Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Cool Question of the Day

The August issue of Wired asked a very interesting question. "Would Moby Dick be better if Melville used a word processor?"

There were 3 answers from 3 "experts." For example, Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves) responded and mentioned the fact that with technology, has come less editing in the industry, and I whole-heartedly agree with her on that note. I'm appalled whenever I read a novel and realize that simple grammar rules are lacking. (Not to mention the fact that I thought the last Harry Potter book could have used a good editor to mercilessly cut about 200 pages that weren't necessary in the least.)

The answers encompassed many points of view; such as, classic authors were fine without technology -- even possibly more inspired. These days, we can certainly slash, save, cut, copy, paste our words with abandon. And easily whip out 9 or 10 drafts at will.

Personally, I think today's way is a much better way to write. Of course, it doesn't excuse people from remembering how to spell or use grammar properly. Maybe it's sad, but I'm not sure I could even write a short story longhand anymore, though perhaps it would be an interesting exercise. Meanwhile, though, I have been trying to resurrect the lost art of letter writing. Friends, beware!

I'd welcome anybody's thoughts on this question. I found it pretty thought provoking.

Thanks for reading,


More on Contrarianism

I discovered Contrary Magazine about a month ago. I finally got a chance to check it out.

It was pretty good, though not as "contrary" as I might have thought. I expected possibly more experimental work, or work that would be hard to place elsewhere. It has the tagline, "Journal of Unpopular Discontent," and states, "we conceal our dreams in the double negative, hoping to become a journal of popular content."

That said, I found it pretty par for the course. I liked the story "Ditch," by Kate Harding. "Surprise" by Wade Rubinstein was okay -- it held my attention well enough. "Wintering" by Michael P. McManus was clever -- I almost liked it the more I thought about it, actually, which was interesting.

At any rate, you'd think a magazine with a title like that would publish edgier stuff. I suppose that's my only complaint. It's worth checking out.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 29, 2004

Some Salt for my Words?

As in, I need some salt (or some kind of seasoning) as it looks like I may have to eat my words. I have blogged in the past about Glimmer Train, and wasn't too kind. The first issue that arrived through my new subscription really disappointed me. But, now comes the part where I eat my words -- the summer 2004 issue was actually rather... delightful (in a good way). (How I hate that word, but for some reason, it seemed apropos.)

Now, don't get me wrong. There still isn't much that absolutely knocked my socks off, or was at all experimental. However, it was overall a very pleasant read, with lots of very competent stories that yes, I could relate to.

Favorites included Train Wreck with Cattle, by Robert Schirmer; The Hero of Queens Boulevard, by Michelle Richmond; Hiram the Desperado, by Robert Olen Butler (very clever, as its jumping-off point was a real postcard message from 1908); Hot House, by Jenni Lapidus; Multiple Listings, by Lucy Honig; and Among the Living Amidst the Trees, by Bruce Machart.

There were only two stories in the whole issue that I thought clunkers, as they didn't hook me strongly enough to finish them. There were several others I didn't mention that were good too -- the ones I have listed were the ones that affected me the most, seemed particularly well written or inspired or really struck a serious chord.

So... I have to highly recommend the Summer 2004 issue to anyone who is looking for a literary good time. I have the Fall 2004 issue here, still in its plastic wrapper. I'm interested to see if it will bear such a strinking resemblance to this enjoyable issue, or closer to the issue I panned a month or so ago.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, August 27, 2004


Anybody ever feeling like they're creating an environment that's a fire hazard?

I'm looking at my reading pile as I type. Some of it, already read, and I am nowhere near figuring out what pile to delegate those magazines to. Several copies of Gargoyle, several copies of Glimmer Train, two copies of Wired still in their plastic wrappers, The Kenyon Review, Poets & Writers, and Novel and Short Story Writers Market too. And, to make matters worse, a 200-page (double-spaced) novella that I'm still trying to figure out what to do with. (And that last one might very well be kindling, I'm not too sure.)

Meanwhile, there's a copy of Tin House in my bathroom, as well as a couple more issues of Wired. And Conjunctions "New Wave Fabulists" issue is floating around here too. This itemized list doesn't include the things I'm supposed to be reading for work, either!

