Thursday, April 29, 2010

Junker on a Space Junket

This just in over the wires about our friend Howard Junker.  An LROD reader stumbled on this Zyzzyva blog post and sounded the following warning: "Seriously, the guy is all about showing off how mean he is. He's only gotten worse in his old age. It's like a cry for help or something. Why would you post this self-righteous response?" Some people will do anything for attention; some editors are cranky. Do you see what we're dealing with here people?  No wonder it's so difficult.


Anonymous said...

I think the problem isn't with the thought; it's with the saying of the thought.

I feel bad for the prof, because she probably didn't tell the kids to submit to him but then when she noticed that a lot were, she probably felt awkward (particularly if they mentioned her name in the cover letter) and just wanted to try to explain what happened (in an upbeat, casual way).

So he has a dicky "great, like I'm not busy enough" thought--totally understandable. But I think the teacher was trying to ease an awkward situation and he didn't let her. Instead, he made it worse. That, my friend, is bad manners.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with anonymous above. While I do see where Junker is coming from, his response was unnecessarily nasty. The poor professor seemed so "Oh golly shucks, good for my students for trying!" that to get this response probably about broke her heart. If he *had* to respond and get a point across, he could have been much less of a dick about it.

While maybe instructors shouldn't encourage students who might not be ready to submit to do so, editors shouldn't try to pinpoint and then bitch about where all their bad submissions come from. LOADS of people submit who aren't ready or are misguided; journals unfortunately just have to deal with it. These students were probably better prepared than many of the other not-ready-to-be-published people who submit to Zyzzyva.

What I especially don't understand is how editors or agents make the jump from 1) having these thoughts in the first place, which is totally natural to 2) acting on them by writing bitchy, unnecessary emails to 3) feeling so self-righteous and pleased with themselves that they think it's completely reasonable to post all about it on their blogs.

It's bad enough if you don't have the self control to refrain from sending this kind of email, but then to brag about it in public as if you are 100% in the right? Embarrassing.

The Very Minor Writer said...

We all know Howard is cranky, famously so. When I first submitted to him, he wrote back, on my submission letter, something like, "wider margins, manilla envelope and double-spaced please!!!" and that's it. I kept submitting to him anyway, and he took a story of mine after some more back and forth. He reads every submission himself, so I think that's why he finds this onerous. No interns are running interference for him. But he is unapologetic that his journal is one person's taste, and now that he has a one-and-done policy, you know he's not playing favorites or any insidery games.

Anonymous said...

minor note: zyzzyva does have interns, and a managing editor who read subs as well.

slushreader said...

this editorial crotchetyness is cranked up several notches at non-university lit mags. when the editors do it as an unpaid labor of love outside of academia, and not as a paid position in an English dept, they think they have the right to be rude.

it's an outside-the-system kind of rage that some non-MFA writers also have. they aren't accountable to an institution, so they let it all hang out.

i can name names to support this pattern, but if they are signed up for google alerts and see their names here, i don't want them coming over to tear us new butt holes.

The Very Minor Writer said...

anonymous, indeed zyzzyva has interns and and an ME, but Howard reads all submissions

book publishers said...

@ The Very Minor Writer

Howards not cranky, he's just got personality!

ZYZZYVA said...

at least i have enough self-respect to make comments under my own name, rather than posting them anonymously.

and yes, my ME and my volunteers do read manuscripts as part of their training. i discuss their evaluations with them. but i read them all, and i make all the decisions.

as to taking part in home work assignments, i don't see why i should be compelled to do so.

the teacher "warned" me because she had some premonition that what she was doing was excessive.

if any of her students wanted to submit something on their own volition, fine. my transom is always open.

but en masse, as an exercise, is something else.

what writers are up against is the same thing editors & publishers are up against: massive indifference.

that's not a conspiracy or a manifestation of rudeness. it's just the way life is.

heynonnynonymous said...

Ah...the age old attack on anonymity, as if the opinion expresses is somehow less valid. A good first move in this game of chess.

Anonymous said...

a writer/editor would be out of his or her mind to comment here unanonymously. this is self interest, not lack of self respect. anonymous commenters have the utmost respect for themselves because they don't want to commit career/hobby suicide. WR too. precision with words, get some.

gimme said...

"but en masse, as an exercise, is something else."

From what I read, the teacher didn't assign them to submit to you, Howard. She just assigned them to submit *somewhere*, a bunch of them happened to choose zyzzyva, and she just dropped you a note as a courtesy.

How you interpreted that as a reason for you to start behaving like such an ass is beyond me.

Have you been laid recently?

NM said...

Look at the cowards defending their anonymous postings!

Pro-tip: to commit career suicide, you need to have a career. I mean, a career outside of being a petulant wannabe.

George Bush said...

I must be psychic, I knew this troll bait post would draw our friend NM. Now if only old John Bruce would come over too, trifecta.

WR, any news on the new agent lead?

Dennis the Vizsla said...

Methinks petulance isn't limited to wannabes ...

Kevin S C said...

this is pretty cool

Heather said...

"it's an outside-the-system kind of rage that some non-MFA writers also have. they aren't accountable to an institution, so they let it all hang out."

There's a system?

Chazz said...

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something. MFA writers are accountable to an institution? How does that work? Do I owe something more to the institution that trained me? In perpetuity or is there parole? I already paid my tuition so I thought that transaction was complete. If true, I'm not the droid they're looking for.

And yes, the response was rude. Civility traverses all boundaries, even a publishing feifdom's high walls. That is the way life is.

However, maybe Howard is right. In fact, one better! Everybody should leave him alone.

jackson bliss said...

While I have first-hand experience with Howard's tough love/standoffish attitude, neither of which I'm a fan of, at the same time, I will say this in his defense:

1. Howard is a fantastic editor. He really is. He knows what the fuck he's doing + though he can be abrasive, he's not trying to be an asshole. That's just his personality.

2. While I don't love his attitude (in fact, I think it's brutal) the fact is, ZYZZYVA is one of the greatest champions for emerging writers there is. End of story. I mean, there's a special section for unpublished writers in every single issue, which is a lot more than I can say for other journals that probably read a paragraph + then delete your ass. Not so with ZYZZYVA which actively seeks out talented writers who AREN'T famous yet. This matters because agents actually read ZYZZYVA, which gives aspiring writers a fucking chance, something they never get--I only know this because I had one write me after I got something published in the journal.

3. I'd take Howard, or an editor like Howard, any day of the week over some MFA student who HAS to read manuscripts as part of the gig. It's in their interest to reject submissions so they have more time to focus on their own short stories (I know because I was once in the same position for my MFA). But editors like Howard, are in this business to actually find an awesome manuscript. In fact, if they don't, they're screwed because they have nothing for their upcoming issue. Fiction readers, on the other hand, not only have every incentive to reject you (+ they do), but they suffer nothing from being trigger happy.

4. A lot of MFA readers don't know what the fuck they're talking about when they reject a perfectly good manuscript. Howard has not only published fiction in the Paris Review, but ZYZZYVA has won quite a few awards because of him, so he knows what he's talking about.

5. No editor wants to be someone's guinea pig. While aspiring writers should submit to whatever journals they want, from the editorial point of view, having to read drafty submissions is irritating because it's the opposite of what you're looking for as an editor. For MFA students, it's great because drafty manuscripts get rejected almost instantly, making your job easier. So, if the writing teacher wants to help her students learn to submit stories, tell them to send their stories to one of the million MFA program journals where everything gets rejected anyway, regardless of how good it is.