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Thursday, July 31, 2008

How SHOULD An Agent Serve Up Rejection?

The publicist/lit agents over at The New Literary Agents Blog ask an interesting question of their readers/probably-writers:  What's better, a form rejection or silence?  The agents over there were noting the incredible time consuming nature of responding to all the poor w,r's of the world, and wondered out loud if they should just let no answer stand in as a rejection.  

This seems like one you mice might like to weigh in on.

When Reading Isn't Reading, Or Is It?

Motoko Rich took a stab at defining the present state of digital versus print reading, an predicting our reading future in the New York Times the other day.  I'd recently read a piece in The Atlantic Monthly about the same topic by Nicholas Car called "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (Frankly, I'm not sure it is.) Our friend the Book Fox (having survived the trembling earth) had some interesting notes on the topic

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How Jonathan Franzen Blew My High

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.

Finished flipping through this summer’s bestsellers? Well the classics are making a comeback!

On this week’s episode of Barnes & Noble 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.

For all the readers of this blog who think literary fiction is best defined as classics with long dead authors, this one's for you.  I will warn you that the video above is super annoying.  

My opinion of the promotion? Yuck.  But I felt similarly betrayed when Oprah started pushing the classics (including at least one of those listed above). I still blame that misogynist idge, Jonathan Franzen, BTW, for ruining any possibility of the Big O's blessing for the rest of us. 

Plus, I've read all those books, most of them more than once.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Here's Some TAR

From The Adirondack Review (TAR) in this morning's mailbox:


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.

In addition to selecting a winner, we have chosen three stories as finalists for the prize. Congratulations to Melody Feldman for her story "Pie", the winner of the contest. Congratulations also to Steve Mitchell for "Dandelion", Michele Ruby for "Skip and Harold", and Richard Stanford for "The Postcard." These are the three finalist stories.

Melody, Steve, Michele, and Richard will have their stories published in the Fall, 2008 Issue of The Adirondack Review. They will also be entitled to cash prizes, which will be disbursed upon publication of the issue.

Thank you all again for being a part of The Adirondack Review's 2008 Fulton Prize for Short Fiction.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Editor, The Adirondack Review

Managing Editor, Black Lawrence Press

So cheerful, right? This is the first actual rejection I've gotten from TAR though I have sent in stories. They appear not to send out rejection letters unless you are in the contest and paying the money.  Otherwise, you just kind of figure it out for yourself that you are not being published in their online tome.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Calling Off the BlogDogs

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.  

But if indeed I deserve a thrashing, others here do not.  

Innocent writers who come around looking for company should be able to lick their rejection wounds in a safe environment and get some support for recovering from the harsh edges of the literary world.  Therefore, I'm asking that you who blog here aggressively, please tame your savage selves and be gentle around the wounded.

I know that this goes against the freedom of the blogging world, but it's been a little rough around here lately.  And I think it's been at the instigation of one or two peeps.  So, just put a lid on the name-calling and insults and the weird entitled attitude, and we'll all be fine.

Oh, and if you want to bash, go ahead and bash me.  I'm used to it and probably deserving. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

But What Does It Mean?

Matt Bell's story, "Alex Trebek Never Eats Fried Chicken," is the most notable online story of 2007.  Is it better than yours?  Read it here.  Anyway, congratulations, Matt.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miss Snark Would Hate LROD

I found this the other day, while surfing. It's a Q&A from Miss Snark dated 4/6/08:

BAD bad bad idea

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:

au contraire, mon cher.

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.


Maybe Lady Snark will come out of retirement to give her profesh opinion over here on LROD. I've seen her comment on a blog or two since she packed it in. Maybe she'll feel compelled to give me a personal tongue lashing and a stiletto-heel bashing. For those who have charged me with masochism, it is true that I would enjoy such a working over from the Snarkmeister. I'm sure she is among those who thinks I'll never get published in this town now.  As if I was getting published before, but now really, really won't ever get published again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So Much Wanted To Represent You

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. 

