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Friday, January 30, 2009

What Would We Do If People Didn't Summarize?

Phew! As you know, a post about Agni stirred up a bee's nest of comments the other day. Luckily, for those who do not want to read the thread, someone posting as "Billy Bob Loser" summed the whole thing up as follows:

"Here's what I've taken from this very very long thread.

1. Many people are obtuse.

2. Publishing in zines is a hobby. An expensive, time-consuming, not-very-fulfilling hobby.

3. You should write a novel if you want to make a living and be recognized professionally by anyone other than your mother.

4. The Short Story is Dead. Dead culturally, dead financially, dead professionally, dead, dead, dead. It's a practice, an exercise, a staging grounds. But you do it for arts sake. Because it's beautiful. If you can't handle that oxymoron (dead but you still love it) you shouldn't be writing them.

5. Everyone prizes the top 25 mags, but no one can get published in them (answer: try the top fifty lit Js, or top seventy-five lit Js).

6. I'm the guy that submitted 600 times in the last 4 years. I'm not going to quit. But most of those were to the top fifty lit Js. I've broken in a few times to lower-level print journals. But no big boys yet. But I have a threshold -- I don't publish in online journals. Only print journals with decent websites affiliated with a university. Did you catch that:

A. Print.
B. Good Website.
C. University Affiliated.

99% of my submissions fall under those categories. That kills about 2500 of the journals in Duotrope. But that still leaves about 75 I would be very happy to appear in. I'll get in someday."

Very sensible, Bob.  Very sensible indeed.  Also, sir, please send me some of your 600 rejections.  You're a man after my own heart because I will never quit either.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Motoko on Self-Publishing

The New York Times cracks a self-publishing nut today in an article entitled "Self-publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab."

Here's a highlight: "Vanity presses have existed for decades, but technology has made it much easier for aspiring authors to publish without hefty upfront costs. Gone are the days when self-publishing meant paying a printer to produce hundreds of copies that then languished in a garage.

Now, for as little as $3, an author can upload a manuscript or collection of photos to a Web site, and order a printed book within an hour. Many books will appear for sale on or the Web site of Barnes & Noble; others are sold through the self-publishing companies’ Web sites. Authors and readers order subsequent copies as needed."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Run, Rabbit, Run

John Updike (who is oft evoked on LROD) has passed away at the age of 76 of lung cancer. Dude was a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and a mid-century writer who many times graced the pages of the New Yorker.  Say what you will about him, but give him his props.  

I don't know.  I will admit, though, that I feel a little numb about Updike.  Guess, I'm still crying over Grace and Kurt.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inspirational Quotational

To get you through the week:
  • “Never give up, never give up, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give up except to convictions of honor and good sense.” --Winston Churchill
  • "Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently." --Henry Ford
  • "A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else." --John Burroughs 
Admit it: Life just seems easier from inside a smart, stuffy quote.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

American Idle

First read Mark Twain's speech entitled,  "Disappearance of Literature," then read this. Compare and contrast the information.  What does any of it mean? Go!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Emboldened Agni

You've just got to LOVE a form rejection (click photo to read) with a bolded statement that says "This is not our customary rejection slip."  
  • Generous business view:  This rejection supports the assertion that there are tiered rejections at literary magazines.
  • Conspiracy theory view: the p.s. confirms that the statement is just a ploy to keep people feeling hopeful enough to buy a discounted subscription. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Hostess Gift That Sucks Your Blood

Michelle Obama reportedly brought a hostess gift to coffee at the White House on Tuesday: a journal and pen for Laura Bush, who sold her memoir to Scribner for $1.6 million.   (First Lady Hillary got $8 million). As surely has been pointed out by others, perhaps the bargain rate for Bush was due to her life being scooped  by the Curtis Sittenfeld's novel, American Wife

Anyway, it was a lovely gesture...or, for those in the know, a sarcastic dig, as in "Good luck, sucker; it's not as easy as it looks."  Though I suppose it's an entirely different thing to "write" a memoir than it is to actually write a memoir.  

So let's go with choice (a) Mrs. Obama is a gracious lady.  

