Monday, February 25, 2008

Subtropically Fast


A reader sent in this form rejection for LROD consideration. It is from Subtropics Magazine and carries this funny backstory:

" I'm in the south and mail gets to Florida in a day. I mailed my submission to Subtropics on Monday, Feb 11, in the late afternoon. So it wouldn't have arrived Tuesday morning but could have gotten there at University of Florida by Wednesday, making it to David Leavitt's office with the mid-morning campus delivery --- at the very soonest.

Subtropics is known for speed --- they usually send a response by e-mail in a few weeks. I have several e-mail form rejections from them because I have been trying hard to get in there. But this last one came so quickly I wonder how they even had time to open it, much less consider.

As I said, I mailed it out Monday afternoon - and the e-mail form is dated one o'clock Wednesday.I know it takes only a second to reject an awful or clearly inappropriate submission, but I do read Subtropics closely and I do feel this is a well-honed and publishable story - but they certainly didn't give it any time at all. There was no pondering of subtleties or dwelling on the afterthoughts the story leaves you, that's for sure.

So I'm left wondering, how many words did they even read before chucking it? Just my first and last name? Or the missing MFA/PHD that's supposed to follow it?"

22 comments:

A Writer said...

Well, as you know, W,R, speed is of the essence when it comes to rejecting you. :) I also thought you might find my latest entry--and the reply to it in the comments section--to be interesting.

A.W.

A Writer said...

And of course, that's at www.rewrittenreality.com, since the link thingamajig doesn't seem to be functioning properly.

A.W.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they are "done" with you?

They could have considered your first/second submissions, realized you were not Subtrop material, esp if you are not an MFA type (ie an amateur), then just decided to place you on the auto-reject list.

Just a thought.

Writer, Rejected said...

Let's invite the anonymous writer who sent in this rejection to tell us his or her theory about why the rejection came so fast, shall we?

Anonymous said...

I also recently received a quick rejection from Subtropics last week. I appreciated the speedy reply, but I too wondered at how quickly the decision was made. (And, for all you conspiracy theorists out there, I have an MFA!!!)

Anonymous said...

I also recently received a quick rejection from Subtropics last week. I appreciated the speedy reply, but I too wondered at how quickly the decision was made. (And, for all you conspiracy theorists out there, I have an MFA!!!)

Anonymous said...

It takes one minute to reject a story. If you hate it, you know it right away. It's also possible that the mag was in a "We can't take anything!" mode and just kicking stuff out the door.

It takes longer to accept a story...

Anonymous said...

for the record, i've sent four stories to subtropics. the first three were rejected within days, but the fourth was accepted (took two weeks to hear back). it's my third and by far most major pub, and i don't have an mfa. the whole thing has renewed my faith in the slush pile.

in the spirit of complaining, though, i think it's far more annoying and condescending what the mag zyzzyva does--"ages" rejections for a few weeks (though they are rejected within a few days) before sending back a note.

Anonymous said...

' i think it's far more annoying and condescending what the mag zyzzyva does--"ages" rejections for a few weeks (though they are rejected within a few days) before sending back a note.'

If that's true, that's despicable.

Maybe we should tip off Howard Junker to this post, and get his reply. I'd like to know if this is true.

Congrats on your MFA-less acceptance in Subtropics.

Anonymous said...

it's definitely true. he blogged about it last year:

http://zyzzyvaspeaks.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html

Anonymous said...

I'd like to be optimistic and say that maybe it's a story that they've written about recently or they have in the works. If you submitted a story about a subject that they are currently working on, it would only take seconds for them to read the first lines and say, "no thanks." But they'd probably keep the article for ideas for their work.

Anonymous said...

http://zyzzyvaspeaks.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html

I don't like that. If I spend my money sending a story to them, I am obviously serious about getting that story published ... somewhere. If it's not for them, I don't want it holed up for three weeks in his bin just so I can get the illusion that he read it. That is NASTY. Howard Junker ought to rethink. And if he doesn't want complaints that he's rejecting too fast, he should change his rejection note to acknowledge that yes, he considers quickly. (I think Subtropics does say on their site that they have a quick turnaround.)