Nonetheless, it's a pretty good, honest, personable rejection.  For those who say I am only bitter, I actually appreciated pretty much everything about this rejection.  I give it an A- ("minus" only because it's not an acceptance). At least I'm getting closer, save for the pacing, which I am fixing as we speak:

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]

Flannery Uh-Oh

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." --Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Not Me....You? (Stephani & Mr. P's Red Comaro)

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. 

So, if you are the writer who sent Salamander a story about Stephani and Mr. P's red Camaro know that you've been rejected. Salamander will never get around to telling you.

It would be great if the anonymous writer submitting this story came back and told us the real author's name.  I think it would be a public service to let him/her know of this literally misguided rejection.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Can Read

It's been suggested that LROD is illiterate. A suggestion to fix the fact that the blog doesn't transcend anything is for me to give my list of the last 20 purchased books of contemporary litfic.   I'm not sure how this helps anything.  But of course I read books.  We all read books; we're writers.  But I'm up for anything, even if it takes us slightly off topic, so just to prove myself as a reader, here's my list.

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)

Actually, I wish I both read and wrote more quickly than I do.  I feel like it's hard to keep up with all the latest and greatest books out there, but I do also read a goodly amount of creative nonfiction, and, for my work, some pretty dry trade tome, but it never feels like enough.  (I have the new Junot Diaz up next.) 

For comparison sake, our fine friend "Elizabeth" gave us this as a sample:

The Archivist's Story
Then We Came to the End
The Maytrees
In the Woods
My Life in Heavy Metal
The Mystery Guest
Falling Man
Samedi the Deafness
A Spot of Bother
My Latest Grievance
The Road
People of the Book
On Chesil Beach
Varieties of Disturbance
Diary of a Bad Year
The Summer Book (new translation)
Fellow Travelers
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)

What's your list look like?

In the meantime, poor John is trying to figure things out over at his blog.  His big claim is that I don't write and really get rejected despite the fact that this blog is devoted to hundreds of my personal rejections....strange guy in an alternate reality.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Close Down This Blog!

There's been a scuffle recently over the negative comments of a few bloggers, who tend to insult and pontificate.  There's been a call to remove the negative commenters from the blog, which is not my style.  After a few folks expressed these opinions, said negative bloggers have decided on their own that LROD is "disappointing, repetitive, and predictable," and they are leaving.

Because they are leaving (narcissistic ?), they think that I should shut down my blog. Funny. But, as with my persistent fiction, I'm not much of a quitter.  I'll probably be here as long as I get rejections, which as any writer knows, means forever. 

Here are the comments with my responses following:

Boris said:
I do think this blog sort of beats the same dead horse, over and over, though: A post about this or that "injustice" in the publishing world, followed by a few thoughtful comments, followed by an anti-MFA "it's all about connections" rant by anonymous, followed by some back and forth between anonymous berating people for what they read (or don't read), followed by indignant replies to anonymous and then anonymous cutting and pasting what's been said so that he/she (I'm guessing 'he') can tell him or her how he or she didn't read his comments closely enough, followed by 'writer, rejected' telling everyone to go easy on the insults, and then maybe a published writer gets insulted (maybe even by writer, rejected), and then the published writer (or an editor) shows up to say, 'Hey, sorry you guys hate me based on my photo, my advance, my MFA,' and then this gives anonymous an opportunity to puff up, etc., etc., etc. I realize that this is the focus of this blog, but, wow!, it's just so....predictable. Anonymous is the worst offender, of course, but the blog itself suffers the same problem. And God forbid if Writer, Rejected gets his/her novel published. Anonymous would be on his/her ass so fast for being a sell-out, for using his/her blog in some way (that he couldn't articulate) to land the deal, for being (let's face it) accepted rather than rejected. But then I start getting the feeling that rejection is a self-fulfilling prophecy around here. It's one's reason for being (at least on this blog), right? So have at it, folks. And feel free to flog me all you want: I won't be around to enjoy the party. (But, please, "Writer, Rejected": Please think about doing something that transcends the basic gist of this blog. My advice? Be radical and shut it down, putting the time you would normally spend on this blog into your novel -- or maybe a even new novel, putting the ten-year one aside for a bit? I'm dead serious. And, believe it or not, the advice is well-meaning.)

