Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Put on a Pedestal

All right, last time around I was beating up on Poets & Writers a bit but I did run across what looked like an interesting online literary magazine in its pages, called The Pedestal Magazine.

I admit, I've never heard of it, and I didn't find a listing for it on the most recent Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. However, apparently it's been around since late 2000. It also pays writers it publishes.

I really enjoyed the introduction to the fiction section by Nathan Leslie. He discussed what has been a prominent literary trend for quite some time now (I actually am not crazy about it), confessional/self-expression in fiction, and compared it to intellectual detachment of the T.S. Eliot variety. I highly recommend reading the piece, it does give some good food for thought. (And of course, for those of us who aren't crazy about highly personal, confessional fiction, it seems like it's still pretty well ensconced, since it does segue well with the current fascination with reality TV, documentaries, and memoirs, as he points out in his exploration.) At any rate, I appreciated that he brought up the subject, it's a good one for writers to mull over.

Meanwhile, I did enjoy several of the stories I read there, in particular "The Real Story" by Jim O'Loughlin.

The Pedestal Magazine also publishes poetry, and has an online art gallery and bookstore (more specifically, it lists books by authors it has published that can be purchased from Amazon). It's well worth a look.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lorraine Has Left the Building Already

I just got the latest issue of Poets & Writers in the mail, and as usual, flipped immediately to the back, to the call for submissions section. I was interested to see that they're still running the ad for Lorraine and James, despite the fact that that Internet publication has had a note up on their Web site for months, saying it's on hiatus for an unspecified amount of time, maybe even forever. (I posted about this recently, when ranting about submissions that go unanswered for months).

I have to wonder if Poets & Writers has enough people doing research and fact checking. I'd say many writers are mostly interested in the magazine as a resource for researching new markets, and for that reason I'd think they'd fact check those listings in the back to make sure they're still up and running. Maybe advertisers pay for ad space for large blocks of time, but regardless, I'd say a writer would be much better served not to run up against a lot of dead ends. Even if the advertiser paid for the ad in advance, if it no longer exists, couldn't there be some sort of notation across the ad that says the magazine is now on hiatus? It doesn't seem to me that it would be that difficult to do and would be a much better tool for writers to know not to even bother with that market.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh and ignoring the business elements here, and after all we do all have our own responsibilities to do our own research into literary markets, but when you pay for a subscription to a magazine like Poets & Writers, you want to find a lot of useful tools there. Situations like this remind me that I don't always feel I'm getting that experience.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Tale of Two Rejection Slips

Okay, so most rejections aren't really rejection "slips" anymore. Over the course of the last year, I was rejected twice by The Missouri Review via email and I noted a subtle but possibly important difference between the two rejections.

The first rejection read like this: "Thank you for giving us the chance to consider [story name] for publication in The Missouri Review. Though it does not fit our current needs, we appreciate your interest in our magazine and your commitment to quality writing. We wish you the best of luck in publishing your work and hope you'll consider sending us more in the future."

It's obviously a form rejection, but it seems it's a form rejection with a difference. Consider a rejection I received from them about six months before: "Thank you for submitting [story name] to The Missouri Review. Though it doesn't meet our current needs, we appreciate the opportunity to consider it for publication. We wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere."

The extra line in the first rejection was reason to get excited. Even though it was obviously an impersonal rejection, it had that extra line that actually invited me to send more. Reading further between the lines, it also told me that it's likely they'd appreciate something more linear and narrative as opposed to experimental, judging by the two stories I sent and the responses I got.

I admit it, it's pretty lame and anal to compare different rejection emails on a line-by-line basis (I use a Gmail account for email and it makes it easy to tag and search old e-mailed rejections so I can do a comparison/contrast). It's also pretty lame to get excited about a "good" rejection but that's just the way it goes for those of us who are trying hard to get published. I was telling my friend J about the whole universe of types of rejections you can get, and I know it sounded weird to somebody who hasn't submitted fiction to magazines: impersonal ones (don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out), "good" rejections (please send us more) or the best kinds of rejections, where the editors give a lot of feedback and give you the impression that something in your work moved them to comment. Getting warmer, right?

It is a strange pastime to have, though, when you find yourself obsessing over just what kind of rejection you receive from a magazine. It's definitely a labor of love when you have to soothe your ego in that way.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Just a quick update -- I had said that Ploughshares was launching a beta test of an online submission system on Aug. 15 (I didn't make it up, it was on their Web site). I paid their site a visit tonight and I see that the beta launch has been pushed back to Aug. 17. Yes, that's tomorrow. I'll be curious to see how it works.

Keep on writing!


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Life in the Grotto

It occurred to me that it might be boring to hear a whole lot of talk magazine talk so I decided to do a little stream of consciousness. In March 2005, the tarot card reader I went to at Bottom of the Cup Tearoom in New Orleans told me I might not meet a lot of guys if I stayed in my writer's "grotto" all the time, but oh well. (She was a really good psychic, by the way.) What's more, now the grotto has one less person knocking around in it, since my roommate moved to India.