Man, I feel like my room is such a fire hazard right now. I guess a little organization might be in order soon. It's hard to write -- or have any coherent thoughts -- surrounded by a bunch of papery clutter, but I'll bet a lot of writers have the same problem. At least I can say most of my manuscripts are not hard copies, and rather are safe (one might hope!) on my computer hard drive.

Ehhhh.... I think I'm definitely going to have to find some writers with whom I can organize a nice swap system with. If, of course, they don't mind that I bend page corners down and occasionally get hit with the inspiration to write in the lit mags or underline good stuff...

Thanks for reading, I'm definitely going to have to watch those errant cigarette ashes!


... And a Free T-Shirt!

I guess I'm on all the literary mailing lists now, because I got a slick booklet/advertisement from The Gettysburg Review. Not only is it angling for a subscription, it's upping the ante by offering the first 100 people to respond a free t-shirt. That struck me as a little odd, really.

I love t-shirts, especially when they're free. One of my favorites is my Sun Studios t-shirt from a trip to Graceland. I'm also partial to a giant t-shirt for the Blue Elephant art studio. What is a t-shirt but a means to make you a walking advertisement? But I love them anyway. For working out, bumming around braless, or for using as giant nightshirts. (Of course, the fact that I rarely wear them out and about means it sort of defies the whole concept of t-shirt as advertisement.)

So, will I be swayed to buy a subscription, with an added bonus of a free t-shirt if I hurry it up and subscribe? Maybe. The slick little publication was interesting. They claim "pure delight, every time." Hmm. Could it be so? The snippets from stories and poems that they provide in the glossy ad seem fairly compelling.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Kenyon Calls?

I just finished the summer 2004 issue of Kenyon Review. I blogged about it earlier, right when I purchased it, about how its preface contained word that it will have an online submission site available on its homepage in September. Which was cool, of course. Very, very cool. I can't complain about that.

Unfortunately, that was the most excitement in that issue, at least for me. You might feel differently. I had mentioned before, it only has 3 pieces of fiction in it, and the rest of it was poetry with some essays and screenplays and translations smattered about, most of which didn't really do it for me. (Are there more poets in the world than short story writers? Scary thought.) There was an essay on Moby Dick by E.L. Doctorow that was interesting. The rest of it left me pretty cold.

I guess any magazine is going to contain some skimmable material. You can't please everybody, all of the time, or so they say. The cover was lovely. Fiction-wise, the story The Building of Quality, by C.M. Mayo, was quite enjoyable. Chaste Berry, by Maija Rhee Devine, was okay, a well woven tale, but somehow I expected more of it that I never received. The third story in the issue, unfortunately, never hooked me and so, I never got through it. (I shouldn't have to work that hard to try to enjoy something.) I liked two poems by Roger Fanning, and the rest of the magazine pretty much left me high and dry.

My feeling was that it was $10 or so that I could have spent elsewhere and gotten more bang for my buck. On the other hand, some nagging part of me thinks I should try it out as a market because I think my own stories are just as good as those. Again, though, I suppose there's no accounting for taste and maybe because I wasn't thrilled, perhaps that makes it an inappropriate market. Seek a home elsewhere? I definitely do not get the impression that my more surreal or experimental pieces would find a home there.

Again, this is my personal opinion but I wonder, where's the dark humor, where's the poignancy that I can relate to, where's the sharp incisiveness? Better luck next time, perhaps.

Thanks for reading,


Seeing the Future?

Kudos to Blog of a Bookslut for providing the link to this insightful article from Boston Globe online. It's a great article on the future of the "little" literary magazine.

It was nice to read after my previous musings. I might argue that many of the little magazines aren't seeing the future but rather, are seeing the past, but it's an interesting article for any aspiring writer (or literature junkie).

Write on,


Sense and Gen X Sensibility

I've been wondering about literary tastes. After having expressed a good deal of disappointment over a recent issue of Glimmer Train and then raving about several issues of Gargoyle, I am curious what other trends I might come up with as I continue to try to read my way through some popular lit mags.