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.

Thanks for wishing me luck.  I truly appreciate (and need) it.  Please feel no obligation to become bitter, frustrated or resentful; that is not my goal.  I just call 'em the way I see 'em. Sorry to disappoint you by not adding more personal words about my experience in "litfic publishing," though I think I've pretty much laid it all out in my path of rejections.  Maybe I'll reveal myself and really go to town. But probably not. In the meantime, peace out, bro.

Anonymous said:  I recognize myself as one of those being criticized, yet I still agree with the previous two comments. They're dead-on.  But other literary sites engage in blatant Toadyism. They wouldn't allow any complaints about the status quo. You'd get hit with the W or B bombs (Whiner and Bitter). You get hit with those bombs on LROD, if you point out problems of fairness. I see that the guy on McCain's campaign staff who called people "whiners" had to resign. I can never get it: why, in the literary world, that word is automatically applied to people who have legitimate complaints. But, yeah, you commenters above are right in saying that LROD is predictable and repetitious. Maybe we should all just shut up. Maybe we're all tired of this. Change won't happen. This is an exercise in futility.

Maybe we are all tired. Or maybe it's just you: tired of me. But I have a book to read and an LROD book club to run and more rejections to post, which sometimes spark a flame or two. I have more to understand about what gets published and what doesn't and why.  Also about what is going to happen to literary fiction (and the fate of the book) in general as well as my own "litfic" novel in particular.  So, I'm not closing anything down just yet.  I'm not tired of myself, I guess.  But you are free to come and go at will.  

John Said: Now, I'm new here, but one thing that interests me is how little actual literary fiction I see, notwithstanding the site concerns the rejection of same. W,R has won awards, but she won't post what she's written, as far as I can tell. I go to the blogs of those who identify themselves on the comments, and ditto. I wonder how many rejections some of these folks actually get. (I got two this morning before I came here, by the way, and you can find links to my published stuff on my blog.) Now, some folks may call this humor-challenged, but it reminds me of Bukowski's story about the workshop where everybody read their stuff and bs-ed about it, but nobody actually submitted.

Every rejection posted from the very beginning is mine, and is real, as indicated by the actual posting of actual rejections (read back to June, 2007). And so that's hundreds!  Other writers have written in and sent rejection stories and actual rejections, and I've always noted them as from anonymous LROD readers.  So, are they real? Yes. Otherwise, what would be the point? How many rejections do I actually get.  More than I care to count.  I think a lot of readers submit their work a lot of the time and get a lot of rejections.  Many things in the world are a sham, but not the rejected writer.
Okay, so that's my response.  No end of LROD in sight.  But thanks for your suggestions.  Keep coming by if you want to, and don't if you don't want to.  We're low-key around here about all that.  I'm not really trying to drive anyone to the blog, just writing about what interests me.  Do keep an eye out in the next edition of Poets & Writers.  Apparently there's going to be a little piece about this blog in deputy editor Kevin Larimer's column.  It will be interesting to see what his editorial take is on LROD.  (I don't expect him to love it, do you?)

Friday, July 18, 2008

What White People Read

So, remember the ridiculous blook from the blog Stuff White People Like, which Random House bought for something like $350K? According to Portfolio, it is doing well and has already sold 7,000 copies for a place on the New York Times best sellers list (#19), making it "a crossover hit" according to Galley Cat.  

That's funny because when my book sold 7,000 copies, I was told it was flop.  Hmmm?  (Just kidding...not even.)  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Death of Ink on Paper?

Guess what this is? A picture of the sad demise of our world.  Actually, the graph above shows newspaper industry stock prices over the past five years according to Gawker.  With news of so many editorial lay-offs at the rags we read (New York Times, L.A. Times, Wall Street Jounral, Newsweek, etc), I suppose we have to get with the program people.  It's a new, new (paperless) world coming our way.  I believe I will allow my family to buy me a Kindle birthday present next month.  Might as well sign up now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Authenticity, Authenticity

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.  

