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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Train is Coming to Run You Down

Here's a great question from one of the anonymice:

I am wondering if it's common for Glimmer Train to send a link to their Editor's Perspective page with their form rejections.

I clicked on the link they sent me thinking it might go to my account where an editor had left some actual feedback, but it turned out to be a 6-page manifesto of why nobody is good enough for them. For every example on the cite of why a piece might have failed to capture them, I can think of a timeless short story that commits the same sin. But the most pretentious part of it was their various takes on Literary Fiction. Here is a gem:

'Although plot is lower on the literary totem pole than in, say, a mystery, what goes on in a story must follow some logic.'

I know they don't mean that plot is unimportant, but that's an odd comparison to me; it could be construed that they think Literary Fiction = plotless fiction. But they do publish many plotless doozies, so maybe they really DO think literary = plotless.

Those chicks need to get over themselves in a bad way. Does everybody get this link?


John Bruce said...

Offhand, I'd say my longest and saddest record in my submissions file is to Glimmer Train. Yes, every rejection has a link to that item. Now and then, one of the editors will add a little note to the bottom saying "I liked this one." But of course, it got rejected. Is this some 21st century version of the Victorian novel where the lady had to marry the one she didn't like?

Anonymous said...

I generally like Glimmer Train a lot.

But I no longer subscribe. It's one thing that irks me so much about them, as with 99.9999% of all literary journals: the PC way they all have become.

Around this time of year, they do the Christmas tip-toe: the annoying photograph of a snowy park bench or a house covered with snow, with some message meant to mean ... something, I don't know what, but alluding to "the holidays" and definitely not mentioning Christmas in any way. But they
tell us to buy them as a "gift" for "the holidays". They mean "Christmas present" of course, since no other upcoming holiday is a major occasion for giving gifts, and Christmas has been the major holiday in Western culture since there ever was a Western culture, and nobody's ever had a problem with acknowledging that, but suddenly it's not ok to even mention it. It's so stupid. And dishonest. This is literature today??!

It's definitely not a good career to be in if you're a Christian, or even if you're just tolerant or accepting of Christianity or of anything that came before the era of PC. The industry now assumes that you're a mocker and a hater of everything Christian. (The only time "Christ" or "Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" appears in a literary journal is as a swear word. How about some diversity? Or does that concept only apply when you're using it to undermine Christian culture?)

So that's why I steer clear of the Glimmer Train sisters.

Anonymous said...

Can you post the link you're talking about? I went to the GT website but didn't see any Editor's Perspective page.

Writer, Rejected said...

Click on the words "send a link" above. It'll take you there.

Anonymous said...

I believe they send the link to everyone.
As for the contents of the perspective page. A lot of it is your standard writing advice. It's important to know it and important to realize that classic writers go against it all the time. The tricky part is knowing how the classic stories break the "rules" and still work.

Anonymous said...

It's their paperless system at work, designed to handle efficiently the volume of submissions at the lowest turnaround expense costs and reader hours possible. Unless the two have added readers, it's doubtful they read everything. Maybe they don’t read anything, anymore. Click on, click off. There's a story of their proudly rejecting a solicited Updike story, a piece he wrote years ago, when he was still young and not yet famous; they rejected it ostensibly because it was no good, though I’m not sure which one it was or what part of their ready made rejection rules it failed. And they seemed offended that the veteran writer was tossing them a throwaway, but he subsequently published a whole book of them. I suspect they work mostly through agents now, but I don’t know that. They’ve a slick product and a profitable business plan – note how their rejection brings you back to their site, encouraging you not to give up, to pay another reader fee. At least there’s a product, not cheap to produce, that looks literary on your coffee table, unlike Narrative’s, which looks like nothing.

Anonymous said...

common? everybody gets it

Anonymous said...

and when you get to the end there's a special surprise...dictionary entries of words like cliche, stereotype, adjective, and archaic. with a pronumciation guide no less.

their form letter works better without the link. wtihout the link, you can pretned to yourself that they actually read maybe the first parargragh. but with the link, and it's precious advice to novices, you can be sure your story was not read.