One thing that occurred to me is that Gargoyle might have a certain Gen X sensibility (regardless of how anyone feels about that term, I've embraced it as being the tagline of my generation).

I guess one thing I noticed about Gargoyle was that most of the stories therein not only defied canons but had a good dose of some wicked humor as well as true cleverness. I think that my generation (and most certainly people who were ever involved in alternative scenes) has a grand ability to laugh at things that, well, you just have to laugh about or you'll cry. Maybe this is wild abandon, I don't know.

Then, there's the school of thought that I sensed in most of the stories in Glimmer Train, that didn't really speak to me. Something a little bit detached, and yet confessional. Things that were descriptive (often of very common problems), but didn't really leave me with any feeling whatsoever. The talent is there but it felt in half of them, there was something quite lacking, perhaps (and what was lacking was not a sense of meandering, many of them did quite a bit of that). A lot of it I just simply couldn't relate to, and I think that's what is so important about literature. A way to figure out and relate to the world we live in. And where was the sharp, clever humor? A lot of it took itself way too seriously, and I think that was a stumbling block as well. How much can a reader enjoy a story that has a droning subtext: I AM A CARD-CARRYING WRITER! I WRITE WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO WRITE!

Anyway, it's a thought. A rather undeveloped one, at that, but I thought I'd put it out there.

Thanks for reading,


Modern Gothic

I just read The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides. He's the same author who wrote Middlesex, one of my favorite novels of the summer reading period. And, some people might recognize the name since it was made into a movie by Sofia Coppola.

The Virgin Suicides was a really good read. It wasn't quite the book of epic proportions that Middlesex was, but I guess that's what happens when you read a book that won a Pulitzer and then read that same author's first book. (Of course, it's not like Suicides was exactly a failure or even anything near a wallflower of a first book, given the fact it was made into a "major motion picture.")

So, while it wasn't the same breadth and depth, I have to say I recommend it. There's a lot of beauty in the prose, and I can already tell I want to read it again to do a second pass, given there's a lot of allegory and allusion and metaphor that I am pretty sure whizzed over my head the first time.

Plus, I think what I like about it is, that it's the perfect example of the modern gothic tale. The end didn't disappoint though at times, I felt the beginning dragged; the novel speaks of the decadence (read: decay) that the gothic form is truly made of. It's not just your run-of-the-mill "darkness" that for so many, exemplifies the word "gothic."

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 23, 2004

A Dose of Rejection

Now, I complained just weeks ago about how dead everything was from the submission angle. I hadn't heard a peep out of any of the markets I had sent to for so long. It was total summer doldrums. Now, I've gotten like, 3 rejections in a matter of weeks!

So, on the one hand, I definitely have to remember what I was saying earlier, about how an encouraging rejection is a GOOD rejection, because these all said to send more work to the markets. But it is hard to get slammed one after another like that.

(Also, for anyone who's been reading for a while, I haven't heard yet if that novella excerpt is going to fly for that one market or not.)

Anyway, getting a flurry of stories back just means one thing, that I need to find new markets for them and soon. It's ironic because several weeks ago, everything was already out there! Back to the drawing board, as is always the case. At least I can say it's been quite some time since I've gotten a form rejection. And it's nice to know that there are human beings out there again. It looks like summer is just about over, if people are returning to their computers to dole out some rejection.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Getting in the Mood

The new issue of Poets and Writers also had an interesting article about writers' rituals. For example, Virginia Woolf wrote standing up. Robert Louis Stevenson got inspiration from dreams. (Which reminded me of comments from Jen -- of JMB -- regarding the origin of inspiration.)

Some of the anecdotes contained people needing a certain song to get into the mindset, or a certain song to evoke a specific mood -- time and place -- to get through a tough chapter or transition.

Of course I started wondering about whether I had my own little OCD rituals. I guess I've lit a candle on occasion; definitely relied on mood music on other occasions. But nothing really consistent, other than the fact that for a long time, I generally needed a long stretch alone to get the juices going, which was frustrating. Having a day job, how much alone time do you get? As recently as a year ago, I would find that weekends where I spent Friday alone, then Saturday, then Saturday night I would be able to sit down, calm, and write.