Here's what she wrote to her friend Elizabeth Hester: "You would probably do just as well to get that plot business out of your head and start simply with a character or anything that you can make come alive...Wouldn't it be better for you to discover a meaning in what you write rather than to impose one? Nothing you write will lack meaning because the meaning is in you."

Ah, meaning...remember meaning?  What contemporary writers are authentic?  Can we come up with a list?  Are there any?  Surely, there must be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Number 25 Was Lucky

Some time back, I'm told one of us mentioned Shannon Cain, whose short story "The Necessity of Certain Behaviors" got rejected 24 times and then won the O. Henry Prize. (You can read an excerpt of the story here. To read other excerpts of her stories, click here.) Shannon contacted LROD recently, so we decided to feature her in our "victory over rejection" section.  Maybe this will inspire you to go out there and win an NEA grant:

When did you start writing the O. Henry Story?

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 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

First Ever Meeting of the LROD Writer's Book Club: September 15, 2008

I went out this weekend and bought my copy of More Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss.  

I will admit that I haven't bought a hardback book in ages. The last time was Joshua Ferris's And Then We Came to The End, which I also recommend; it is hilarious and touching. If you've ever worked in an office, you'll love it.  A friend and I bonded together and had an anti-American Idol Book Club; Ferris's book was our first and favorite pick.  (FYI: there's grumblings at my house about pitching in to buy me a Kindle for my birthday, which would mean no more books at all (except for very special ones, but cheaper downloads....good lordy.  My birthday's not until August, so there's time to ponder the meaning of all that.)  

Anyway, once I got to the bookstore, I couldn't remember the name of Strauss's book, which I think is a bit of a problem with these sentence-like titles.  I recently read and LOVED Miranda July's completely insane and ingenious collection of stories entitled No One Belongs Here More Than You, but also can never remember the title without looking it up.  I've recommended it to everyone I bump into, but without the title, it's a little difficult.

I had a funny conversation with the dude at my local bookstore about these titles.  We decided that in our head these titles simply translate into: What the Hell is the Name of This Book, which is definitely what I'm going to title my second novel (if someone doesn't steal it first and if the first novel doesn't kill me first).

Okay, so anyway, not to ramble.  

INVITATION: You are cordially invited to the first LROD Online Book Club on Monday, September 15th.  That should give you plenty of time to get your copy (beg, borrow, buy, steal, or check out from the library) in order for our beautiful and thoughtful discussion on More Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss.  Please dress for the occasion and bring a virtual potluck dish to pass.

If it works out, we can make it a habit.  Anyone wishing to nominate a book, can email me, and I'll keep a running list.  Book publishers wishing to contact me, can reach me at writerrejected at aol dot com.  (I've always wanted to say that.)

Also, other bloggers: please publicize this book club on your blog if you are in the mood.  I'd like to get as many writing readers as we can in on it, so we can have an informed debate on the merit Mr. Strauss's work once and for all.

Two Sawbucks for Submission

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.)


I thought it was going to be "hard times" for the organization, not a contest about difficult matters.  Anyway, what do you guys think about the entry fee? Kosher or not?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Jackal

New York Observer has a weird little article about agent Andrew Wylie's reputation which got trotted out recently at Columbia University's publishing course.  Not sure it adds up to anything in the end, but there's fun players, including the ever-charming agent Leigh Feldman.

The Year of the What?

Publishers Weekly has an interesting article entitled "15 Trends to Watch in 2008."  On the list at number 3 is this gem: "This will be the Year of the Author" followed by some drivel about publishing brands and speakers bureaus.  Hmmm....not so far, it would appear.  Number 11 is about literary agents begining to experience "the same kind of consolidation hit other parts of the book business, as the shrinking of advances below the very top tier of authors and the growing need for agents to provide editing, marketing and increasingly detailed rights management make it hard for smaller agencies to bring in enough money to cover their overhead costs." Indeedy. Though doesn't shrinking advances diminish the Year of the Author?  Oh well, why bother putting that old formula together?  There's more nuggets to be mined over there about experimentation, etc.  Worth a click.