Anonymous said...

"But they'd probably keep the article for ideas for their work."

You mean plagiarize and/or copy closely???

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that editors read the first sentence or first paragraph and if it doesn't "grab" them, they immediately reject them. I think that is probably what happened here. I think once this theory took hold, a lot of fiction started coming out with "shocking" first lines, and soon every story began with "I killed my mother yesterday" or something. Now it is harder to come up with a first paragraph that shocks in all the right ways. You might want to work on that.

Anonymous said...

"Let's invite the anonymous writer who sent in this rejection to tell us his or her theory about why the rejection came so fast, shall we?"

Here I am.

I was pretty sure this story fit the mag. But I'd thought a previously-rejected story fit it even better, I mean just *wonderfully* so, and obviously Leavitt (who does know best on this matter) didn't think so.

Maybe they're full, although if that were the case I think it'd be courteous if the form letter said so. So we have to assume Leavitt (or some assistant) thought it wasn't right. This isn't his full-time job, he's a professor and has to accept and reject on his off time, so I'm sure that he doesn't have much time to spend on any given submission; if it were rejected by an assistant, well then who knows. But a part of me does think that maybe nothing I will ever write will make him happy. I mean, not every writer is enjoyed by every reader. And I really don't fit in with what are called "literary" people today -- while I am a published (non-fiction) author, I'm not an academic, have no degree at all, live in the most uncool suburb in the US, am very untrendy, and have no connections to anything. (Not counting my high-speed Internet line that keeps me up-to-date with LROD.)

Maybe I'm a hardened cynic. I'd like to believe that it's just the writing that matters, but whenever I scour the contributor's notes in one of these journals, I rarely find a contributor who either isn't a teacher or doesn't have a higher degree in creative writing (or is publicly working on one).

Now, I'm not against the many writers who have MFAs, not at all; I just don't believe that literature and creative writing must be owned by academia, and that you must obtain a degree in creative writing in order to be allowed to publish your creative writing. I believe that it's a dangerous place for our culture to go in, and I think that something big has got to happen to get us out. Everybody remembers Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex, and we all know how bad that is, but at the same time he also made another -- lesser-known but equally dire -- warning on the education-research complex. It applies to stuff like the drug companies today, but it also applies very much to literature, since the overwhelming majority of literary journals are tied into higher education programs. Since they have a vested interest in their own systems, it's only natural and expected for them to be hostile toward non-degreed writers or to moving literature away from academia and out to the vast, uneducated masses.

Maybe I just have a bad, rejected-writer attitude. But do I think that my grievances with the state of publishing today are quite valid, worth discussing in detail, and have nothing to do with whether or not my work gets accepted anywhere.

I just don't like that short stories aren't out there in the world of the general public. How will our writing change the world? How will our stories live in the minds of our countrymen? How will we become part of the public sphere, public intellectuals who play an active, important role in shaping the culture? And how will we earn a living by doing so?

Honestly, none of us will do any of that by getting accepted by Subtropics or any of these other little journals. There must be 100 journals on par with Subtropics, all considered among the upper echelon of 21st century "literary" short-story publishing. So why, then, do they play such an insignificant role in our culture?

I think some poor slob recently drifted into LROD and then posted about his lack of finding AGNI anywhere in town, and that's just the thing -- you can't find any of these "journals" out there on the street, because they're not *for* people on the street, and even if you handed them out gratis to these same people on the street they probably wouldn't even like what they saw. These journals are the fiction-and-poetry equivalent of Advanced Medical Optics Quarterly or The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: the contents are spoken in a special jargon, the journals are expensive and hard to find, and nobody, nobody reads *any* of them except people going to school for a postgraduate degree in teaching how to write for them.