Luckily, here lately, I've been a little bit better about just sitting down and hacking away at something in piecemeal moments. I have noticed if I am too social, though, going out too much, I generally don't feel too incredibly inspired. I can't say I know why this is, considering society is what gives inspiration in the first place. I guess I just get too hyper or too distracted.

I'd love to hear about other people's rituals to get different types of inspiration going. The article definitely included some rather wacky and amusing examples. But hey, whatever works in summoning the muse.

Write on,


Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Postman Delivers

All right, I can't complain too much about Poets & Writers, since they did send me my free copy before they sent a past-due notice. What's more, the current issue seemed a lot more interesting than in the past when I've been exposed to the magazine.

In the past, it always seemed a little "ivory tower" to me -- too many features about the old guard of literature and maybe not enough that really spoke to new writers who are looking for advice. This issue seemed to take a more contemporary bent, though, which I think is great. (Yeah, I'll subscribe.)

One article in particular that I enjoyed was one called "After 20 Years of Rejection." The writer in question, Dan Allan, had a very different outlook to the rejection process than I do, concerning "encouraging rejections," or what I have been referring to as "personal rejections," as opposed to "form rejections."

His standpoint was, that it's more discouraging to get enthusiastic praise of your work when the outcome is that the editor is not choosing your work. I simply can't agree with that assessment. There are only so many slots in a magazine, and of course the editors are going for what they believe is the best of the best. If there's one small thing that nags, or even one subjective or thematic complaint, it's probably plenty for an editor to say no, but you've got talent, try us again.

Hell, who could possibly complain about a personalized rejection from The New Yorker? But Allan did, and wrote about his temptation to just throw out the whole idea of being a writer (another thing I've posted about in the past). (He also wrote about some frustrating experiences with agents and a workshop -- and doled out some snarkiness about other writers as well.)

I felt his viewpoint was a tad bit self-centered, completely discounting how damn competitive the publishing world is. Maybe these magazines get hundreds of manuscripts a month? (The Atlantic receives 1,000 a month, for just a little perspective on what you're up against when you submit to one of the major paying markets.) And out of such a pool, one would complain when an editor sees something good enough in your manuscript to seize them to write?

Despite my disagreement with Allan's premise, I found it to be a good article that lots of people could relate to (plus, it ends up being a success story after all, always inspiring). The years of rejection (yes, sometimes decades) certainly can sap your strength -- not to mention, so many variables are simply out of the individual writer's control.

More good stuff later. Write on,


Thursday, August 19, 2004

Write a Novel, Any Novel

I came across an interesting site today. Apparently, the challenge is on -- write a novel -- ANY novel (plot? who needs it!) -- during the month of November. The only rules are it needs to be from scratch and it needs to hit 50,000 words (which is actually a novella, but I digress).

Here is the site. Check it out.

In a way, it gets to me a little... that whole thing that everybody thinks they have the great American novel in them. Even people who have not written anything since their college paper. But that's a low blow. So I will also say, it's cool because I would imagine one might gain a lot of entertainment from the exercise. Dig around the site, they've got lots of funny stuff there too.

Good luck, if you decide to devote November to writing the Great American novel!

Write on,


Monday, August 16, 2004

More Gargoyle

I finished another issue of Gargoyle -- that's no. 39/40, which some may know I've been pecking away at for a while now. It may only be published once per year, but it sure does offer a lot of bang for the buck, seeing how it's a thick tome full of essays, poetry, and fiction.

Teenage Vixens from the Netherworld, by Jodi Bloom, really rocked. One that sent me scurrying for a post-it flag was Charmer, by Cathryn Hankla. Seismatrix, by Hillary Johnson, was remarkably inventive. Where Your Life Begins, by Leslie Pietrzyk, rang true as well.

In the modern retelling of the fairy tale tradition, was Beauty and Rudy, by Julia Slavin. That one, obviously, is a modern rendition of Beauty and the Beast, and it's certainly not all hearts and flowers, that's for sure.