She could have even wrapped the present up with Aretha's hat on top!  Don't you love that fabulous hat?  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This is a Photograph of an Art Installation Showing the Non-Gendered Nature of Flabby Thighs

A recent anonymous commenter (apparently from the past) posted this criticism, and so I thought I'd share:

I too think there's a problem with LROD. About a year ago W/R started to chase real dissidents away. By dissidents, I mean people who think that there is somthing basically wrong with literary fiction today. We were characterized as attack dogs; we got taken to the woodshed for incivility (others could be as nasty as they wanted); when one of us made an appearance, comments immediately appeared, belittling what we had to say (and not addressing the content of our thoughts). I think W/R has backed off; he could see a deadly blandness setting in (which means a loss of readers; this blog, for him, has become a form of success). I think the only thing that bothers W/R about the literary scene is that he's not Inside it. Those who want to tear down the country clubhouse are threatening the building he wants to be In. Some predicament! Sorry if this sounds harsh. We all have an agenda. I just don't find yours, W/R, to be one I agree with. I've referred to you as a "he." Don't know about that. Women are typically concerned about flabby thighs.

Agree or disagree—or in between? (Since I'm third-gendered, I necessarily fall somewhere in between.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Very Good Day

The above "form letter" (fake invitation?) came in a fancy ivory envelope from the Inaugural Committee accompanied by a piece of paper reminding me that I might want to stay at home and watch the inauguration on TV.  Did I need an invitation?  Can't I go to my Nation's Capital any day of the week, and find my own accommodations, and be excluded from all sorts of events and parties?  I will admit, however, that I was fooled at first, and kind of excited, ("Like, oooh, Barack invited me because I volunteered and gave him money!"); it made me laugh at myself.  
Despite all that, I felt a great deal of hope today.  And now, to work.  May the force be with him.

All Rhodes Lead to Rejection

Anonymous has come to my rescue riding in on an unusual form rejection letter received in 2005 from Jodie Rhodes.  The justification: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Now that's what I call disclosure!  What do you guys think?

In part, I sympathize with Ms. Rhodes because I have slept in wrists braces for years. Everyone in my family has Carpal Tunnel, and everyone has undergone surgery, but recently I started doing these exercises to align the body, improve range of motion, and strengthen the shoulder, thigh, abdominal and calf muscles, while lengthening the back and hip flexor muscles.  All of it is supposed cure chronic aches and pains, including wrist pain from insane 24-hour computer use, which aptly describes my life.  And guess what?  It pretty much worked. I'm almost cured. 

 So, I'm not going to bust Jodie Rhodes' chops, even though she once rejected me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's All (Going To Be) Good Now

So, people are gathering in the nation's capital for the big change of 2009. As for me, I'm staying home to work on my novel. But kids, I'm saying it now, in celebration of hope and as sure as the Washington Monument symbolizes a phallus: This is the year that I publish the bitch! (And I mean that in the best possible sense of the word because I happen to be back in love with my novel.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

For The Super Famous Only

So many New Yorker rejections, so little time.  It's a wonder in this day and age that anyone still tries to get published there.  A friend said that they're like the mafia: they come to you (your agent).  Otherwise, forget it. Just to give you an idea of whose been published there recently:
Joyce Carol Oates, Donald Antrim, William Trevor, Amos Oz, Edwidge Danticat, Jonathan Lethem, Louise Erdich, Roddy Doyle, Yiyun Li, Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff, Joshua Ferris, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and Vladimir Nabokov.
It makes me laugh to think that in my youth I thought I was going to get in print with these literary fat cats.  Oh well, it's good to dream big. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Does It Mean?

A reader asked for a feature story about the meaning of the economic crisis on publishing, besides canned tuna and fewer publishing lunches.  Unfortunately I don't really have a cogent summation, except to say it probably means even more rejections for you and me. Here's what people are saying:
So, hang on to your whiskers, it's going to be a rough ride.

Sorree, It's No For Mee

Here's a form rejection letter from an agent I've never heard of before: Sheree Bykofsky. You've got to love the creative spelling of her first name?  Also, she seems rather earnest and sorry (sorree?) to give you the slip.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Royal British Publishing Snub

Keeping to my International theme of late, here's a form rejection from what appears to be a British publishing house.  Anyone know the outfit or the publishing director?  It's a rather chilly rub off, no?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is that German for "Buzz Off, Bad Writer"?

