It’s that time again

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Is there some kind of norm for writers’ submission habits? I seem to operate more or less seasonally, submitting a round in the late spring/early summer, a round in the fall, and a round in winter. I try to force myself to submit to 20 places at a time (all different stories, selected to jibe with what I can glean from the journal’s web presence regarding preferences on length, theme, etc).

I’m far from convinced that this shotgun approach is effective, but I keep at it because it’s one of those writerly duties that makes me feel super-productive in the short term. I have a paper mousepad with 18 ticks under the heading spring submissions. Yes! I got a shitton done over the last few days. In another three weeks or so, the tepid form rejections will come rolling in, and they will neither surprise nor destroy me.

A couple weeks ago, I actually got my first bona fide personalized rejection from a journal that had short-listed a story of mine for their fall issue. They mentioned the character by name! Wha–! It was really lovely, actually. They encouraged me to continue revising the story, but I’m not going to. Not because it’s perfect, but because I’ve taken it as far as I am willing to go with it. The story is several years old, and I’ve moved on to other projects. If no one ever takes the poor thing, so it goes.

Meantime, paper submissions. Don’t they just annoy you on principle? They do me. Seth suggested that paper submissions perhaps demand more of the writer in terms of commitment, etc., which I will concede, but I still think it’s a massive pain in the ass. For instance: I prepped all these little packages on Monday but am short a few stamps and have not been able to get them out yet. So they languish, until I make it to the post office.

Anyhoo. This is all rather solipsistic prattling on my part and there is much news afoot in the world these past few days. For instance: I was sad to hear that Maurice Sendak is no longer in this world. I did a ton of research on him when the opera company I worked for mounted his production of Hansel & Gretel many years ago. The man gave really phenomenal and thoughtful interviews, and I just love crotchety assholes, especially ones who love dogs. In this piece on Slate, Dana Stevens passes on writing advice Sendak delivered to his writing retreat participants:

“Don’t let those fucking bastards beat you!”

“Wield a more subversive sword!”

“You need to become a better spy.”


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