Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Double Header

Oh hey look, two in a matter of two days, I haven't been this good in about a month. Phew, maybe I'm getting a bit back on track. Ha.

So, a few weeks ago, I saw through Barrelhouse's email notifier that they have gotten some press recognition, which is cool. Very cool. And I've already blogged about how I enjoyed the inaugural issue, and had wanted to go to the reading, but was out of town that weekend.

So anyway, back to those press mentions. Dave Housley, one of the editors, made a comment about the whole process of vetting submissions, and said that he got inundated with "relationship stories" and said something to the effect that he got to the point where he was so burnt out on them, that if Flannery O'Connor herself had risen from the grave with a relationship story he would have rejected it. (Total paraphrase but that's the gist.)

Maybe I got a little annoyed because I had sent a "relationship story" to them (and got rejected handily), but I kept thinking about that concept. Are there too many relationship stories? My mind raced. Should I stop writing stories that could be considered "relationship stories"? Actually I kind of chafe at even considering my stories to be "relationship stories," per se (God forbid chick lit of the Bridget Jones variety, although I know a lot of people are finding that term to be downright controversial these days) I still think they're more dysfunction stories, hahaha, but still. I just kept thinking about how relationships are one of the most common conflicts that humans face. And that in 2005, I am pretty sure that Gen X and Gen Y have very different versions of relationships, gender roles, commitment, and the like than previous generations. Relationships say a lot about our society -- and resonate with a lot of people. And some of the greatest pieces of literature of our time have been about something as elemental as, well, relationships. And of course, I could just go on and on about this, as you might imagine.

I guess it shouldn't have chafed at me so much and I can see how very similar stories submitted could get very tiresome. In the end, though, I still have to write what the spirit moves me to write or whatever. (I'm quite proud that one of my stories was rejected by an editor who said my characters were unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things -- I'm contrary that way. I've also had raves about that story, which reminds me of a recent Hebdomeros post about contests and the ultimate question of tastes.) I just thought it might be an interesting point to consider. I'd welcome any comments here -- the idea just got under my skin and I couldn't shake it, ha.

Thanks for reading (and sticking with me while I've been a bit dicey with the posts!),



Blogger Hebdomeros said...

Interesting, especially considering mags by and large publish relationship stories as a majority. But I will admit, there is certain type of relationship story that I'm bored with. It's usually set it suburbia, and centers around some issue that the characters don't really talk about until the climax. There is a skill to writing them, but unless something unique happens I get tired of it pretty quick.

Odd you bring this up today. I just started the Kelly Link collection last night, and it hit me that they are relationship-driven stories, but told by way of really odd things happening. It might just take a method of doing it in a new way.

I finally started the Kelly Link

9:33 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

LLB: I find it strange that the editor complained in the first place. At least for me, it would be a bad PR move. There are so many things regarding the submissions we receive that I could take issue with on my blog, but mostly I'm happy that people think enough of us to submit in the first place. So I defintely understand how you feel! Don't insult those who keep your boat afloat.

Heb: Actually, what is meant by relationship stories? I tend to think the editor meant that people try to create these tension-filled dramatic things mirroring they see on television and movies (i.e., will Rachel and Ross ever get together?), not understanding that this sort of romantic serialization works only for television and movies and not for short, contained pieces. I haven't really seen many romantic stories lately, so I'll have to check out the Kelly Link colletion.

12:28 PM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Yeah, I've got that Kelly Link anthology, I can't wait to start it. I am quite sure some really, really odd things happen, knowing what I know about her work. I can't wait but I'm still behind on my reading...

Jen, I'm so glad that you understand why that rubbed me the wrong way. It does seem bad PR, doesn't it. I mean, yeah, that's your bread and butter... strange. And might actually deter some good submissions. Like the next Flannery O'Connor. Hahaha.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Jai said...

I think balance is where it is at. but to not write relationship stories would be to exclude something that is the heart of humanity. buT treatment and balance i think is important. saddened by Housley's comment.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Hebdomeros said...

"Relationship stories" is a broad term, and I guess could be tagged onto most anything that's character driven. It doesn't necessarily make me think about a corny romantic story, but anything in which the primary focus is the relationship between two or more characters. Who knows what this editor is really complaining about; perhaps he's a plot guy, or he really likes technical innovation.

To be honest, I wouldn't put Flannery O'Connor as a relationship writer, but that's using my idea of the term.

11:24 AM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Hi Jai,

thanks for stopping by! Yeah, it did strike me as a kind of disappointing comment. Kind of a throwing the baby out with the bathwater comment, as you say, balance is important...

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi -- This is Dave, the loudmouth who made that stupid comment about relationship stories (I was checking our referrers, followed a link back here). First off, we truly appreciate the positive comments you made about the mag. We actually appreciate anybody even knowing we exist at all.

I agree that was a stupid thing to say about "relationship stories." At the risk of sounding like Mariah Carey or some other poor misquoted creature, there was some context to that discussion that was missing in the final City Paper article, primarily the part where I said "but then we wound up publishing a bunch of them, so of course we're open to anything."

We're reading for issue two now and of the things we've accepted, at least half could be categorized as "relationship stories" in some way.

Anyway -- thanks again for even thinking enough about us to have the discussion. I thought I'd post because I really hate the idea of my big mouth preventing anybody from submitting something that might be great. Thanks!

3:48 PM  
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