Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Barnes & Nobles' PR firm (5W Public Relations) is taking a bold direct email approach with bloggers. Here's the pitch I received in my mailbox today.
On this week’s episode of Barnes & Noble Tagged! (www.BN.com/Tagged), host Molly Pesce shares the top five bestselling classic novels of the year that have been flying off the bookshelves this summer:
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and…
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
But you’ll have to watch the whole episode to see what the latest Barnes & Noble Recommends pick is for this summer – a classic in the making, announced this week on Barnes & Noble Tagged!
Here is a link to the video:
For more information about the Barnes & Noble Studio or for embed code to post the video, please contact me.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
You are receiving this email because you submitted work to The Adirondack Review's 2008 Fulton Prize for Short Fiction. This year, Gregory Downs, Ph.D., assisted the fiction staff by serving as a guest judge. Gregory is an Assistant Professor at City College of New York and the author of the short story collection Spit Baths, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award.
Editor, The Adirondack Review
Managing Editor, Black Lawrence Press
Monday, July 28, 2008
What does it mean to have an anonymous pity blog to make fun (affectionately) of your rejectors? Does it mean you deserve the karma of having anonymous commenters who torment your regular bloggers (see comments on link)? Probably. Certainly the agents and editors whose name have appeared on this blog haven't been thrilled to headline here. So, maybe it is a little of the medicine that I am dishing out.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Dear Miss Snark,
A friend and I, in an attempt to encourage ourselves to get off our duffs and submit the manuscripts we've been sitting on, thought of posting the rejection letters we are sure to receive on a blog with possibly amusing comments from one or both of us. Would agents be likely to get upset if the blog were generally available for reading by whoever happens by? That is, should we go the more-traditional route of papering our walls with such letters or using them as scratch-paper? We're aware that most of these are likely to be form letters and therefore not fascinating to anyone but us.
Miss Snark Replies:
Posting your rejection letters with "amusing comments" is funny right up until you post one from me. The advent of the "egogoogle" means I see a lot of what you write about me that you perhaps wish I hadn't. I don't send you rejection letters with the idea you'll post them and comment. You can certainly do it, but you'll have to embrace the fall out as readily as you do the fun of the moment.
I had recently heard from an editor who told me about a blogger who was outraged to hear a writing conference wanted her blog posts about agents attending the conference to be "toned down". The blogger thought she was being helpful. The agents who read her comments were more than a bit taken aback to find their bios critiqued and their job history reviewed.
(If you want an explanation of why that was not a good idea, remember agents are guests of conferences; don't get paid to attend; and being critiqued in public may be a job hazard these days but it's not the part we like best. It doesn't feel very welcoming if you look up a conference, and one of the blogs linked to the site is shredding you. Consider it this way: would you feel good about a conference that posted your bio/resume and critiqued it?).
These are the kinds of conversations and amusements best left OFF your websites and blogs. This is what dive bars, cloak rooms and Miss Snark's Salon for Wayward Agents are for.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Agents used to work with you when they felt you had promise and maybe one more revision to get it right. Now, they just don't have that vision, even when they really, really want to represent you. In an unusual move, I'm removing the name of this agent because it is a very recent rejection and maybe in the end I'll fix the novel's pacing and win this agent back. But probably not.
Dear Writer Rejected:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider [title of revised novel]. I so much wanted to be able to represent you, and I’ve been mulling over the material hoping I might be able to come up with a solution to overcome my reservations. The writing is strong in the first sections. I like the close third person voice to tell [the main character's] story, and the story is compelling. Unfortunately, I felt that the pacing was off in the second section and the writing lost a lot of the dark quirky strength of the earlier section making it much more difficult to get into.
Considering the fact that I’m not as enthusiastic as I need to be to sell this into the current fiction market, I’m going to pass—with regret. I expect that you’ll probably have found a home for this by then, however, if you decide to work on something else, I’d love to have the chance to consider.
As you know, this is one opinion. I would encourage you to query other agents since such judgments are quite subjective. The fiction market is incredibly tough these days which makes it critical to have an agent who is passionate about your work. You certainly deserve one whose efforts will equal your own.
