Iron Horse, Mad! Mad at Duotrope! Iron Horse Smash! (Duotrope smashes back?)

Iron Horse is free to complain and to tally its numbers, but they should know (and probably do) that Duotrope’s numbers are aggregated from users’ submission updates. I hope all folks involve work this out to be a kinder, gentler writing community!

I was privileged to have Joy Castro as a professor in grad school (and really, she radiates enough authority that I had a hard time calling her anything but Dr. Castro, even though she said Joy is fine). She has given me some of the most helpful advice on writing and publishing that I have ever received. But the link above to her blog is advice from her agent Mitchell Waters of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Incidentally, he was at Bread Loaf this year, and I realized then (as I have so many times before and since) how small the writing world is.

If you’re in the market for an agent—or will soon be in the market for an agent—I behoove you to read this blog post. Mr. Waters answers sincere questions from some of the best graduate students in the country.

And by the way, you may want to check out Castro’s latest book of fiction Hell or High Water or her collection of essays Island of Bones.

"Be thankful that you don’t have all the time in the world. And yeah yeah, sometimes you got to engineer some sort of extended time to work things out, but I’m talking about the day to day majority here. There’s got to be some service to something far outside of yourself there. Writing in and of itself is not a virtue."

Joe Hall on writing.

Publish or Perish or Move to New England

Revising and Revisioning My Novel

This is why I write:

I have a novel which, if I keep its present structure, begins:

The closeness of the church, the tone of the choir and the coughs and the echoes resonating through the organ’s pipes, the dry heat, and my own sense of hypocrisy (real, imagined, recognized or missed), made me focus only on Margit, who sat right in front of me.

I’m in revision stage—the third revision—so the beginning of this book may very well change. That sentence is a holding place. I rewrote the beginning a couple of days ago. I may retry. I think it’s a little clunky. This structure is the second structure I’m trying. That may stay the same.

When I write the first draft of anything, I try to get it all down quickly, so my writing is skeletal. The first time I wrote this section of the novel, it began,

Greta didn’t want to be a man.

Which is third person and too impersonal for that character. It was not true—not that she didn’t want to be a man, but that it was even a question. Then, in the second revision, that changed to,

I wanted to reach out and touch her neck. 

and it stayed that way for about a year, until a few days ago when I changed it. As I’m revising it this third time, getting it ready for the next potential readers of this draft, I am reading Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself, which I think that it could be a great book for teaching writing and self-editing (revision, whatever), but I’m not sure how helpful it is to me. I’ve used some of the advice she gives, but most of what she says are techniques and practices that I either already use or have tested and have not worked out for me. But, I could see using this to teach, and will probably use some excerpts in my magazine writing and editing class next semester.

This leads me to the point of this blog post: Why I write or publish or both. I write, I’m sure (I don’t think I can ever really know)—and I believe this is the case for all writers—because I must. It is what I enjoy doing. I have always done it in some capacity. I have always told stories and when I learned to physically write, at four or five-years-old, I started writing my stories down. When I feel artsy, I write poetry. Lately, apparently, I’ve been feeling really artsy because I keep trying to write poems.

I have always shared my writing. I’m not vain, and I don’t think my work is especially good (sometimes it’s exceptionally bad), but writing makes me happy and I want to share that happiness with others. When I was young and I didn’t know I wanted to be a college professor, I would share my work freely with friends and strangers. I would be a regular at coffee shop open mics, I would organize readings, I would pass out photocopied stories and poems. Then I went to college.

This is why I publish:

My university was small, rural, and mostly filled with white people. During my five years as a student, I had one professor of color (I used to think I had two, but I later found out that one was white but passing), and she wasn’t even in my field. I first thought that the lack of color was unique to that university, but as I traveled to other schools for conferences, I learned that the academy was lacking multiculturalism everywhere. And since I enjoyed being in college, I decided that I would try to fill that void. I would not only teach, but encourage other marginalized students (GLBTQ kids, women in STEM fields, men in gender studies, etc) to go into academia when I became an instructor. That’s a wonderful and altruistic idea, but there was a sea change going on in academe that I was too far from the ocean to see then.

Once in graduate school, I learned how important publications are for aspiring tenure track professors, especially in my field of English/creative writing. I also learned that there weren’t many jobs out there and how that number was and is diminishing. It is no secret now that there are more adjunct instructors than ever—(“non-tenure-track positions now constitute almost 70 percent of all faculty”), which makes the few jobs that are advertised competitive. Those with numerous publications, or a book or two, are better equipped for the job market than those of who have very few or no publications. 

While trying to get published, writing became unfun. It became work. I polished pieces to smooth, jejune messes of acceptable writing, which was accepted in online journals, but I felt I lost my experimental edge. I think I have an experimental edge. I may not. I think I’m kind of getting it back, but that’s another blog post.

This novel I’m working on, for which I will go to Bread Loaf and work on, for which most of my summer is spent on, is my last chance to make it into some kind of stream—main or otherwise—so that I may land one of those coveted teaching jobs. Now that I’ve completed graduate school along with a TAship, and after I’ve taught in the real world for a year, I have found that I enjoy teaching. I am more proud when my students publish than when I do. I love when class discussion distracts students from the clock. And even though I am not a professor (I correct my students all the time when they call me one), I do enjoy hearing, “Hi, professor! How are you? I really miss our class.” So there’s that altruistic/multicultural reason for wanting to teach, but there’s also this love of teaching which is almost as strong as my love for writing.

Why do I say my last chance? I’m growing tired. I’m getting older. I have kids, bills, and wants and I can’t keep putting real life on hold. I will still write—I have already started my next novel (which has the tentative first line, “Mitchell’s the only one up with the smoke detector.” Very tentative) and I plan on finishing. I just don’t want to perish trying to publish. If I didn’t want to teach, I’d so be one of those people who has her fiction out on the Internet free for everyone to see. This blog would be my first book, if I wasn’t so concerned with a CV. You would be reading my fiction or poetry now, instead of this post on publishing.

What am I saying? If I don’t get a book deal or job by 2013, I will do just that: put my work out there for all to see and get a cushy, administrative assistant position somewhere in New England!

I fancy myself a writer, and I have some

publications online, so I thought that I’d link to them here.  I was going to start with what I thought was my most recent publication, but remembered a date I was given way back in November of 2010, that I would be published in September 2011.  It’s September, 2011.  It’s out.  They didn’t tell me; I had to find it.  So, it’s at the top of this ordered list (it’s all fiction, unless it’s noted otherwise, but then, it’ll just be some form of fiction pretending to be something else):

Some of these are experimental.  And I say some because others are very conventional.  I think one or two are on the boarder line of experimental.  I point this out because it’s something that taxes me.  I used to be very unconventional, then I went to grad school and was introduced to the workshop.  Urgh.  But it works out.  It all works.

If you searched online, you’ll find some nonfiction, reporterly pieces I wrote.  You may find me reading an excerpt from my novel manuscript (which isn’t, for the most part, experimental.  As I type this, I realize that I don’t know what I mean by experimental.  Seeing the word repeated so in this post renders it almost meaningless.  Conventional.  Experimental.  Ah, let’s just say that I write, okay?  I write some stories.  I think about something for a long time, then I write it down.  Or I think about it briefly, then I write it down.  Sometimes, these writings make sense enough that I can share them with others.  Sometimes, editors like the work and publish it online.  Never have I been in an actual print journal.  I don’t know if this concerns me.  I’m not sure what concerns me.  I would just like to write and teach), but that excerpt has changed in the full manuscript.  Some what.