Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/17/19 - 2/23/19

I'm still kinda working myself to death a little bit on reviews. Everyone except my editors is trying to help me stop, with minimal success. There's a film essay I wanted to write this week, but I'm almost too nervous to start it, because I've only written reviews for so long. And because I'm so occupied with everything that has to get done before the end of March. (It's a lot.) My spreadsheets are still keeping me sane, but the different willingnesses of the spirit, flesh, and mind make productivity vary.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Edits on Revenge review
Gutter Prayer review
Edits on WW review
Tiny edit on Sissy review
Edits on Body Myth review

You Who Enter Here
This Never Happened
The Conviction of Cora Burns

JTL production

Prairie Schooner
Albuquerque Journal

Barrelhouse business

TWRP business
Kernpunkt contract (!!!!)
Promote Handbook review
Promote Gatsby's Child review
Best F(r)iends watch & notes
Seek help from everywhere on permissions thing (hours and hours of work)
Promote Western Wind review
Promote Ramadan interview
Felicelli interview
Promote Locus year in review

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Major Announcement!

Image result for good news everyone

My novella, Ceremonials, has been accepted for publication by Kernpunkt Press. I'm so happy it hurts. Since the project is tangled up with copyrighted material, it might have a different name when it comes out, but it's the same project. The editor at Kernpunkt has told me she's very enthusiastic about the book, so I have high hopes that we'll work it out.

I found out about this on Friday. As a rule, I'm very, very bad at keeping secrets, but watching promised projects go boom after I made a big deal of them in the past, and particularly the last 18 months of pitching/trying/failing/waiting, has made me better at saying nothing until the news is more secure.

The book is due out in 2020. I have 784 ideas about how to promote it, including an LA bookstore tour, an email blast to everyone I've ever reviewed for, and hooking up with a unique book club to get it in tens of thousands of hands.

Because I can't resist making this news into advice: I started work on this project in 2013. That's six years ago. I finished it in early 2016, a span which includes some long breaks due to mental health; writing time was probably a few months, all told. I spent the following three years researching, querying, and submitting to presses. The project is extremely short to be a standalone book, so that limited the presses I could find who would even be interested, and it meant I could not go through an agent. (I tried one, and his email back indicated he saw the word count and didn't even read the rest of the query, which included info about the significant built-in audience.) Some of the presses who read it said it was beautiful but wrong for them. Others sent me form rejections.

It takes a long time, y'all.

Some of the reason is that my project is weird, short and lyrical, rather than a normal novel or memoir or whatever. But mostly it just takes a long time. My friend Marissa has a beautiful, finished, easily publishable memoir that she's been querying for I don't even remember how long now, two years maybe, and it's stupid and criminal that it took until last month for her to find an agent. It takes a long time. 

I have lesser news about other things, but I'm going to let this post stand alone. Can't wait to know more, and tell you more. I've wanted to hold in my hands a book I wrote since I was in elementary school, and I don't really believe it, but that's going to happen. Next year.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/10/19 - 2/16/19

I successfully got up early every day this week, which means I got a lot done. Lots of good stuff went on, too - I spoke at a writer's group with decent success, I got good early feedback on a review I was scared to turn in, and I got an acceptance at a super duper outlet. Plus, on Friday, I got news so good I haven't really been able to believe it yet, and which I've got to keep private for a little while longer.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Mother Winter review
Handbook review
Sissy review
Denslow review

Not Everyone Is Special
The Gutter Prayer
The Bird King
Getting Off

Southwest (rejected)
Woolfer (rejected)
Room (rejected)
YWEH to two NM pubs
NPR (accepted!!!!!)
Paris Review
Caroline (agent)

Prairie Schooner
Bitch (answered/assignment)
S&S publicist
Books I Hate folks (4)

Barrelhouse business
Locus business
Galley request - Inanna (replied)
WRB assignment (yay!)