Best of luck,
[Agent Name Withheld]
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Here's another real-life rejection story about those slimy lizards:
Just got a rejection from Salamander ... for a story I did NOT write. Really. This is just pitiful. And their website does not offer an email address to alert the office of the mistake, though from previous comments here I gather they don't really care.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The last 20 books I've bought and read: (1) More Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss, (2) Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris, (3) Away by Amy Bloom, (4) After Dark by Haruki Murakami, (5) The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, (6) The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, (7) The Sea by John Banville, (8) Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud by Jonathan Safran Foer, (9) Never Let Me Go by Kzuo Ishiguro, (10) No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, (10) The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, (11) Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen (12) Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, (13) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, (14) A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, (15) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, (16) Diary by Chuck Palahniuk (17) The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, (18) Cheaters and Other Stories by Dean Alborelli, (19) Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and (20) Atonement by Ian McEwan (which I did not love; my fav of his is The Cement Garden)
Then We Came to the End
In the Woods
My Life in Heavy Metal
The Mystery Guest
Samedi the Deafness
A Spot of Bother
My Latest Grievance
People of the Book
On Chesil Beach
Varieties of Disturbance
Diary of a Bad Year
The Summer Book (new translation)
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I aim to transcend nothing, dude. I'm just trying to understand. But this should not stop you from being the one to make a blog that transcends stuff. That would be cool, and I would definitely be a reader of your blog. Thanks for your concern about my time and my novel. But I'm doing just fine.
Joey Said: ^ Completely agree. I've found certain (many!) posts on this blog interesting, but I'm not so interested in having WR throw red meat at the commenters (look, an undeserved publication! doesn't that make you mad??? be angry! be angry!) over and over again. It looks like a good way to achieve a nice little echo chamber, but in the end, as anon noted, this just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe it's fun; I don't know. But I've never been fond of agitprop, and this site increasingly seems to run on a set formula of posts designed to goad commenters into responding angrily and resentfully over things they have little control over. Oh well. Good luck with it. I honestly have enjoyed reading many posts here, but...I've begun to feel I could drop by once a month and I'd see the same posts and arguments posted over and over again. WR posts a literature is dead or they don't deserve it post. Some agree. Some don't. Some flame. WR cheerfully asks for no flaming. Two days later, he posts another bit of flame-bait. Repeat ad infinitum. It's disappointing. There aren't that many blogs out there that focus on the litfic publishing world at a personal level. But I just can't jive with the gimmick of repeatedly reading things that are supposed to make me bitter, frustrated, or resentful toward other people. Oh well. Good luck, WR. I'm going to take some time off to do some writing and subbing instead of reading and whinging, and I hope, at some point, you try something more than the call-response thing here. Cheers, all.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
There's been some loose talk in the LROD comments about authenticity and contemporary literary fiction (as if we didn't live in a world where "reality" is cheap romance and weight loss that's scripted on TV to seem unscripted). I found a bit of advice on the matter from my beloved Flannery O'Connor, who got away with the most unreal plots because she knew how to inhabit a character with intense genuine feeling.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I wrote the first draft of “The Necessity of Certain Behaviors” in my second semester of graduate school at Warren Wilson, working with the amazing Jim Shepard as my advisor. This was in July 2003.
What prompted your interest in it?
I’d been reading Lorrie Moore and Lydia Davis and Stacey Richter. Their voices got all jumbled in my head, I guess. Mostly “Necessity” was a response to Richter’s story “An Island of Boyfriends,” in which a woman becomes stranded on a desert island inhabited entirely by beautiful, doting men. She still manages to screw up every relationship. I admire her work very much and wanted to be in conversation with it.
How long did it take to finish a first draft?
I’m thinking it must have been about 2 weeks from the time I started it to the day I stuck it in the mail to Jim. Nothing like a deadline to get you moving.
How many revisions did you write?