I didn't enjoy this issue quite as much as the first one I reviewed, but let's face it, there's a lot of good stuff there, definitely worth the money and the time. My next stop on the literary cruise is likely Kenyon Review, which shouldn't take long -- I checked, there are only three pieces of fiction in there. However, I do need to switch to a novel soon, I think all the short stories are wreaking havoc on my attention span!

Thanks for reading,


On Anonymity Part Deux

A couple weeks ago Amazon said it's working hard to discourage anonymous reviews posted on their site. The upshot was, anonymous posting of reviews invites distrust and of course, there have been problems with authors complaining that people with grudges wil write heinous reviews of their work, for example.

It kind of made me think of this blog, where I've made the decision to remain anonymous. I guess in some ways I could see how it might invite distrust. But if anything, I think my anonymity helps me be more honest, not less. (Of course, speaking of distrust, I have that nagging fear that calling out magazines on certain aspects of their operations could result in black listing.)

Anyway, any thoughts on this are welcome. I think it can work either way. I can only say that I personally try to operate with the utmost integrity despite the ranting and raving. For example, I can complain about McSweeney's non-responding ways and still admit that they put out some damn good stuff.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Dead Zone

Speaking of novellas, I have two of those suckers I haven't marketed very stringently. I think I've sent each one out once. The novella form kind of seems like a literary dead zone.

Short story -- sure, market it to lit magazines. Novel -- okay, market it to book publishers. Frankly, I just don't know what to do with these things. Neither one seems capable of expansion into a novel, or being condensed into a short story. They're pretty happy at their current lengths, at least in my opinion.

So I wanted to open this up as a question. Does anyone have experience with novellas? Namely, does anybody know of any good novella markets?

It kind of seems like the only way to publish a novella is to be someone like Stephen King, who could sell his grocery list for a huge cash advance anyway. I suspect that the mainstream press wouldn't like novellas much, because they'd be hard to sell.

Thanks for reading,


Panic at 1am

So, after all the summertime waiting I complained about recently, tonight I got a rejection from a magazine I am truly jonesing to get into. However, it wasn't your run-of-the-mill form rejection, nor the rejection that gives some personal reasons and then says, good luck... this time, the editor asked if I had something else, something shorter. That's huge. Like I have said in previous posts, if they ask to send more, then that seems a very heartening sign.

Why the panic? Everything I've got is submitted right now! And like I said in yet another previous post, most magazines frown on simultaneous submissions. So, I do happen to have an excerpt from a novella that I have tried half-heartedly to send out before, but never did a full blitz for. I happen to think it stands well on its own, but who knows. However, it definitely fits the bill for being "short."

Wish me luck. I don't have truly high hopes that this will get accepted, but hopefully this is a good step towards success. With every small step, you do get closer to your goals. And it's likely only at 2:34am that you decide to use a "small step" analogy in a blog entry! Eek. It's definitely time for bed.

Write on,


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Tao of Pooh

After all the bitching I've done about McSweeney's, I've got to share a bit of Pooh fiction. Winnie, that is. This is totally hilarious.

All that talk of Oz and now another childhood fictional figure shows up in the day-to-day workplace. Priceless.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, August 09, 2004

Quite Contrary?

All right, for the first time ever -- and that's ever -- I've clicked on a banner ad. Actually, it was one of the ads served up right on the top of my own blog, an ad served up by Google for Contrary magazine, apparently associated with the University of Chicago.

Anybody familiar?

Well, I'll look into it later, because I just watched "Pirates of the Caribbean" for the second time this week, with my roommate who has just returned from Paris. I wish she had brought Johnny Depp home with her from Paris as a souvenir, but no such luck; of course, I am not that out of touch with reality.

I'll look more into Contrary a little later, but with a name like that one might imagine it would be an interesting market. I'm curious if it's quite as contrary as it thinks it is. That will be an interesting experiment.

I hope others are having a bit better a night of writing than I am, but really, I've just been living my double life as one of Johnny Depp's greatest fans (he is my generation's finest actor, I think) tonight and it's time for bed.