You Are Not Beautiful in the Right Way

An anonymous writer sent this one in from an anonymous fiction editor at an anonymous pretentious quarterly newly founded in the middle of our great land: "We appreciated the opportunity to read your submission, [title of work]. Unfortunately, however, we did not feel it fit our aesthetic. Clearly you are talented, and we wish you luck in placing your work elsewhere. We hope you will visit our site and see what we have selected to get a better picture of our aesthetic."
The anonymous writer, however, reports that he is not planning to visit the website in order to change his writing to match the quarterly's aesthetic. Note that the word is used twice in the short that's gumption.   

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Too Weird

Somehow GalleyCat is having a summer cutest cat contest.  If that's not totally weird enough, some of the agents and editors, who should be busy rejecting you, are busy posing their pussies and taking photos for this total lame-itude.  Seriously: Check this out. And this and this! Yo! What is up with that? I cannot make head nor tails of it.

Darin Strauss Responds: We are Mean (I Say: Jealous)

Darin Strauss stopped over to comment about our discussions yesterday and the day before on his essay about saving literary fiction.  He says:

"You guys are quite mean. And you certainly have your set opinions, without having read a word of my novels. Why bother reading something, when you can trash it out-of-hand instead. But my point is that genre fiction is not the way to go; that Melville united the two great steams in American Literature: that of Drieser and James. Thanks, though, for your thoughtful critiques. It's more fun, I guess, trashing someone without having read him....

p.s: I'm sorry you all found my author photo smirky. But I was cheered to see everyone dismiss my work based on 'looking at the amazon summations of [my] novels.' Seems like a sound reviewing strategy. That, plus a critique of the author photo."

As per my comment here, if I were half as successful as this young lad, I'd smirk too. (Maybe he'll be as gracious as Scott Snyder was when we trashed him and give us an interview. But maybe not, dude is freaking blogging about his book tour  at  He is a busy favorite son, at the moment.)  

Nonetheless I think he has a valid point.  (We are mean and jealous and uninformed....well, at least, I am. You guys have to assess for yourself.)  So, here's my proposal: An LROD reading group. We all go out and buy his new book, pick a date to have it read by, and then have an online discussion.  Who's game?

Book Promotion on Steroids

GalleyCat offers an interesting report on the publicity of Dan Solin's The Smartest 401(k) Book You'll Ever Read.  As if the name weren't audacious enough, the campaign includes ad space on kiosks scattered throughout Manhattan and trucks moving in and out of New York City.  Guess they haven't heard about the oil crisis.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Now Fiction Must Fly

Part 2 of "Saving Literary Fiction (Post-Frey)," Little Big Man Darin Strauss's essay is up at PowellsBook for those who were engaged in yesterday's debate about Part 1. For a moment, I thought he was forgetting the finer half of our gendered world, but he pulled out Harper Lee and (your friend) Zadie Smith at the last.  (Not to mention the nice use of the female pronoun, as in this sentence: "A good writer knows that, if her style and perceptions are really cooking, she can bring anything off.")

Here's a highlight:

"For fiction to do what it can do better than non-fiction books — better than reality TV, video games, and comic books, for that matter — it can't give up its attention to psychological detail and subtlety — the pervading receptivity that Wolfe would call navel-gazing. Big stories that excite up the American subject, and writers who bring in the satisfactions of drama through style, that sensitivity to the aesthetic faculties that Flaubert called "an absolute manner of seeing things" — that's what's needed. Narratives, as James said, "on which nothing is lost." Call it full-dress fiction."

Now what do you think of his theory?

Chop, Chop, Chop

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).  

The class was supposed to be about the novel, but ended up being a pretty run-of-the-mill fiction workshop.  The effect on me was astounding anyway. Must have been just the right moment because I had quite an epiphany, realizing I need to lop off the last 250 pages (many years of my life right there) and focus on staying in the story, which unfolds pretty well in the first 100 pages.  (I got too big with the idea, not too small: also a danger.) 

