Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's Wednesday, Kids

My studio mess with a shaved Jasper
So, I'm in the studio this morning, although earlier, I was working on my review column for Library Journal. Very happily, I have a new story to write for Strange, Weird, and Wonderful as well. And while I'm moving the brush around the canvas you see on my easel, I've been developing scene images, which is always a good thing--a sign of mental progress as the ideas percolate through my brain.

I've sent an entirely different story, "Buses from Bridgeport" out to many journals, and I've gotten very positive feedback. One editor even told me that she could sympathize so much with the main character (a straight-laced employee, who works for a crooked company and gets killed by a mob of people at the end). Yet, consistently, the journals say "it's not for them", although I really don't know what that might mean. The story deals with contemporary issues, so I guess maybe it's not a politically correct thing to publish...but I can't interpret the true definition of "not for us". There seems to be something beyond its face-value meaning. I realized yesterday that it's been "in progress" at the Nashville Review for months now, and I expect a rejection any old day now, especially since they just released a new issue. It's out at a few other places as well. Go ahead, folks, just reject it. I'm used to it now. No need to deliberate for so long. I'd withdraw it, but there's always the slender chance that a 7K-word story whose sole focus isn't violent sex or dysfunctional relationships might actually get published somewhere. No, I know. I won't get my hopes up.
Ooooo...girl is bitter, isn't she? Yes I have been, about the writing world anyway. There are two nice companies that call me once a month (yes, call), trying to publish my book. I have a short story collection that's ready to go and a novel that needs editing. I should be hopping up and down with excitement, yes? I thought so, too, until I found out they want $4K to produce the book and market it (and that's the basic package). Now, understand, I operate under no illusions. When someone actually contacted me to see if they could publish my book, I was skeptical immediately. I did not see only the pretty feathers of the fly. I knew there had to be a lip-piercing hook somewhere, too.

The usual macabre: this time, necklaces
Now, folks, 4K is just under the price of a new roof, which we badly need on our little abode. Therefore, I believe I will be handing over my cash to the roofer this year, and to the bathroom remodelor next year even though these publishing companies look entirely reputable and my contacts there are very personable. I wonder, though, how it is that the writing world has gotten to be this way: how, exactly, has the writer become a consumer of his own printed words and not the producer of words that others buy.

I think the intermediary step has been that we've long provided free content. You can't support a family on writing anymore as John Updike once did. It is expected that you won't receive a dime for your literary labor. (Now, horror, sci-fi, and erotica are another matter. They pay! And thank goodness for them.) But someone saw this free digital content and said: Writers want books, don't they? Let them pay! There's a demand there, people! Let's take advantage of that.

And so it goes.

In progress: "Aunt Ann Does the Dishes"

It's much like the vanity galleries I encountered in NYC in the mid-1990s. One gallerist called me at Juniata (in my dorm room!), having seen slides of the dresser's dummy sculptures I had submited in response to an ad at the back of Art Forum. She wanted to put them in her gallery. I was totally over the moon, until I got the contract, which said I would be paying $100 per square foot along with the cost of marketing and catering the opening reception. Say what?!

Get this: she also took 60% of any sales, and I got 40%. Wait, wait, did I accidently include in the slide package my purple neon sign that says "I'M A RUBE!"?

Obviously, as a college student with meagre funds--and as a reasonably intelligent human being--I didn't go for it. Perhaps it was my loss. I still don't think so.

Anyway, I've more or less come to terms with the way the literary world is right now, and I'll just chug along, continuing to create stories without expecting too much in return. Frankly, this is why I went back to painting. When I hit a wall with one, I can spend a delightful afternoon with the other. And so it goes.


  1. Never never never ever ever ever pay someone else to publish your book. Never. It's a complete scam, no matter how nice they are. I know it's a huge pain in the ass. I know how it feels to get rejected a lot lately. I know I know I know. I've been writing about not-as-popular things lately, too. Blah.


    You don't compromise what you write. I like that.

  2. Thank you SO much, Margaret. This is really, really appreciated. Wow, it's been rough lately--I totally hear you. And I definitely agree. The pay-to-print-and-market is putting bread (and maybe caviar, too, huh?) on someone's else's table. :-) Thank you. *big hugs* I'll be in for TNY Presents this month. Hoping to see you soon!!