I wrote eight drafts, mostly because I had a hard time with the ending. Before this became an O. Henry story and before it was accepted by the New England Review, it was the basis for my successful application to the NEA. The version read by the NEA panel had an entirely different ending than the one that was ultimately published. I’d changed it somewhere around rejection number 20, finally taking the advice of another Warren Wilson faculty member, Judith Grossman, who thought the story needed to be treated with greater care from an anthropological perspective. Over the phone I told the NEA literature director that I’d changed the ending and she inhaled in shock and dismay. At that time the story was still pending at a few places, including the New England Review. When the New England Review accepted it, I asked if their editor, Steven DiDonadio, if he would let me publish it with the ending that the NEA panel seemed to like so much. He read the old ending and said no; he liked the one I submitted much better. The two endings are wildly different from one another. When Laura Furman selected the story for the anthology I spent more time thinking about the ending and came to believe it’s really the right one for the story. It’s much happier, more hopeful. I’ve always admired writers that can pull off happy endings, so it’s especially pleasing that this one seems to succeed.
Who reads your drafts?
In grad school my teachers did, of course, but now my best reader is the magnificent Robin Black, who’s on a hot career path as we speak, with the brilliant “Harriet Elliot” in the last issue of One Story and a personal essay in Best Creative Nonfiction, among other honors. We went through the MFA program together. Fiction critique is her superpower. Best of all, she’s a dear friend. She loves me, and would never let me publish a bad story. I wish she’d been around early in my career, when I published a couple of stories that weren’t so great.
What was your overall rejection experience with the story (how many places, who saw it, who rejected, what was said, was there a pattern)?
Including contests, the story was rejected 24 times by editors (or, more likely, slush pile readers) at all my top literary magazines. The Atlantic Monthly said the plot was “too bizarre.” I’d have sent it to the New England Review sooner, but they were busy considering and rejecting other stories; “Necessity” was my fourth attempt there. I kept trying them because of the little notes of encouragement they were sending me. Mostly I didn’t get any commentary at all, just those tiny anonymous slips of paper that make you feel so special.
Did you have an agent at this point? Or did you use your cool O. Henry status to get one? I’d already had an agent for about a year or so by the time the O.Henry was announced. Her assistant had found me by trolling the NEA website and reading the sample work of the 2006 fellows. At the same time, two other agents got in touch with me...one in response to a query letter I’d sent, and another through a story I’d published in the Massachusetts Review. It was completely weird, that convergence of interest all at once. I’d been trying to find an agent for several months, getting rejected or ignored by about a dozen or so. The NEA fellowship didn’t seem to impress most of them. So I found myself with the surreal experience of interviewing three agents over the phone on the same day, trembling all the while with fear and joy. It became immediately clear that Sarah Burnes at the Gernert Company was right for me. She’s so damn smart. When we talked, she didn’t try to pitch me with hints about big advances; she just wanted to discuss my work. After we’d been talking about the stories for an hour, she quietly mentioned a few things about how well she’d done for her clients on the business end of things, which sealed the deal for me. Earlier this year she placed my short story “Cultivation” with Tin House; it just won a 2009 Pushcart. Many agents won’t try to sell stories, but Sarah is a long-term career thinker, which is one of the reasons she’s so great.
Where were you when you found out about O. Henry?
I was home alone, at the computer in the kitchen. The announcement came by email, in prose too elegant to misunderstand. I jumped around the house in sort of a panicked giddiness until I could get my partner, Karin, on the phone. Then I called Robin.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a novel about love and politics, set in Tucson (although being the consummate New Yorker, my agent Sarah says it’s about sex and real estate). I’ve been at it for two years and the end is in sight, thank god. It’s in its fifth draft, and I’m aiming to get it to Sarah by the end of the summer.
Has your philosophy on getting published changed? Would you do anything differently now? This is going to sound ridiculous, given my experience with rejection. But here goes: getting published is not hard. Writing is hard. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a believer in persistence. But there’s another, strange side to persistence, a sort of American perspective. The Never Give Up attitude. Never give up! Follow Your Dreams! Just Do It! What we don’t hear as excellent ancillary advice is this: Work Your Ass Off! Don’t Assume You Deserve Success Just Because You’re Not Giving Up! Keep Learning! Take Risks! Be Humble! Know Yourself! Revise! Revise! Revise! But if someone had given me that advice years ago when I was first starting out, I’d have ignored it. For all I know, someone did.