Write on,


Sunday, August 08, 2004

Star Power

Over on the blog Bookslut it's been pointed out that Pamela Anderson has written a novel, called Star. (Well, rather, she has ghost written a novel.) Who knew?

Pamela Anderson also writes a column for Jane magazine, which does give the impression of a very nice and likeable person (whether it's ghost written, I don't know, but I doubt it). So I'm not here to slam Pam Anderson, but it did bring to mind that celebrity effect, where someone who's an actor decides s/he should start a recording career, or someone who's a musician decides to write books, and so forth.

(Now, don't get me wrong. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy's forays into music are one of the most entertaining pieces of pop culture we've got, IMHO.)

Doesn't it ever make you a little mad, though? The rest of us slave away at things that (hopefully) we actually have innate talent in. Someone else can swoop in on their own celebrity. I guess it all comes down to the corporate aspects of the game -- having name recognition is going to sell copies regardless of merit.

I have no doubt Star is a "fun" read, which is what several of the Amazon reviews said. From what I understand, it's a mix of things from Pam Anderson's own life mixed with some fictional events. (A TV show called Lifeguards Inc.? Yeah.) I don't think I'll be reading it, of course. But I can understand how this might be a popular book with the titillating hint of "tell-all" thinly disguised as fiction.

But if there's anything in the publishing world that maybe might upset me more than "it's who you know," perhaps it's the offshoot of that -- "it's who you are."

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, August 07, 2004

Waiting Game

Summer sucks, in the writing biz. Well, other things do too. I have a whole bunch of writing submitted and it's like it's all in the black hole, really. It occurred to me last night that I am really irate with McSweeney's.

They've had one of my stories since November 2003. I think that I gave it the requisite 6 months and went to their Web site about querying, and I'm pretty sure they said that if you don't hear back, to resubmit. Umm... I did. Right now, though, I'm wondering if I should just start resubmitting that one elsewhere. And put them in the "non-responder" category with Pif and Exquisite Corpse. Because, at this point, I'm simply downright irate.

I guess my fuse is long, like I can go and go and go without being angry, but then suddenly it occurs to me that I AM angry about something. Anyway, the "no simultaneous submissions" rule certainly shouldn't apply here. If you're going to have my manuscript for almost a year, then I shouldn't have to watch the "pending" slot on my submission spreadsheet for that whole time. Maybe I will query them -- screw them and their "resubmit, but don't bother us about it" rule. That's what I was so angry about in that previous post where I ranted about writers getting the short end of the stick.

Other than that, I've got a bunch submitted to markets that have a long reading period -- like around six months. UGH! I guess it's good I have some at markets that DO read in the summer, since those are few and far between.

Anyway, I guess maybe my project for the morning will be to try to find some email address at McSweeney's and see what the deal is. I had a manuscript get lost at Boulevard once, and I have to say the truth, I queried and they were really nice about hurrying up and rejecting it -- that sounds funny but they realized it was their bad and at least knocked it to the top of the list for reading. So I have to give them props for that.

Write on, even when it's annoying,


Friday, August 06, 2004

Another Surprise

I looked up The New Yorker's guidelines on the Web, they do accept manuscripts by email. That's heartening. Not that I would represent it as a friendly market for brand-new writers, but at least they've moved past snail mail. Honestly, I don't go for markets like The New Yorker, or if I do it's only occasional -- I consider the chances of getting accepted about the same as winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning, but email submissions make it slightly more appealing, anyway.

I picked up a copy of Kenyon Review as well, and while I haven't dug in yet, in its preface it said it is starting up an online submissions system via its Web site in September 2004. This is a motherlode of good news, of course. I guess the message is indeed out. One of the most amazing publishing mediums to come around in ages, and so many lit mags have been woefully behind the times, but I guess that is changing. (Seriously, I wonder, did they think it was going to go away?)

However, what was interesting was there was a vaguely apologetic tone about the news. The intro insisted that they will continue to accept hard-copy manuscripts and the editor waxed sentimental about manuscripts containing some of the idiosyncrasies of type-written submissions. (I guess I can kind of dig that -- I remember being in high school and first, hating the idea of typing my manuscripts and in college, hating the idea of ever writing on a word processor! Now I can't imagine how I ever dared handwrite then painstakingly edit and type out my words.)

