Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Friday, January 19, 2007

That Picture Looks Like I Just Woke Up; or, I Couldn't Think of a Title for This Post

Quote of the Day: "Since you have no choice but to begin in uncertainty, you must learn to tolerate uncertainty and, if possible, to turn it into excitement."
-Stephen Koch

For school credit this semester I will be working on the Blue Mesa Review, a literary magazine. This, I can imagine, will be quite the experience. I will be working in the fiction department, and today I was given a whole stack of manuscripts to divide into "no's" and "maybe's."

This has really put things into perspective. I was given last year's issue for comparison purposes. So far, I've only read three or four of the manuscripts, and some of the writing was, well, no better than some of my own short stories at home. It was only three stories, but none of it was on par with the published work.

While I say that it was no better then some of my own stories, I'm not saying that my work is better. One of these days, I'll be sending work off to literary magazines, and somebody, just as I did today, will look at my writing and place it in the "no" pile without second thought. It's humbling to read published stories and know that there is a ton of work I need to do to even work my way up to a "maybe."

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the writer's life that hopefully lay ahead of me will probably be a thankless one. One full of pain, full of the disappointment of knowing that I thought I had something publishable but editors thought otherwise.

Then again, I have the fleeting joy of knowing that there's a short story lurking in the "fiction" folder on my computer desktop, a piece waiting for some nourishment, waiting for me to go back to it and maybe one day be transformed into a bona fide finished product.


At 3:13 PM, Blogger Erik Donald France said...

It's yours if you want it. The journal gig will be interesting, certainly. It seems as if the playing field is more level and will stay that way because of multiple venues springing up online; my guess is that you'll have as good a fighting chance as any professors who are trying to get published these days. Which is a good thing -- good luck and fight the good fight! Tenacity is as important as any other quality.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Quinty said...

I feel for your pain.

An agent once told me to "write the story which has to be told." You have probably already thought of this but I thought it is worth repeating. Write the story which has to be told.

On another occassion I told a literary agent, regarding a book I had written, that the only thing that mattered to me was if the book was an intellectual and artistic success.

A deep smile crossed this agent's face, one of contempt for the presumptious and naive character of my remark. It was clear that she had no intent in representing me. Agents can become insulted if they're accused of putting money above literary worth. They will always insist that what they are looking for is for quality work. But pressed they will usually define quality as that which sells.

Let's not forget that MBAs run many prominent publishing houses today. That diverting profits into publishing unknown new writers, without a "platform," makes no business sense. As you probably know, at one time editors were literary men who sponsored the talented unknown writers they loved - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, many others - by publishing best selling schlock. No more.

My advice is not to worry about the editors in magazines. Some are excellent and a delight to work with. Others, well, you know. Concentrate on your "art." Develop your own personality as an author. Bring that thing which dominates your deepest dreams to life. Tell the story which has to be told.

If you would like to see my website, go to:



At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Quinty said...

And one more thing, don't become depressed.

Hemingway, with characteristic bitterness, once described this form of depression as "the artist's reward." A depression based upon self doubt, wondering if you yourself are merely deluded or if the sparkling thing you just wrote actually is any good.

Just be sure to work every day. You always have tomorrow to try again. But you must try today.

Pleasing an editor means nothing. Some are good, others are merely ambitious climbers. Many are possessed with a rigid vision which may have nothing to do with yours. The history of the arts is replete with this. Editors are not necessarily good critics. Nor is an artist always the best judge of his own work. Just keep going, keep trying.

But don't, for god's sakes, let rejection depress you.

My best, Quinty


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