Friday, October 30, 2009

Don Says...

A few weeks ago on the show Mad Men, creative director Don Draper told his protege:

"You've never done a thing for me that I can't live without."

Brutal. But it's been spinning through my mind ever since. Have I ever written anything the world can't live without? The answer is a clear no. Without intending to shit on my own talent, I just think writing something that the world can't live without is a goal few of us will ever achieve.

But it's now a thought I keep in the back of my head every time I sit down to write. Sure, I'll probably fail. But I think the writing will be better because of the trying.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Green-Haired Girl

Now live here at Storyglossia.

Very excited about this one. The issue is themed around musical obsession. Can't wait to make my way through the stories.

Strange Rejections

"Unfortunately we need to pass on it at the moment."

At the moment? So, maybe later, then?

Seriously, all a rejection needs to say is: "The piece isn't right for us." That's it. Move on. Most of us out here are capable of handling a hard landing.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Those I love:

plank, swollen, churn, sea

Those I hate:

apartment, magic, butt, chortle

Just saying...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stories that Sweat

I don’t write a lot of fiction that you’d classify as disturbing in a gut-swirling way. Maybe that’s why I have such admiration for those who can pull off a good skin-crawling story.

In the newest issue of Kill Author, Mel Bosworth manages to both shock and hit you in deep in the chest with Turn.

It’s the kind of story you can feel pushing against you. Sweating on you. Leaving you sticky. (And I mean that as a good thing).

What's In a Submission?

Over at HTMLGiant, Blake Butler wants to know if writers would submit to a journal called: While many of the people commenting are just having fun with the idea, I think Blake is touching on a really interesting question: why do we choose to submit where we do? What factors do we consider?

I don’t use a very complicated formula. It’s pretty much: 1) do I like what the journal is publishing? 2) do I have a story that fits their aesthetic? 3) will the journal give the story good exposure (a good number of good readers and a good chance the publication will still be around a week after my story appears)?

So, sure, I’d submit to if they met those criteria. But, um, you first Blake.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Invasion of the Realists!!

Via Matt Bell, I came across this article from Context that claims neorealism has a stranglehold on major American literary journals and that experimentation, while often given lip-service, is fundamentally discouraged.

The author, Daniel Green, does note that things might be better on the web, so I won’t call him to task for missing such places of invention like Diagram or 5_trope or many of the other online journals publishing stories with voices a good deal outside traditional realism. I’ll even give him a pass for overlooking Unsaid and Monkeybicycle et. al. because his focus is so specifically on journals like Ploughshares and Gettysburg Review and others known for having stories regularly selected in the prominent yearly anthologies.

Given Green’s narrow focus, the question isn’t whether or not he’s right (he is right that those journals prefer realism and anthologies/awards like Pushcart fill their pages with predominantly traditional stories – although not always). The real question is: does it matter? While journals such as Paris Review may help a writer land an agent, how influential and representative are they really? Most successful writers I know don’t pick their style based on what’s winning awards. They come to their style based on their own peculiarities. And that style is often hard to categorize with easy labels like realism or experimentalism.

If realist-leaning prose is popular with many journal editors, I suppose that’s because realist writers have something vital to say about our current world. And if less realist writing is bubbling up from the Internet and newer journals, maybe that’s because, in our incredibly confusing world, those styles have something vital to say too.

I know I’m being all accepting here. But, generally, I reject the assumption that literature is stagnant if it’s not being wildly inventive. A good story is a good story. Maybe I’m missing the point. But despite the fact that none of us can make a living writing short fiction, it seems to me there are more venues available for publication than ever before. That should mean more opportunity for all kinds of fiction to find its audience.

Transcript of Thomas Custard Carl ...

... is available to be read right here at Storyscape. It's issue number four of this really cool journal. I'm making my way through the stories and feel very lucky to have something of mine surrounded by such great writing.

Check it out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Feeling Dirty

So, Vestal Review has put up their first group of Dirty Dozen stories, and one of three selected pieces in my piece "Dominatrix" (can you call a twelve word story a "piece"? More like a ditty. A word bauble?).

This is a fun feature. I'm already looking forward to what they select next month.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Schrodinger's Submission

That would be the scientific phenomenon of seeing an editor's name or journal's name in your inbox with the subject "Re: Submission" or some such. Until you click on the email, your story could either be accepted or published, a dead cat or a live one.

And speaking of dual-states of existence, isn't it odd how you can absolutely love a story, then it gets rejected by a journal you admire and suddenly the story reads like the half-ass work of a two-bit hack (which I guess makes it a one-bit story). I think that phenomenon needs a name too. The Law of Quality Deceleration or something.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fever Dreams

While sick, I went to sleep trying to think of the perfect story. I spent the whole night dreaming in colors, each thought a string of blue or red or green or orange flying away from me and then yarning up all around, out of my reach and yet somehow scraping against my head, pressing me inwards so that even more colored string burst out until I could see only shapes -- but not shapes like we're taught. Nothing measurable. Formless forms. A geometrical freakshow of thought baked at 103.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Force Me Down

A moment of complete honesty. I read a lot of online fiction (that’s not the revealing part). I’d say I stop reading 75-85% of the stories and never come back to them (sad but true). It’s not that they’re poorly written or that I’m such a busy, busy man that I can’t be bothered to keep reading. It’s just that – I get bored rather easily.

And then I think – shit, how many people never make it to the end of my stories? And that makes me think – shit, better write better. Sometimes, I actually do. Or think I do. And then I stumble across a story that forces me to read it in full in one sitting. Holds me down and forces. And I think – yeah, that’s how it’s done.

Roxane Gay has one of those stories up at JMWW. "His Name Is". Love it. And not just because it takes place in Las Vegas and I’m a sucker for Vegas. It’s got force. And it’s got lines like: “He scurries away, his short legs trying to keep pace with his optimism.”