So, yeah, life in the grotto. Speaking of knocking around, now that I've moved my bedroom into what was my roommate's bedroom (and now I've got a bedroom that's only used for sleeping, which incidentally is a good tip for insomniacs) and converted my former bedroom into a library/office/study, I'm constantly wondering where I'm going for what. Wandering to and fro. Where are socks again? Where are my shoes? Most of my clothes are still in the closet in the library/office/study, because it's bigger and the closet in my bedroom is "open" -- it connects the bathroom to the bedroom. Anyway, I justify the disorganization as good exercise. It's also obviously spacious to be alone here, which is definitely not too convincing when it comes to the whole "writer's grotto" idea. I'd be closer to the concept if I lived in one room with the two cats, but I can't complain over the fact that I'm not fitting the stereotype at the moment. There's also the problem that my grotto is actually on the fourth floor of a garden apartment -- I think maybe a grotto is supposed to be subterranean, but I can't complain that I actually get some light unlike those creatures in the movie The Descent.

I haven't written a short story in a month or two -- and the last one I wrote was pretty much pilfered from an experience my friend J had. He knows I used him as inspiration for that story and he has no problem with that. However it must be kind of weird to see someone take a short vignette from your life and turn it into a short story complete with social commentary. I felt a little creepy about it and I was the one who wrote it. I'm hoping that having a whole room just for writing, reading and thinking will get the creative juices flowing but here lately all I've been doing is cleaning and organizing, it's never ending.

In other musings, I blame Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for not getting more done. I think everybody should watch them, especially since our media isn't doing such a bang-up job these days. Who would have thought the most thought-provoking news coverage would come from Comedy Central? It's just like the old court jester idea. Only they don't tend to wear funny hats.

Okay, that's my stream of consciousness for the day.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Welcome to the Future

It's nice to see more and more of the traditional literary magazines allowing online submissions. I recently noticed that Kenyon Review has implemented an online submissions system. And Ploughshares, another long-standing literary magazine, says on its Web site that starting Aug. 15, it will have a beta version of an online submissions system in place.

When I first started this blog I felt a fair amount of frustration that some of the most venerated of literary journals didn't allow online submissions. It seemed that not only is it easier for writers (no need for a postage scale much less postage), it would be easier for the magazines themselves (easier tracking, less paperwork to shuffle or lose). Not to mention, many of us writers have wasted a lot of trees in the spirit of getting our work placed in a respected journal. (Computers have at least made it easier, but it's hard to imagine what it was like when a manuscript returned enough got a little too dog-eared after a while, requiring writers to fire up the computer and type up a new copy. What a labor of love.) I've gotten to the point where I rarely send my work to magazines that don't offer online or email options, just because it's kind of a pain to put together a hard-copy submission package and I get a little irritated on principle.

I'm betting that many such magazines are reluctant to offer electronic submissions because they fear a flood of submissions since there's not as much of a barrier to entry. Think of an old-fashioned mindset where a writer has to show his or her commitment by taking the time to put together the submission and pay the postage (and maybe even the sentiment that such a writer is more likely to be more "professional" in his or her craft). Some elements of that may be true, but there's something small minded in that idea; if you want to discover new, exciting voices, why would you install arbitrary barriers? A journal shouldn't feel put upon that many aspiring writers want to submit their work, but sometimes I wonder if with some of them, that's the case.

In the last year or so it does seem like things are picking up steam in terms of some of the best literary magazines allowing electronic submissions of some kind. I say, welcome to the future, folks.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Contrary Talk

Anybody have any experience with the online magazine Contrary? I'm finding them a little bit contrary considering the way they deal with submissions.

Okay so they pay $20, which is better than nothing, but man their submission guidelines are convoluted. Here goes: "The deadline for each issue is the first day of the month prior to that auspicious solar event. In Spring, for example, our deadline is March 1, and the issue appears with the vernal equinox on or about March 21."

Maybe it's just me, but that's tremendously confusing. So it would be nice if they responded to your submission in a timely manner, right? Wrong. You have to contact them. (The reason they don't just automatically respond to your submission is because so many writers "spam" them with submissions, at least that's what it says on its guidelines page.) However, they do say on their guidelines page that they're happy to respond if you email them to ask the status of your submission.

So yeah, the $20 swan song apparently lured me to submit. The solstice crap confused me so once summer started, I emailed them to ask what the status was. Response? Zilch.

Yep, this is one of my famous rants. I know it's annoying that the Internet has made it possible for writers to "spam" magazines (send to what, fifty publications at once? I guess that's what they refer to). But I get a little irritated when magazines are quick to note the shortcomings of writers and then don't follow up on their own promises (like, we'll email you back if you ask about your submission).

All righty, rant ended. Thanks for reading and keep on writing!