, I sent it off again in Feb., and it appeared in the April issue of Mysterical-e. You can read it here.

The second one was written for a June contest. When it went nowhere, I saw a notice for a new market, cut the story to fit, and it was published in Oct. in BJ Bourg’s new flash fiction zine, Flash Bang Mysteries. You can read that one here.

No surprise, the takeaways are the same. Write and polish a good story, be aware of a wide range of markets, and keep trying. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes, it’s easy (well, easier), but it’s all part of the life we have chosen as writers.

 

 

 

 

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In my last post, I told of the 30 year journey to publication of a short story. In that post, I posed the question: why did I hang on to and keep trying to place this story, when I had discarded so many others over the years as not having legs. It’s easier to answer the second part of the query first. When I periodically go through old work, I’m sometimes appalled at the crap I’ve written. It now seems boring, turgid, didactic, lifeless. I have new sympathy and respect for my long time writing teacher who had to slog through it all, yet always found something positive to say, even if it was just to praise one small phrase.  But, each time I make a pass through the old files, some stories still appeal to me, however badly they may have been written in the first place. And that was true of “All Creatures Great and Small.” But why? What was different?

The first thing that strikes me is that I liked the characters. I also liked their struggles and their situation. But I still hadn’t quite nailed down why I thought the story was viable. Then, a few days ago, I read another story to my husband. I write a lot of crime fiction and this story was especially grim and scary. He liked the story, but then he said, “It sounds like you had fun writing it.” Bingo. I think he hit on something important. That no matter how dark a story may be, if the writer has had fun in the writing, that quality will come across to the reader. This doesn’t mean, of course, that every time we write, it’s gonna be a laugh-a-thon. There are many different kinds of fun. I think it just means, your heart is in it. There are many quotes about following your heart that could apply here, e.g. Pascal’s “We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” I’m sure you can supply your own favorite quote.

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