[secret thing]
Submit "4 to 6"
Critical Notes submission
Promote Surge review
Promote Mother Winter review
Pleiades contract
Finish Ramadan interview
Promote Öræfi review
Attend reading
Speak at writers' group

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 2/3/19 - 2/9/19

Looking at this list, I feel like I didn't do much. I was stuck a lot this week - falling asleep repeatedly while reading a particular lengthy novel, playing phone games too much, etc. I also accomplished a pile of long-put-off personal-life things after my search for an ad hoc assistant turned up nothing. I basically lost a day doing all that, but it was still a relief to get it done.

Good news is that my review of The Collected Schizophrenias got a whole lot of attention. I think that's due to Esmé's followers, but it's still nice. And I am caught up to a reasonable point for February. And the year-in-review piece I wrote for Locus appeared in the paper magazine, with a messy but recentish picture of me. (This won't appear online, I don't think. Get the magazine: it's got not only a whole bunch of experts on the best genre fiction of the year, but a ton of statistics about books published and sold compared to prior years.)


Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

Western Wind review
Gatsby's Child review
RotT review
WDtFiYM review

The Trouble with Men 
Mother Winter


Slate (rejected)
Daily Beast (rejected)
Prairie Schooner
WSJ (responded)
Pleiades (accepted)

Locus business
Barrelhouse business
S&S publicists
TWRP business
WVU publicist

[secret thing]
Barrelhouse editing & selection
Private client answers
Deb follow-ups
WRB contract
Promote Wang review
Promote Abdurraqib review
Promote Tonic & Balm review

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Directing the Fire Hose

The biggest news in books this week is this piece about an editor and author, Dan Mallory. He is not as blatant a grifter as Anna March and not as absurd a plagiarizer as Ailey O'Toole, but he lied his face off for many years about his life and his hardships. In return, he attained bigger and bigger rewards from the ivory tower and the literary world. Eventually, he picked up a seven-figure advance for his novel and a big hunk of money for the screen rights.

Here's what pisses me off most about this article: Mallory got so many things that I myself want, audiences and editorships with people and publishers with whom I salivate to be involved, acceptance into fancy colleges that I never could have touched. He did it dishonestly, and that meant that he took on prestigious editing positions before he was 30. I'm doing it honestly and it's taking me yeeeears even to get a book published. I'm not capable of Mallory's dishonesty, so I must do it the slow way, and that annoys me in a desperate, hollow kind of way.

Talent plays a role, certainly. Mallory surely has talents as a writer and salesman that I do not, and I acknowledge that it's not an equal situation, where I definitely could've had a $2 million advance if I'd only lied once or twice. But I can't help thinking if he could pull off this shit, why can't I? 

I mean, the wages of this kind of dishonesty are eventually ruin and ridicule, and that isn't ideal. And I don't really want to be the person who got a big-deal editorship by lying my way into it. But it seems like he did genuinely good work as an editor (when he could be arsed). He needed a shortcut to get there, and he needed to lie a lot in order to not come into the office for months at a time (what the hell was he doing during all that time, by the way? GTA and cocaine?), but while there, it seems like he did strong work as a book promoter and editor. And he did come through with an actual book that seems like it sold enough to justify its gigantic advance, even if it might've been a tiiiiiiiny bit plagiarized. He needed the boost of lies to get where he wanted to be, but he seemed to succeed, mostly, once he was there.

What might a shortcut like that do for people who've done enough work to earn it but haven't gotten the breaks they needed? What makes Mallory think he deserves success enough to lie to get it? Who deserves easy success and who doesn't? I'm full of questions about this stupid guy, ballasted by irritation at the publishing industry for being this way, for giving monetary success to people who are good at marketing and midlist success to people who are good at writing.

Last night, someone with interested followers retweeted the Horse Latitudes piece, and it got a whole additional boost of attention and reshares and likes. Today, the author of a book I reviewed tweeted the piece to her significant following and hello, reshares and likes. Lately I'm writing about books and in publications that have momentum separate and apart from what I do in relationship to them. That means I have to do a lot less to make my name visible, which is nice, but weird, in terms of what I'm accustomed to.