Kenyon is another paying market -- according to the latest Novel & Short Story Writers Market they pay $10-$15/page, and yeah, that's MONEY. Especially considering so many markets don't pay, or pay a penny a word (or even a half-cent! Ouch).

Hurray for evolution,


Thursday, August 05, 2004

A Surprise

Last night, I read the best story -- again, in Gargoyle No. 39/40. It was Auden's Toothbrush, by Lucinda Ebersole. And it was GREAT -- it poked so much fun at the literary establishment, how could I resist?

It was about a writer who, after one rather inflammatory New York Times book review -- which dubs her The Feminist de Sade -- gets a coveted invitation to a writer's colony. The wackiness ensues from there. "According to the Director, this was the ideal writer's environment because you had your own private space but also a communal space so you could spend time with your fellow writer. It was clear that The Director was not a writer." That's just one line, and I don't want to give the rest away. I so totally recommend it. I still haven't gotten through the entire beefy fiction section though, so for now, no more on that.

Lucinda Ebersole is one of the editors of Gargoyle, by the way -- not much of a surprise there.

So anyway, I picked up a copy of the The New Yorker because I thought I might have some time to spend waiting for a friend for dinner. I was all set for some self-righteous teeth gnashing over stodgy literary convention.

I was pleasantly surprised that the short story, Adams, by George Saunders, was really quite good. It contained no quotation marks in dialogue -- one of my earlier rants you might recall from my perusal of Glimmer Train -- but I discovered that if used well, it actually does work.

I'm not entirely prepared to eat my words, as I found the rest of the publication to be sort of stodgy in that upper crusty way. I'm sure it's just a matter of taste but it's not really my speed. But I was glad to see a short piece -- damn, so short it almost seemed like flash -- that I liked there. Phew. However, how sad that one of the most coveted literary markets only features one short story per issue.

Anyway, just a little bit of delight and surprise on a Thursday night. Thanks for reading and write on,


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Full-On Rant

I wish I could say that I have started writing a new short story, or finished that issue of Gargoyle I'm looking at, or something of that nature. But I can't. In fact, I'm going to go to a friend's house and watch Bubba Hotep and eat pizza. I do have a rant though.

Writers who submit work via snail mail know the importance of checking the snail mailbox every day... you get ever-so-OCD about it (and if my roommate has ever wondered why I'm obsessive about the mail, this is why). So, today I visited the mailbox and I got an invoice from Poets & Writers and I'm MAD.

They recently sent me an offer. They send you a free issue, and then you write on the invoice "cancel" if you don't want the subscription after having perused the lovely and enlightening pages of the freebie. That's pretty simple. All right, so I sent it in, thinking it could be helpful for my endeavors, both in submitting work and having useful information for this blog.

Granted, I will likely subscribe. I'm a sucker that way. But the point is, they have sent me an invoice, and NO FREE ISSUE YET. I'm really annoyed that a freakin' bill beat my first issue to my mailbox.

Maybe I'm petty to rant and rave about this, but my plan is to sit on the bill -- I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to get a past due bill before I get the magazine, or before I have had time to look at it if it DOES arrive in a timely manner, which so far, it hasn't. (I like how apparently they can hustle faster with a bill and not provide a magazine n a timely manner?) I would have been far less angry if I had gotten the magazine today in conjunction with the bill. If I do get some kind of "past-due" nonsense, I'm gonna get nasty with them. Don't make me an offer and then bill me without providing the goods. Jerks.

More love for the literary life, eh? Aspiring writers -- sometimes I wonder if it's a big market; in some ways it likely is, like the lottery, through market research theoretically you've gotta pay to win, though many of us aren't exactly flush with cash, given the whole emphasis on "aspiring."

Blast 'em!

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Today I'd like to suggest people check out the latest issue of The Paumanok Review, if they're looking for some good reading. It's an online-only literary journal, though I might add, it always strikes me as having professional quality (hey, you can download a PDF of the issue).