I don't speak German, and the recipient of the above rejection, (worst)writer: trying to fail better, didn't explain the situation on his/her excellent blog, but I'm pretty sure there's some highly insulting German attitude going on here.  

Anyone care to translate and decode the snarky English marginalia?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Please Don't Say "Wovel" Unless You Are Choking

Our friend Kate Evans points out this little gem from NPR...or should I say wem? Here's a highlight: "The way we read is changing. Time once spent curled up with a good book is now often devoted to catching up on blogs, and browsing Web sites. One publishing company is trying to take advantage of those habits, offering fiction in serial form, online....
"A wovel is a Web novel," [Victoria] Blake says. "There's an installment every Monday. At the end of every installment, there's a binary plot branch point with a vote button at the end."

p.s. Guess what the wagon wheel/snow shovel device pictured above is called.  (Hint: A wovel.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bad Satire, Really Bad

File this foolishness under "What was the New York Times thinking when they published this?" category.  May Julian Gough should stick to satirical novels.  Just saying.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Unless You're a TV-Star Cat

A depressing death knoll is ringing over at the Wall Street Journal in an article by Anita Elberse called "Blockbuster or Bust: Why struggling publishers will keep pacing outrageous bids on new books." The long and short of it is that if you're not Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, or you're writing a book about fuzzy kittens or rascaly puppies, you're screwed.  I can't even lift my head to give you the highlights.  Just go over there yourself.

Appel Words of Wisdom: Part II

Here's a continuation from yesterday's post, in which I ran some highlights from Jacob Appel's article in Poets & Writers entitled "The Case for Contests."  (More highlights just for you, little rodents):  

"Of course, multiple submissions can be costly. While a single contest fee is not going to drive even the poorest writer into bankruptcy, once one starts sending out ten- and twenty-dollar checks by the handful, the sacrifices entailed may seem prohibitive. Yet I urge my students to submit their fees anyway.  Find a way!  If they were studying to be physicians or attorneys, I remind them, they would pay far greater sums for multiple years of schooling--banking on a future payoff.  To my mind, creative writing is as much a career as medicine or law, even if the odds of meaningful financial gain are considerably lower (especially if you are a poet)....
"What appeal to me most about writing contests, on a personal level, is that somebody has to win.  Well, I should qualify that.  Occasionally, a final judge declines to declare a victor and the sponsor pockets the entry fees anyway.  But for the most part, somebody walks away with a garland and a large check and an entree into the literary limelight.  At a time when more and more structural barriers and layers of protection prevent obscure and emerging writers from having their work considered by major publishing houses, or published in glossy magazines--and ultimately landing on bookstore and library shelves--the literary competition is the unknown author's best friend.  A good contest opens doors to anybody with a ten- or fifteen-dollar check and a brilliant work of original literature..."

Oh, wait, one more part of Appel's article for a little hair-raising fun!  I thought it was interesting:  "Several years ago," writes Appel, "I entered the St. Louis Short Story Competition, a contest with a five-dollar entry fee and a five-thousand-dollar grand prize.  To my delight, my story "Counting" was declared the grand-prize winner on the competition's Web site.  Alas, the swindlers administering the contest never paid up.  (I do not take such matters lightly, as bad actors of this sort tarnish the reputation of contests more generally.  In fact I pursued the matter with law enforcement authorities in Missouri--up to and including the state's attorney general--and the FBI. The investigation is ongoing; the mills of justice grind finely, but slowly.)  Even under these exasperating circumstances, a contest victory succeeded in garnering me multiple inquires from reputable agents who had read my "winning" story on the Internet."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More On Memoir Fraudulence

There's a very good assessment of the most recent memoir fraud (fraudior?) by Lev Raphael called "The Holocaust Memoir So Heartwarming it Had to be Fake." My favorite part is the opening Edith Wharton quote about how Americans demand "a tragedy with a happy ending."  So true!  The analysis is worth taking a click on over there.