E. said...

It says off the top that it's advice intended for beginning writers. I don't think it's pretentious; I think they're trying to be helpful. Like every other publication that accepts unsolicited submissions, I imagine the great majority of the manuscripts GT receives are unreadable and unpublishable. ("We don't publish porn...we don't publish hate material" -- that they have to say it means they get loads of it.)

I know it's annoying to get form rejections (I get them all the time), but this link obviously wasn't intended to describe "why nobody is good enough for them," but rather, as it plainly says at the top, to give direction that may be of use to people who are beginners and have no idea where to start.

If the recipient isn't an accomplished writer, it's his link to disregard.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with E. about the pretention in the letter; I think it's snobbish. And who can really say what percentage of their slush pile is amateurish or inappropriate? Only the sisters know for sure, in my opinion, most of it's probably so-so or above. I don't think most of their manuscripts are from beginners either. But again, it's only my opinion as E's is E's opinion.

I can see why the anonymous wondered if it was their standard link. If it's your first time submitting to GT and you get a rejection with a link to that monstrosisity, you might wonder if your story was so terrrible they thought it necessary to educate you with 6 dense pages.

Their form letter should be sans link for ok submissions, and with link for the truely deserving. Otherwise it's condescending.

I don't blame E. for siding with GT. Now that she's mid MFA, she needs to publicly defend her future benefactors. Luckily since I'm done with mine and older and wiser, I don't have to play the butt kissing game. (PS to E, it's more effective if you use your whole name.)

The Rejection Queen said...

You rock...

smart kitty said...

Where it crosses the line into condescension is when they add the dictionary definition of cliche (at least when I got it, it had that)just in case you are so much of a beginner that you don't even know what the word cliche means.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, WR, for censoring my post.

I suppose some commentary and topics are just "forbidden" here ... the same commentary and topics that would never appear in Glimmer Train and all the other mainstream journals.

You're a phony, just as bad and politically correct as the "literary establishment" you so often pretend to thumb your nose at.

That's the reason your blog peaked a year ago and has been sinking ever since. Your early followers realized that and jumped ship. You get the same few bloghags now and all the movers and shakers have left. Your peak is in the past. Your blog will never amount to anything, but that's not an insult - I suspect you actually wouldn't WANT to change the way things are in publishing.

Anonymous said...

E, we only know that the anonymouse who posed the question is only a first time GT submitter, not a first time writer. That's why a letter intended for beginners is so offensive, especially since the it's being rervealed that they give it to everyone, newbie and veteran alike.

You would see it differently if the link came in your rejection, rather than clicking on it through a blog post.

And how can a dictionary style explanation of cliche be helpful, unless all this time you were pronouncing 'chiche' like 'trong-la-dong.' Gimme a break. Speaking of, where's gimme to weigh in?

Writer, Rejected said...

OOPS! Sorry, no censorship intended. I'm on deadline and just found that there were 5 comments that needed publishing. My fault, good sirs and madams. I'm insane today. Please continue. It looks like a great discussion. Which I could pitch in....maybe tomorrow.

E. said...

This is GT's standard rejection; I've received three of them. I stopped submitting to GT when it became apparent to me that I'm not writing the kind of pieces they prefer.

My MFA status has nothing to do with my opinion, but choo-choo's condescension on that topic rivals anything in the GT link.

Maybe choo-choo used the MFA to gain access to publishers. I have never mentioned when I submit, in my cover letter or my bio, that I am in an MFA program, because it's irrelevant; publishing is not why I'm there.

No one here knows anything about me, or what I write, or how well I write, or where I've been published, or how old I am, or my previous experience, or my circumstances. Next person to slam my motives based on their own insecurities and misguided assumptions can fuck off.

Back to the topic. The question was, Does everybody get this link? The answer is: Yes, everybody who gets a GT rejection gets this link.

Anonymous said...

"Speaking of, where's gimme to weigh in?"

Well, since you asked...:)

I haven't seen the link in question (well, I probably have received it, but I most likely didn't bother reading it...)... Anyway, what WR quoted - "what goes on in a story must follow some logic" - doesn't seem terribly controversial to me. And as far as websites go, GTs seems reasonably writer-friendly/respectful, in my opinion. I mean, relative to some of the others out there.