In the current issue, I enjoyed stories like Acting Out by Fred Redekop and Broken Wing by David McGrath. I also liked Pittsburgh at Midnight by Mat Snapp. I haven't gotten to everything but I thought I'd seen enough I liked to merit a heads-up to anyone looking for some good fiction online.

As an aside, for writers looking for markets, Paumanok's a good bet. I have been published in a past issue of the journal, and editor Katherine Arline is really nice and professional and lovely to deal with. Paumanok doesn't pay in cash (though you do receive classified advertising through the site in exchange for your story), but it's a lovely site that's obviously lovingly produced, and I think that that makes one proud to be featured within its virtual pages.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

Lots of Wickedness

All right, so what's with all the fiction based on The Wizard of Oz these days? I had heard of the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire (it's one of those BAM selections I talked about earlier -- prime placement on Summer Reading tables).

However, in Gargoyle No. 47, my earlier rave, there's a short story, The Heart Made Wicked, by Matthew L. Moffett (not for the faint of heart, by the way, but a good read). Both of these deal with the point of view of the wicked witch of the west. (Far be it for me to cry foul, but it makes me wonder if these two people know each other or are the same person with pseudonyms. Both the novel and the short story deal with the wicked witch's human aspect, unseating the tyrannical, evil Wizard, and Glinda as a bit of a bitch, but I guess that's for the two of them to work out if they're not the same person, right?)

Meanwhile, on Strange Horizons, I ran across Displaced Persons by Leah Bobet, a short story that describes the winged monkeys' point of view, after the Wicked Witch has been dispatched.

It's interesting that the Oz story has resonated with so many people, apparently. Maybe it's always been ripe for the other point of view for the angles that were never told.

There's a lot that's interesting about The Wizard of Oz. All the symbolism, for example; poppies=opium, snow=cocaine, The Yellow Brick Road=the gold standard, and I don't know what the Emerald City stood for -- the Federal Reserve? Slidge, of the blog GoFYourself knows, I think.

Then, of course, there is the pure battle between good and evil. Apparently lots of people are into the idea of turning "pure evil" on its head in contemporary literature, only using tried-and-true pieces of pop culture. Any thoughts?

And, as an interesting aside, here in the DC area, there is an overpass near the Mormon Temple (which does look like Oz) where some enterprising individual had at one time spray painted "Surrender Dorothy." That was awe inspiring when I was a kid!

Thanks for reading,


Running on Fumes

What a great weekend. I went on a mini road trip and was far away from the computer and this blog for a full 24 hours or so! Yeah!! Had a great time with friends and it was good to reboot a bit, catch up, grab some new music, and enjoy the company of their very cute little girl!

However, I'm noticing that everything I pick up to read seems to be annoying me for the last couple days, though I ran across some very enjoyable stories on an Internet-based lit mag recently that I will discuss more later. However, I'm wondering if I may be a little bit burnt out on reading right now, or maybe I should switch over to reading some longer works for a while.

I'm still thinking about the story I "finished" writing Friday... well, I'm still puttering around with it, changing a word here, a word there. I slashed at it Friday night too, and it's only 3,000 words, which, for whatever reason, strikes me as the perfect short-story length, so that's good.

Generally, right after I finish a story, man, I'm convinced it's the BEST thing I've ever written, the best thing since sliced bread! Genius, genius, GENIUS! (Though, while I dig this one a lot, I am still not as in love with it as I am the second-to-last short story I wrote recently, I must admit.) It's funny, because then as time progresses generally I do see its failings, shrug it off, realize it's not so brilliant, write a new one, and that's the new favorite.

That relates to what was one of the sage pieces of advice Stephen King gave in On Writing, was that every new story needs to be edited, yeah, but then stowed away somewhere for some period of time so you can look at it with a more objective viewpoint later. It's good advice. Probably something I should do with this one, really. SINCE IT'S THE SECOND BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD! Ha, how fickle the creative sentiment.

Maybe the thing to do is to definitely mark my calendar every 6 months to go back through everything again. It would take a lot of discipline. It's so nice to just declare something "done."

I hope everybody had a great weekend, and thanks for reading,