Publishers are hungry for great work, fresh voices, originality, solid craftsmanship. My day job is in literary publishing. I read a lot of work by writers that should be hunkering down at their desks learning how to write rather than trying to get their early work into print. Writing stories is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Including childbirth. What I do differently now is to remember to be disciplined and rigorous, and to keep myself humbly open to learning the craft. I no longer rush to publish. I’m working my ass off to make my novel as good as it can be before Sarah starts to shop it around.
What's your view of the rejection experience now?
For a while there my goal was to get 100 rejections a year. In 2006 I made it up to 87, my personal best. Since 2004 my stories have earned 239 rejections. My rejection rate is 97.5 percent. They tell you not to take rejection personally, and I don’t. I separate myself as a person from the work that got rejected. I do pay attention to rejection, because sometimes—often—it means the work isn’t good enough.
What words of advice would you give to a writer, rejected on the journey toward getting published? Ignore punishers’ guidelines about not accepting simultaneous submissions. That’s their rule, not yours.
Monday, July 14, 2008
From today's mailblog:
Thought you might be interested in this item from the Writers' Workshop of Asheville: They're having a "Hard Times" writing contest. With a reading fee. Of $20. (Scroll down a bit to see the call for entries.)
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I've been so swamped with paid work this month that I haven't had time to work on my novel (10-years-in-the making now and recently returned from two industry readers with similar remarks). I actually ended up taking a class recently (I had the opportunity to take it for free nearby, and figured WTF).
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
"Too much contemporary fiction seems purposefully to address small things in small ways. And yet why not try for the all-inclusive, the gripping, for the audacious? For the masterly, high-wrought, and the beautiful? How better to tempt readers than with the thick steak of Dreiser or the rich cream of James? Or, best yet, with both?"
Monday, July 7, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
- "A Google search reveals several thousand hits here though most of the sources are other blogs as farbric notes. Its [sic] a borderline subject. No Opinion at present but it seems to be a genuine site."
- "It clearly is a subject of interest among major literary figures who contribute to its debates."
- "Delete. It is a blog that doesn't appear to be have been covered in the mainstream media, or any other reliable source."
- "Delete non-notable, borderline speedy"
- "Keep. Good covereage at wet asphalt, entertainment weekly, the phoenix, other media-related sites. If we do reject the site, of course, it will add fodder the its own rejection theme."
- "Delete non-notable blog. Too little coverage in 3rd party sources."
- "Keep. Maybe Merge, clearly notable. Much of the coverage is under LROD. At a minimum, Somebody should probably write an article on [Jacob] Appel and include this as a subsection."
There's more over there in case you're interested, including the assertion that Joyce Carol Oates visits and blogs with us regularly. Nice, Wikipedia: forever passing along misinformation!
p.s. Though the polling function on Blogger is lame, I've got a little Wiki poll over to the right and down at the end of the column. Please weigh in.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
A juicy one from today's mailbag, folks:
Dear Writer Rejected:
Tupelo Press is charging $45 for submission / no contest.
I had to send this to you because this makes me feel sick, like throw-up sick. Like many other LROD readers, I've been shopping my book around for a few years, and I was going to send a submission to Tupelo this July because they previously had an open-submission period in that month.
So I went to their web site and what did I see? They now are accepting submission year round! Huzzah! Wait-there must be a catch. Aha- it now costs forty five dollars. That's a reading fee, not a contest fee. No guarantee of anyone actually being published. Tupelo makes it very clear that they don't have to do anything. Not one thing.
At least with contests there is a sort of agreement that writers are paying to create a pool and that the editors / judges will concentrate and read the works in that pool and declare a winner. This will force them to read and (at least) acknowledge the better works. Tupelo offers no such good faith.
"...Please keep in mind that this is not a contest. Manuscripts are not read anonymously. We hope to find manuscripts we love and want to publish, but understand, please, that Tupelo Press is under no obligation to publish any of the prose manuscripts submitted to us. Please also bear in mind that Tupelo Press accepts very few works of prose – no more than one or two per year. All manuscripts will be read and all decisions made by the editors of Tupelo Press only..."