About a year ago I decided to hustle whether I liked it or not, and that's what I've been doing, just putting my head down and hustling, even though I mostly hate it. Regular newsletters, regular blog posts, checking on pitches once a week, sharing every single review on FB and Twitter, handing out my business card to anyone who asks if I write, asking for advice about everything I don't know how to do, applying for all possible reviewing jobs, asking for masthead placement from editors I write for regularly, saying yes to weird opportunities that I don't know if I'm qualified for, emailing editors who've rejected me to say they might be interested in X piece that just went live, agreeing to review as many books as I can and worrying about time and placement later, hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling hustling.

I need to slow the pace of all this, or at least change the direction of the applied force. I never again want to be as overwhelmed as I was in January, and part of guaranteeing that is saying no instead of yes (more often and more firmly. An editor a couple of weeks ago interpreted my "I really don't think I can" as "yes!"). Part of leveraging the momentum I've given myself, and now, the momentum others are starting to give me, is directing the fire hose at my hybrid essays instead of my criticism. I never want to stop writing criticism, but I'm concerned that if I keep going with it as I have been, I won't be able to pivot toward the writing that matters to my guts. Nor will I have time (thanks, Chris).

As I wrote previously, my momentum has gotten me rewards I didn't foresee, and not (yet) the rewards I hoped for. I could've lied and said that I got an MFA from Columbia even though I got an MA at CSUN, and say that I used to slush for Conjunctions even though I used to slush for a miniature audio-stories outlet. With those lies I might've gotten further faster, with a lot less trouble and disappointment, and I might've been able to point the hose directly at the work that mattered most to me from the beginning. I could've proved myself once I was there.

But would I want something I had to lie to get?

Out in the world: 

I reviewed Esmé Weijun Wang's The Collected Schizophrenias, which I think is going to be a major book, for LARB.

I reviewed Tonic and Balm, a novel in stories by Stephanie Allen, for the Masters Review. It's out on Shade Mountain, one of my favorite presses, and it's about a nearly lost realm of entertainment: the medicine show.

This picture is completely unrelated to this post but it's hilarious and I need an image so. Click to embiggen if you don't see what's funny. In other news: I am an eighth-grade boy.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Weekly To-Do, 1/27/19 - 2/2/19

This week hopped and jumped like a Mark Twain frog. I did so much stuff! I got so much good news! I rolled in under the wire on some great opportunities, and I handled a few tasks I've been putting off for a good long while. My February workload looks okay so far, but I might just be looking at physical piles rather than considering the books I've loaded onto my e-reader. Ruh-roh.

Of course, part of February is going to be preparing for AWP in March. Please get in touch if you want to see me there; I'm actually starting to make lists of booths I want to stop by and people I want to meet in person. This sounds hideously self-important and I'm sorry. But it's the truth: if you want to meet up, let me know instead of relying on fortune.

Disclaimer: I'm including selected names of pubs and books because making this list would be ten times harder, and therefore not worth the effort, to anonymize them entirely. Any of the acceptances could fall through at any time. By naming them, I am not badmouthing the publications who rejected or didn't reply. This is data, not trash-talk or promotion.

S. Allen review
GAITR review
Davis paired review
The Body Myth review
Blog post

Revenge of the Translator
The Silk Road
The Body Myth

Ramadan interview to V1B (accepted)
Ramadan interview to Fanzine (withdrawn)
ASFM to Slate, Nation
Two books to Daily Beast
AGNI (answered)
Two titles to Prairie Schooner (accepted!)

WSJ (answered) (!)
Hyperallergic (rejected)
TWRP (answered)

Locus business
Barrelhouse business
Sophia & her publicist
Will @DV (enthusiasm!)
Cole @TMR
Chad @BWDR
Michelle D.

Promote Books I Hate
Promote Horse Latitudes piece
Assemble & send newsletter
Promote Thirty-Seven review
Apply to Mineral School (finally)
[secret thing]
Barrelhouse editing & selection
Put together materials for workshop
Interview questions for Ramadan, Baker