Over the past few years, as I've been published a little more frequently, I've become more conversant with the inner workings of the silly little (and I do mean LITTLE) lit journal/quarterly world, and I've come increasingly to understand that, indeed, very few submissions are actually read. There are simply too many submissions, and too few unpaid undergrad interns to read the slush pile, and too small of an audience for the whole endeavor to begin with.

Editors love posting their "criteria" for literary fiction. It usually cracks me up, but it certainly doesn't surprise me.


Anonymous said...

just a note to you, wr: thank you

this is the first rejection i hven't gotten in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Quick question: has anybody here ever gotten accepted to GT from the slush pile? Just curious. They've rejected all of my stuff - even the few that have made it to better journals.

John Bruce said...

I had an e-mail exchange with an unnamed blogress who runs one of those "writer watch out for scams" blogs. I put to her the question of GT having open periods where no "contest entry fee" is charged, and then "contest" periods where an "entry fee" is charged for the "contest". I tracked the submission numbers I'd been receiving -- at one point I submitted at the end of one open period and then at the beginning of the next, using that to calculate the number of submissions they'd had during that particular "contest" period. The number indicated a pretty comfortable income for GT. I questioned whether GT was in fact charging a "reading fee" and making its money primarily from these payments. The blogress didn't want to touch this, because she said she submitted to GT too, and always hoped she'd get an acceptance! Everyone hates Narrative, but I'm not sure GT is so far behind in this.

Anonymous said...

to sick and tired:

Judaism has been around a lot longer than Christianity, and those old dirty Jews DO have a gift giving holidy around this time of year....I don't know, maybe the pluralized "holidays" means Christmas and Hanukkah?

Just a wild guess. I could be totally wrong. (Also, Judaism has been a part of classical 'western' culture longer than Xianity has.)

Anonymous said...

To answer the quick question, I think the existence of the sluch pile is mainly to not alienate potnetial subscribers.

Personally, I would be 0% inclined to subscribe to a journal than was strictly agent/solicitation/invite only. Yet I would be .000001% inclined to subscribe to one that claimed to welcome unsoli-subs, such as GT, even if in reality they never touched them. For me, it's the thought that counts.

Anonymous said...

It's a numbers game, folks!! Even with the inside edge the odds of publication at these places are incredibly difficult to overcome. And you can rant about the inside edge, etc, but how would it make you feel as the one with the edge...if that's the only way you could publish? It would make for a paltry life for a writer. That Robert Olen Butler mess about his precious pulitzer, etc? You want to go down that road?

Anonymous said...

I'm too young to know this I guess. What is the Robert Olen Butler mess? (oops I made a poem in my queryness.)

Anonymous said...

Google "Robert Olen Butler E-mail" and enjoy.

Joanna St. John said...

I've submitted several times to GT; one of my submissions apparently made it into the top 50 before being scratched. I emailed them to ask what I could have done "better," and they responded not only very quickly but thoroughly. I don't think there's any kind of subtext going on here, except that they probably do reject out of hand, anything that smacks of nastiness, small mindedness or outright hatred. The internet tends to foster conspiracy theories and grudge matches, which really doesn't do much good for anyone in helping them reach the goal of getting the work published.
I've had a subscription to GT for a couple of years (which I'm not going to renew) and it finally dawned on me why I wasn't being published by them: all of the stories are extremely detail oriented, to the point where the true feeling of the text is sometimes obscured. I tried to read a story about a woman and her brother which starts out with the woman doing dishes and the brother checking some kind of chart which displays visual images to tell him what kind of emotion his sister is feeling. Good start, but then within the first 150 words, we're also taken to a zoo, to a tower, to a sub-description of the woman's t-shirt getting wet and transparent, to an indication that she is not a very good housekeeper, down a memory path to something to do with their parents, and also the difficulties of transportation in their small town! I had to reread it three times before I could sort it out. Not saying this is bad writing; on the contrary, I recognized the talent but it just wasn't for me.

GT stories often also display a lot of verbal gymnastics that do show us how smart and gifted the writer is (agreed) but do not deepen our sense of character.
I went back and read some Raymond Carver and thought, "This guy is beyond amazing," and I yearned for his directness and taut descriptions. I also read Michael Cunningham whenever I can, though he's primarily a novelist. But his words pierce the heart and not one GT story has ever done that for me. For what it's worth, we're deep into the heart of irony in the arts, and GT likes irony. Sigh.