Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Arkansas Rejects "A Change of Season"

Here's one of the 34 rejection from the story we read yesterday:
"The present editorial policy of the Arkansas Review is to publish only works by authors from the seven-state Mississippi Delta area or works that relate to that area. Had the Arkansas Review remained a journal of creative writing, as it had been under Norman Lavers' guidance, I am sure your story would have been accepted. When Lavers resigned as editor, the administration decided that the journal should have a regional emphasis and focus on nonfiction articles with creative efforts secondary.

Your story is a philosophical allegory, and an excellent one. While it is very well written, it lacks the realism that typifies stories accepted under the present editorial policies. The results stemming from the change in window dressing illustrate a principle rather than a realistic sequence of events. Therefore, while your story is imaginative and compelling, its problem is that it is not suitable for the journal's present needs."

I regret that the Arkansas Review is unable to publish your story. Thank you for your interest in our journal. I wish you success in your writing."

I think the editor "got" and liked the story way more than you guys did. But here are some other comments received about the story:

1. need a better sense of character. Could the POV be more firmly rooted in Howie?

2. I think it could benefit from more developed characters/narrator, and the various aspects of the window dressing transformation (youth and age, excess and [word unintelligible], economics vs spirituality) could be more carefully developed and related. How do the beautiful clothes relate to real beauty? Clearly, there's some specificity in the townspeople's search for beauty (for bodies, drinking, sex) but your narrator is a little too ambiguous, I think, on whether he celebrates or condemns the summertime prosperity. (And what might this ambivalence mean?) Also, there must be a valid reason for the town to be punished, and that is missing.

3. I felt the character of the window dresser would be better served being fleshed out and integrated into the story more.

4. I didn't believe it. The story seems not (sic) have a compelling reason for things to happen as they do. In life this is more than possible. In art it is not possible.

Now you've read the story and seen the rejections. What do you think? Do they match up fairly? Should the writer keep looking for the literary magazine that will put it in print?

14 comments:

rmellis said...

The writer could probably find a mag to print it eventually. The comments are legitimate, though, and maybe the writer should take them to heart and try a new story.

That comment from the Arkansas Review is weird and smacks of editorial in-fighting.

pr said...

The Arkansas Review doesn't deserve to be in the headline as one of the rejectors. Their editor "got" the story, saw virtues in it; it was only the magazine's new policy that caused him to turn it down.
"Weird," "in-fighting"? -- his letter seems straightforward to me.
But the other comments are perceptive and should be taken to heart? Really?
The window dresser obviously represents the enigma of Inevitability, and Howie is merely the lens through which we view the town's change in fortunes.
How about: "In life this is more than possible. In art this is not possible." Think about that one.

rmellis said...

Well, I do disagree with the bit "in art it is not possible." Um, *everything* is possible in art. It's not always good... but it is possible.

The AR editor gives the distinct impression s/he disagrees with the current editorial policy. It's definitely unusual to get a letter from an editor complaining about other editors! That qualifies as weird, to me.

"Obviously represents the enigma of inevitability" -- there's your problem right there.

big jim said...

1.) Did any of the "great" writers publish everything they wrote?

2.) Is publication the mark of a story's worth?

3.) Should the author quit sending this out?

I'm answering "no" to all three questions. With some qualifications.

1.) Some stories, for whatever reason, just don't flower and fruit. Beats me why--they just don't.

2.) Publication feels nice and can help a career along, but fuck that shit. For reals. The desire for validation will only hold back your fiction.

3.) That said, I've heard one writer say that if you aren't willing to send a story out 50 times, you don't really believe in it.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite enjoying this. This new department adds a whole lot to the blog.

About the story: it has merit and seems definitely publishable. Sure there are things that could be changed here or there, especially to tailor to a particular editor or magazine. But the story is there, and it should be published.

HOWEVER, I'm at a loss to suggest where a story like this would fit nowadays. I like it and think it would be good in a commercial magazine as opposed to a university literary journal.

The question is, what's out there?
I'm thinking of "waiting room magazines" and it seems like few to none do fiction now. Yankee? Readers Digest? Actually, The Saturday Evening Post just started reprinting those old "Botts" stories and if this didn't have the alcohol it seems like it would fit that mold. But I think it should keep the alcohol, and I don't know where the story belongs.

I'm wracking my brain but not coming up with any market suggestions for this piece. Anyone?

j. m. said...

I think this is a terrific rejection letter. I say this because I have often received lousy form letters, which lack any sense of individual attention. This specific rejection has both heart & respect for the writer.

Anonymous said...

I have had acceptances as well as tons of rejection, but NEVER got such a personalized rejection as this. In fact besides acceptance the only time I get more than a form letter is when someone scribbles a word or two on the form. This is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Glimmer Train?

Anonymous said...

I second Glimmer Train.

Anonymous said...

Glimmer Train?? Glimmer Train???
(I think of Coach Jim Mora responding to a question from a sportswriter about the Saints making the playoffs. "Playofffs??" he said, incredulously. "Playoffs??? Playoffs??? -- over and over).
The team was bad, and so is GT.
Did you read the story?
Have you been published in Glimmer Train (along with your baby picture)?

Writer, Rejected said...

I hear you, football-savvy Anon. To me Glimmer Train is like trying to get into Harvard when you have a 2.7 GPA. Not going to happen. I don't even try with Glimmer Train any more. Plus I think they are a little snotty in their communications, which I frankly just don't need these days.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the anon who seconded Glimmer Train for this. Yeah, I read the story. Do you think the story was too *bad* for GT, or too *good*? I dunno, I've read several issues of GT and considering language, style, theme, and so on I thought it would fit in.

Also: do you have any other suggestions, then, for where you'd send this story?

Anonymous said...

Too good.
No suggestions.

Anonymous said...

When do we get to learn the identity of the author?