It's a huge thing to do, I realize.  

It changes everything.  

But I think it's right.  

This revelation dawned on me in the class when people were telling this one woman that she needed to stop trying to write like writers she admired, and write like herself.  Not that I have that particular problem, but I was imposing something on the novel that doesn't belong to it. A cumbersome structure, it turns out.  

So, anyway, I am eager to push through my current dreadful, dull work deadlines to get to the novel.  At the same time I'm totally freaked out about the economy and don't want my paid work to dry up.  What a crazy balancing act.  

I'm taking a meat clever to the manuscript as soon as possible. Has anyone else ever done this? I wonder if there are historical examples of a similar process. Anyway, wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thinking Big(ger)

Darin Strauss (of Chang and Eng fame) is a guest blogger at PowellsBooks today.  He's come up with a fine little essay called "Saving Literary Fiction (Post-Frey), Part I." Here's a highlight:

"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?"

It's worth a click.

Blogs on Trial

Our friends who are in trouble with a certain litigious literary agent, have asked for your help. If you can give a donation to their legal fund, that would be cool.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thomas M. Disch (2 February 1940 – 4 July 2008)

It's always sad when a fellow wordie passes on, especially when it is at his own hand. Rest in peace, Thomas M. Disch.  I hope you and Charles are together now forever.  And f*** the greedy New York City landlords who are evicting some of my favorite people, fine writers, who can't afford their Manhattan apartments, as was the case with Mr. Disch according to Galley Cat and New York Magazine (with a nice photo of the man). You can read his final blog entries here and his book, The Word of God, published by Tachyon Publications (motto: saving the good book at a time).

Too, Too Busy

Lewis Turco,  Major American Poet, who blogs at Poetics and Ruminations, shares his royal face-off with the editor of the New England Review, C. Dale Young.  Here's a tasty highlight from Turco's letter:

Having Googled your name, I can see how busy you are, but that doesn’t excuse you from the discourtesy you showed when you sent me the printed rejection slip that I opened this morning. Your busy-ness as a doctor and as a writer, and as an editor and as a teacher is no reason for treating so shabbily someone who has done as much as I have, in almost twice as long as you’ve been alive, for the art you like to dabble in.

Young responds, and they go a couple of rounds. For the poetic balls and lessons in professionalism, it's worth checking out.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Seeking A Literate, Educated Audience

Look what I found:

The Rejected Quarterly
 (Featuring Fine Literature Rejected At Least 5 Times) is a semiannual print magazine with the following mission: "We want the best literature possible, regardless of genre. We do, however, have a bias toward the unusual and toward speculative fiction. We aim for a literate, educated audience. The Rejected Quarterly believes in publishing the highest quality rejected fiction and other writing that doesn't fit anywhere else. We strive to be different, but will go for quality every time, whether conventional or not."

According to guidelines: "Fiction that doesn't fit anywhere else. To 8,000 words. All fiction submitted must be accompanied by at least 5 rejection slips (Xeroxes okay). TRQ desires stories that are as unique as possible. We want unusual stories, but high quality writing and a story to tell and/or a coherent idea/ideas to express are the most important criteria. We will consider just about any type of story, but remember, we are looking for originality."

Maybe our friend, author of "A Change of Season" should give it a whirl? Contact Daniel Weiss and Jeff Ludecke, fiction editors, at P.O. Box 1351, Cobb CA 95426 or e-mail 

Friday, July 4, 2008

Editorial Fireworks

Happy Independence Day, Rosemary Ahern. Wherever you are.

Are We Non-Notable Bloggers?

A reader pointed out the interesting debate at Wikipedia about whether or not it was fair to delete the entry for Literary Rejections on Display.