I think all of these magazines are more or less the same. They all want the same postmodern "literary" content, they all have the same ratios of swear words, "erotic" content, "well-crafted" metaphors. They run with the same attitudes and have all the same outcomes. They're all the same. What about fun stories, good beautiful writing, tradtional stories and poems, great ideas? What about that well-rejected story you ran a few weeks back, "A Change of Season"? Who on God's green earth would publish *that*? I want to see nice stories like that in magazines that you can buy in the supermarket -- *that's* the dream that I aspire toward as a writer. But in the supermarket, there's no stories at all, just "10 great sex tips for the office affair" and other vile rubbish. Magazines like Esquire and Saturday Evening Post have recently resorted to republishing fiction that they ran 50 years ago, but they would *never* devote space to new fiction of the same kind and quality as what they published so often in the past. Even with the vastness of the Internet, there just isn't a Web home for writers who want to write a certain kind of fiction -- not if you want to make it a profession, and not if you want your words to be read.

I don't want to make this closing paragraph the point in this letter where I say, "I give up," because I don't. I won't. I'm still writing and I have a growing body of unpublished work and with every passing day I feel better about my own work and direction, but also ever-more out of touch with the journals and convinced that we've got to do something big to get this all on track. And until we do so I will most certainly remain,

[REJECTED]

Anonymous said...

Well, perhaps Subtropics or someone else will want to reprint your letter....

Anonymous said...

This is kinda funny. It gives me a reason to love the Internet.

Before the Internet, no one would know about something like this, except the miserable writer whose submission is thrown back in his face.

Now the writer has a place to share his misery and the editor David Leavitt gets faced.

I don't know if it's "poetic" justice or not, but I think it's still funny. As long as they don't take that Howard Junker trick to "play it safe" from now on.

(Writers can fight dirty too, just make a bunch of sim-subs and fudge your credentials. I'm sure it happens. But then you're caught in a loop of dishonesty. How to break out of it, who knows.)

ted said...

Just found this. Glad I did. It's not coming up in Google Blog Search. But yeah this happened to me a bunch of times when I sent to Subtropics.

If David Leavitt knows what he wants and can make a quick judgement call, I think it's GREAT- that horror story you guys said about Howard Junker is TERRIBLE. I don't want my rejection to be "aged" to keep it "real," how horrible.

However, I WOULD like to know more about what Leavitt is looking for. I read Subtropics. You can't just say "read the journal," can you? I'd like to know how much of it is slush, how much comes from contacts.

Anonymous said...

Found this on a search for Subtropics.

Good to know, but I think that comment on "David Leavitt gets faced" is way off base. It is good that Leavitt rejects quickly. Better to have that than slow rejections, or have him sit on his inbox now that this is out there.

So I applaud editors like Leavitt. Would be nice to get some input once in a while instead of only form letter. Love to know "why" a rejection, but fast turnaround always a plus. Three cheers for Leavitt.

anonymous (gay) writer said...

Puhlease. David Leavitt is totally suspect...as a writer, an editor, and a reviewer. Haven't you heard of his little plagiarism problem? Did you see that foolishness he put out there about John Rechy in the NYTimes Book Review a few Sunday's ago? ? It seemed like internalized homophobia to me.

anonymous (gay) writer said...

Puhlease. David Leavitt is totally suspect...as a writer, an editor, and a reviewer. Haven't you heard of his little plagiarism problem? Did you see that foolishness he put out there about John Rechy in the NYTimes Book Review a few Sunday's ago? ? It seemed like internalized homophobia to me.

Anonymous said...

Here's a clue, people. You think Subtropics is playing fair? If you were rejected within days (hours?), Leavitt probably never even knew your name, let alone the title of your story.
Leavitt is very busy with The Indian Clerk and new projects. You're being man-handled by one of his grad school kids, like Dave Reidy. You have to please them first and Leavitt second: the mail's opened and screened by "creative writing graduate students" who are overworked and have a lot of writing to do themselves, but are pretty good at finding time to type in your title for the form letter email and then tossing your pages of prose into their oversized plastic bin. Trash bin.