The ridiculous thing about this all was that I seriously was considering doing it. In fact, if it was $25 (heck even $30), I probably would have ponied up the cash. That shows how badly I want to get published. But luckily, sanity prevailed. Forty five dollars is way beyond the pale. I contend that it's taking advantage of people. Forty five dollars is a good hour's wages. (In fact, I much quite a bit less than $45 an hour, so for me it's a few hours wages), and frankly I'm better off putting the money on the spin of roulette wheel, at least there I have like a 45% chance of getting red or black. Here (based on a few years experience) I probably have a 1% chance. (Tupelo freely admits that they only publish about two works of prose per year) Maybe less depending on the editor's tastes. So I'm supposed to spend about $50 (including postage) to get the same rejection experience that I can get for free elsewhere which is to say that someone will take a look at the first page (if they even get past the cover letter) and be like- "Hmm… not really what I want to publish this year" and then chuck my work into a bin (hopefully a recycling bin). $45 will probably buy 1-2 minutes of someone's time.
Imagine if an agent charged $45 to read your stuff. This happens from time to time, but those agents get slammed on the Preditors and Editors web site and wind up being shunned.
Please call these guys on this. It's an irresponsible approach to publishing that preys on the aspirations of struggling authors which is most of us.
No need to keep me anonymous by the way, I could care less if Tupelo knows who I am.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
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How long did it take you to write the book? I started learning about short fiction in November 2003, and had the collection accepted in January 2007. So all the pieces were written between those dates. I guess this question is really aimed at a novel project. Each story can take a few days, or a coupla years. But I did them while other work was also under way, so it’s a bit different from the novel.
What prompted your interest in it? I love short fiction. I had spent a while amassing a nice pile of rejections, but also some decent acceptances, thankfully, and figured that I had the right material for a collection of short fiction.
How long did it take to finish the first draft? I put together those pieces I thought went together well, including competition winners. And sharpened them as much as I could. Say, three months.
How many revisions did you write? None, not at this stage.
Who read your drafts? A good friend and fellow writer, Zoe King, editor of Cadenza, a small press magazine here in the UK.
How did you decide which comments were important and which you didn't need to heed? I always listen to Zoe’s advice. She chimes well with my work.
What was your overall rejection experience with this book? I sent a few stories in late 2006 to a publishing house called Salt by email when the guidelines ask for snailmail subs. Silly me;I heard nothing.
A month or so later, just to tidy the records, I emailed Salt to ask for a yes or no. Suffice it to say that they were waiting to find out whose work these stories were, as they’d liked them, but they had come adrift from the covering message. If I hadn’t contacted them, I’d have never got the collection published.
Did you already have an agent? Or did you use this project to get one? I did not have an agent, and at this stage, did not need one. I have since been lucky, and I think having this collection accepted by Salt Publishing helped to strengthen my hand as a serious writer. I am now represented by Euan Thorneycroft at A M Heath and Co.
How long did it take for you to get an agent? From starting to write fiction, four years.
Where were you when you found out the book had been bought? I got an email at home in my study.
Who was the first person you told? An old writing tutor. It seemed the right thing to do.
Has your philosophy on getting published changed? Would you do anything differently now? Yes. I think I’ve sharpened my act. If I was repeating the experience I would make sure I followed the guidelines as well as following the advice of other writers. There is a reason why things work, and why things don’t.
What's your view of the rejection experience now? I think being rejected is a necessary part of being a writer. The world isn’t easy for anyone, so why should it be for us? Learning to cope with rejection is necessary. I still find it tough, but have learned to get over it. (Sort of. Sigh).
What words of advice would you give to a writer, rejected on the journey toward getting published? Keep writing. Don’t take it personally. They have no idea who you are. If you have had helpful comments with the rejection, take them on board. Wait, and take action after a little time has passed. Your rejecters may have a point. On the other hand they may not chime with your work, and you may not agree.
It’s fine to believe in yourself, but I would suggest you learn to write before you consider yourself to be an undiscovered genius. Most people who think like that remain undiscovered.
Any other comments? Be kind to other writers. The world is full enough of people who will take pleasure in not being so.