Comments include the following:
  • "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

Literary Legal Battle

Uh-oh, watch out!  If you blog about all things literary, including those which are just plain crappy, you might get your patootie sued.  According to Gawker and, Agent Barbara Bauer is suing "the entire Internet" for calling her a scam agent.  
Here's a highlight from

Bauer's critics, many of them authors, have repeatedly belittled her on blogs and websites and contributed to a now-deleted page about her on Wikipedia, according to the lawsuit. They also have posted indecent photos of her, the suit says, by doctoring images of her taken from her literary agency website and created belittling videos about her on YouTube, including one titled "Crouching Snark, Hidden Dragon."

The Money Grub At Tupelo Press

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.

Armand Inezian

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wrecking It For The Rest of Us

While Ex-Gawker star, and recent New York Times cover girl, Emily Gould is off selling her essay collection, titled And the Heart Says...Whatever, for a rumored $350,000.00, the rest of us can't get arrested.  

And I've been all happy and proud of myself this week because three very small, very non-paying literary publishing  houses have agreed to read my essay collection, rather than acting as if I'm trying to send them a dead, frozen cat in a priority mail envelope.  

Oh well.  I guess I'm not tattoed or fabulous or trendy.  And I guess there's a price to pay for stepping out alone.  (Yes, folks, I am my own agent. Who needs them, anyway?)

Here's a sample of Gould's writing.  You be the judge.  Good?  How about $350,000 good?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No More Mr. Nice Google

Have you noticed the nice ads at the bottom of the page these past weeks?  Very different from the usually nonsense that goes on down there. They have been all feel-good and charitabl: Public Service Ads by Google, a program referred to as ad referrals.  So, ads like "Save Energy" and "Help the Children" and "Earthquake Relief" that have actually made me feel a sense of purpose in my blogging. Could I actually be helping people?

Well, guess what?  Google Ad Sense sent a letter this morning about how this "experiment" (in being decent human beings, instead of money grubbers) has failed.  

Experiment in kindness over.  Kindness apparently isn't profitable. Not exactly breaking news.

Because I never quite know what the hell the Googliacs are talking about, I think that's what their letter says.  Here it is:


Thank you for participating in the AdSense Referrals program.
We’re writing to let you know that we will be retiring the AdSense
Referrals program during the last week of August. We appreciate
your patience during this transition and here are some alternative
options to consider:

* Google Affiliate Network: As part of the integration of
DoubleClick, the DoubleClick Performics Affiliate Network will now
operate as the Google Affiliate Network for advertisers targeting
users located in the United States. Similar to the AdSense
Referrals program, the Google Affiliate Network enables publishers
to apply for advertiser programs and get paid based on
advertiser-defined actions instead of clicks or impressions. For
further details, please visit:

* AdSense for content ads: If you have less than three AdSense
for content ad units on a page, you may wish to replace the
referral ad units with standard AFC ad units.

If you currently use referral ads, either to promote Google
products or offerings from AdWords advertisers, AdSense Referrals
code will no longer display ads beginning the last week of August.
We encourage you to take the following steps before the product is

* Remove the referral code from your site(s): Please take a
moment to remove all referral code from your sites before the last
week of August, so you can continue to effectively monetize your
ad space.
* Run and save all referrals reports on your desktop: Create
and save all reports related to the referrals program on your
desktop, so you continue to have access to your valuable campaign

Why is this happening?
We're constantly looking for ways to improve AdSense by developing
and supporting features which drive the best monetization results
for our publishers. Sometimes, this requires retiring existing
features so we can focus our efforts on the ones that will be most
effective in the long term. For this reason, we will be retiring
the AdSense Referrals program. If you have any additional
questions, please visit our Help Center.


The Google AdSense Team

Words from a Glass Bubble by Vanessa Gebbie

Here's a writer who found the 4-year expressway from beginning fiction to publication. Vanessa Gebbie has commented here at LROD, always with an interesting point of view.  She has some unique advice to writers about ego control. (Is that why we keep getting rejected?)  

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. 

I felt very brave in early 2007, and sent the thing as a submission to a Welsh publishing house, which had been kind enough to publish one of my stories in an anthology. But I think I did it wrong again. I was very green! I sent them a list of titles with competition/publishing credits and links to verification, expecting them to be excited. They weren’t. I chased twice, but never even got a reply.

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.