Monday, March 19, 2018

Ingratitude and Other Successes

The Thursday thing from the prior post still hasn't happened yet. Nnnghh.

A lot is going on for me. I'm stravaging along in freelancing, but I badly need a new website if I want to make a real go at that. I got turned down for a writing residency in the oddest and most encouraging way, such that I don't really know what to make of it. I spent several hours on Sunday writing a long political piece that I don't expect to be received well, but which I think will be read a lot. Lots of fear there. Also on Sunday, I got two acceptances, which were nice, but which - I can't believe I'm saying this - didn't mean a whole lot to me.

Lemme talk about that a little more. Five years ago, any acceptance would've been cause for me to buy champagne and dance about, but at this stage, some acceptances mean more than others. There's a hell of a lot more traffic going through my inbox, for one thing (pitches by the dozen, several regular submissions every month), and that means that instead of a lot of rejections and one or two acceptances, I get a metric ton of rejections and a handful of acceptances.

Plus, I'm aiming at very different targets than I used to. I've been keeping this conclusion to myself for a while, but I'm just going to say it now: trying to get literary short stories published is a horrible way to spend your time on this earth. I'll grant you that my short stories are not, on average, as good as my book reviews, which is probably part of why I've had more success with the latter than the former. But there are a few stories that I'm still trying to get out there, and the process is just so savage compared to reviewing and writing nonfiction essays. You spend months on a story, you submit it, and then you wait for six to twelve months for a publication no one aside from writers has heard of to say no. Or, if they say yes, you wait another several months to get your contributor's copy and no pay. This is normal. It could be worse.

Tom Gauld

With a review, you pitch them, and if you haven't heard from them in two weeks, the answer is probably no. You might hear from them in a couple of days, or even same-day. If they say yes, working with them to make your review better is, more often than not, fun and interesting.

The two acceptances on Sunday were for a piece of lovely smut that I wrote years ago, which has racked up so many rejections that I long ago detached from any emotional investment in it, and for a nonfiction piece, a list, written in Santa Fe last fall. I knew it was good, so I felt no surprise that it was accepted by a litmag that posts weekly lists. It'll be great to see these things in print, and for one of them I'll get a little money. But I'm waiting to hear on essays, stories, and pitches that matter a hell of a lot more to me than either of these pieces. That hierarchy has always existed, but until recently, the stuff that matters has always been a no. Now that there have been yeses for some of the stuff that matters, yeses for less important stuff don't feel as good as they used to. (Like taking ecstasy too often, I suppose.)

Which is extremely ungrateful, right? I should be happier than this for people liking my work enough to say yes. But it's kind of like when your teacher pins up your least favorite drawing and doesn't look at the other ones. Yay! (...?)

So much changes in this journeyman part of the journey. I wish I'd known. But I suspect there's no good way to tell people that they are going to feel and think differently a few years into doing something. If it could be communicated, it wouldn't be learned.

Out in the world:

My Columbine post from this blog was reprinted last week in the Big Smoke. I'm really pleased about this.

I reviewed Silver Girl for the Millions. It was a phenomenal book. At the time I read it, I'd read three or four debut novels in a row, and the different feeling of this one, which is not a debut, was a bit of a balm. Debuts seem to buzz a little bit with their own newness, and this was surer, slower.

I interviewed Natalie Singer for TRUE. I adored her book, California Calling.

A story I've been trying to place for five years or more, "C-a-l-l-a-s", came out in Luna Station Quarterly. I have many, many thoughts about this, but I think they'll have to wait for another time.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Scenes from My New Life

Reading and writing all day long, from 5 in the morning until 9 at night, with breaks for napping, eating, solitaire.

Aching to tell everyone in the world about a thing happening this Thursday (I think), but trying not to, in case it falls through. Telling probably too many people anyway. Hurry up, Thursday.

Severely alienating an editor by accident, but feeling bad only interpersonally (not professionally), because doubtful that I'll write anything that fits this market again. Joking with another editor about Buddy Christ in discussing a serious, snoot-de-la-toot review.

Looking at the month as an empty vessel which I must fill with dollars exchanged for hours of my time.

Terror. Bliss. Both straight to the vein.

Meeting one deadline after another for the end of February. Shooting out the ducks in the range, bang, bang, bang, until there is just one left. A little one, themed issue, February 28 deadline, not that important but kind of interesting. February 27: sitting in the CSUN class I'm assisting on a day when I don't really need to be there, paying no attention, writing, dashing off, a tiny short piece on the themed issue. Not even sleeping on it, just sending it in. Bang.

Feeling such relief I thought I'd flatten, like a balloon with all the air gone. I did it. I met all the deadlines. I have lost track of how many there were that I met. (Tried to research it for this post and could not even tell if it was less or greater than ten.) Drop the little interesting deadline entirely out of my thoughts, because I don't expect to hear about it for months and I dashed that thing off in like an hour and there's no money so who cares. The point is I threw my hat in the ring. February 28: receive email saying the dashed-off piece is going to be published and will I please sign this contract? Crack up so loudly and longly that my co-worker asks and I tell her the whole story.

Excitement crackling across the line when my friend tells me about her thesis and how the storm of it gathers inside her. I feel bad charging her but I am freelance now and my time is worth money. Must be worth money.

Scrolling through sent emails with no memory of all these pitches. Once, eight in a day.

Getting solicited to do an interview and write a few reviews. Realizing getting solicited to write could happen again. Feeling impostor syndrome for the first time in many years, then reminding myself that my website doesn't lie, I did write all those things. It's real.

Stefan Bucher. From here.

Piling all the galleys up and then re-sorting them, realizing okay, it's not so bad, I can do this. Holes in the calendar for June and July. Hmm.

Fixing things in my house. Mounting a shelf I've had in pieces since October. Hanging three-dimensional art with massive, rejected hooks (long story). Finally sorting out my closet (dresses on one side, cardigans on the other). Staring at my work shoes. Pitching two places with an essay about my work shoes. Changing the goddamn sheets. Six loads of laundry in four days. Box up the too-small pants. Break down the Leaning Tower of Amazon Boxes and put them in the recycling. Water the succulents. Clear the desk, throw away months-old mail, rip the perfumed pages out of old Vanity Fair issues I never wanted and recycle the rest. Out it all goes, everything I didn't need but had allowed to accumulate. Why did I let it go so far? How did I slip away, so distant from balance? Who has lived in me for the last six months? Is this her success, her backstroke toward freedom, or is it mine?

Feeling ready. My eyes different in the mirror. I am prepared to fail. Terror, bliss. Here I go.