Appel Words of Wisdom: Part I

I very much enjoyed Jacob M. Appel's intelligent article in Poets & Writers entitled "The Case for Contests." Unfortunately the article is not online, so as a labor of love, I have typed out some highlights and excerpts and posted them here:

"I confess I enjoy paying fees to enter writing contests.  One of the decadent pleasures of my week is cuddling up with my checkbook on Friday afternoon and doling out my meager earnings to literary journals in ten-and fifteen-dollar increments.  I have been entering fiction contests relentlessly, if not compulsively, for the better part of two decades--and over time.  I have garnered my modest share of first-place finishes and an even greater number of honorable mentions....I have also lost my share of contests--hundreds of them, possibly thousands--including many to which I have submitted my work, years after year, since my college days  So as a battle-scarred veteran of the contest circuit, nothing disturbs me more than those naysayer who chronically deride participation in these literary competitions, which I continue to believe present one of the most rewarding and fair opportunities available to emerging writers.

"The critique often goes something like this: In no other creative enterprise are aspiring artists expected to fork over money for an opportunity to have their work considered by a self-perpetuating band of aesthetic gatekeepers.  Up-and-coming composers don't send their original scores to the Boston Pops with entry fees enclosed.  Including a money order or certified check will not convince the New Yorker to publish your political cartoons.  So what right do literary journals have in asking young writers--many of whom can hardly pay their rent or feed their pets--to dish out hard cash for the mere chance of publication?

"The greatest selling point for contests is that they level the playing field in two distinct ways.  First, in all but a few competitions, they offer each contestant an assessment of the work by a judge who does not know the author's identity.  To paraphrase the caption of the celebrated Peter Steiner cartoon, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," in the submission pool of literary contests, nobody knows you're not Alice Munro or Joyce Carol Oates.

"Occasionally I am asked--usually by a student--if there's a trick to winning writing contests.  After all, the names of the same emerging writers appear frequently on the list of winners of various contests, suggesting that these individuals must be doing something right.  Most likely, I imagine, they are writing good poems and stories that deserve to receive accolades and inquiries from agents.  At the same time, I do believe there are a few rules of thumb that increase the one's odds to taking a bow in the winner's circle.  My best advice is that one should submit to contests early and often.  The benefit of submitting early is that many competitions read and evaluate the work as it arrives, yet most of the submissions show up within days of the final deadline.  For these competitions, the advantage of submitting at the first opportunity is a well-considered and thorough read by a judge who is not yet downing in entries.  The reason for submitting often is that tastes differ widely and a story or poem that appeals to one judge may not suit the appetite of another."

Stay tuned for more excerpted appearls tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No Joy Form Rejection

To start the new year right, here's a no-joy form rejection from the literary agent Joy Harris. That's really no frills...not even a signature, or single person's name.  It's as if the machinery of the JHLA read and rejected your work.

Monday, January 5, 2009

He Even Sings

Galleycat has a tedious month-by-month year in review of 2008.  So tedious that July 2008 features this video of your friend and mine (plus a bonus song).  That's not really news, is it? Also, is it me, or does he look entirely different in the video than he does in either of his photographs?

Also, on his blog there's a cute picture of twin baby boys.  The caption says: "Darin gave birth to twins, not named Chang and Eng. Shepherd and Beau Strauss were born on October 29th, 2007." Not his wife? Seriously, though, I don't mean to bust on you, DS, you crazily talented guy, who can even pick the guitar and sing.  I'm just joking around to improve all of our senses of humor in 2009.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What's Up For You in 2009? (******Plus Links to 2008 LROD Highlights******)

Above is what The Onion has on its 2009 Resolution Hit List.  How about you?  What are your writerly resolutions for the coming year?  More acceptances, fewer rejections, muscular thighs? A pledge to send all your rejections for posting at LROD? Mine are as follows: 1) resolve all internal conflict about successfully publishing my novel this year, 2) roll as best as I can with all external conflicts that inevitably come up to foil me in the publishing industry, 3) remember that I am a powerful writer, and that I have something important to say, 4) become more patient and remember that it takes as long as it takes, 5) But still strive to have a publishing contract by December 31, 2009.

p.s. This is not to say that I'd turn my nose up at muscular thighs.