• Sometimes I Just Loathe Writers: Part I

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Rants & Raves     Comments 6 comments

    Sometimes I just loathe writers.

    If you’re visiting our blog, odds are that you’re a writer yourself. I don’t mean to imply that I sometimes loathe you specifically. I don’t. We’ve had some lovely times together. Plus, I’m a writer myself, and a cheerleader for writers.

    (And yes, I sometimes often always extra-always do loathe my writer self–but that’s a topic for a different blog post. Or for my shrink.)

    (And yes, I am an actual cheerleader for writers. The pom-pons, the white tennies, shaved legs, my hair in a bow–but that’s a topic for my shrink only.)

    But if you ask my editor self, he’ll tell you that it often seems like writers are out to ruin his life. This series of posts is about two of them in particular. They know who they are.

    As Fiction Editor at Fringe Magazine, I have to deal with a lot of bad slush. “Slush,” for those who may not know, is the term for all of the unsolicited writing that people send to a literary magazine (or an agent, or a publisher, etc.). About 98% of the submissions I get are for the “slush pile.” Thankfully I have a wonderful staff of three readers and an Editorial Assistant who do the lion’s share of that kind of reading. If a story isn’t a right fit for Fringe, I’ll never have to see it.

    But this past summer, I struck a bit of gold: two stories that were not only publishable, but flat-out good. Stories I wish I had written myself. At 5,000+ words each, they were edging toward the overlong, but they were so good that I took steps to snatch them up immediately and include them in what would surely prove to be the best Fringe issue ever. I even managed to find a short short (<1,000 words) that was the perfect complement.

    So I wrote to all three authors and accepted their pieces with (my own brand of reserved) glee. I reread each story several times, made some notes, worked on the contracts—all the little things that go into publishing a story. But what I mostly did was bask in what I knew was my future glory. In other words, fantasizing about cruising the Internet and finding comments like, “Have you read the fiction recently in Fringe? Damn, that new editor really has a good eye. Let’s send him a lot of money.”

    Ah, delusions of grandeur.

    The writer of the short short got back to me right away, and was happy to have her work accepted. It was over a week, though, before either of the other two writers responded. The first—we’ll call her “Bane” (it was supposed to be “Jane,” but my fingers slipped. Honest)—replied with the following (paraphrased): “David, that’s very exciting! I’d love to accept, but let me check with my agent first.”

    And therein lies the first moral of the story: If you’re not 100% sure you want your work to appear in a publication, don’t send your work to that publication.

    Many writers will spread their submissions around so that they cover three main areas: the likelies, the maybes, and the shoot-for-the-stars(ies). And it is a good approach. Send your work to one or two spots you think are likely to accept it, send it to a few places in which you have a middling amount of confidence, and then send it to one or two venues you think are over your head.

    But don’t send it anywhere unless you’re prepared to accept the first offer that comes your way.

    Still, annoying as it was, Bane had caused only a minor hiccup. I mean really, what agent is going to say to a writer, “No. Let us not advance your career, Bane. Do not allow your story to be published”? Right? I wasn’t worried.

    What I was worried about was writer #2. We’ll call him “Dick.” (Partly because it matches with “Jane/Bane.”) Two weeks had gone by, and Dick still hadn’t gotten back to me. So I wrote again to Dick: “Hello, Dick. Just checking in … I still want to accept your story, Dick … get back to me, Dick … et cetera, Dick.”

    My copyediting deadline was approaching rapidly, and I still didn’t officially have either story. I nudged Bane again, and continued to wonder what had happened to Dick. In the meantime, the author of the short short signed her contract, sent her bio and photo, and willingly worked with me on edits. In other words, she was an editor’s idea of the perfect writer.

    Finally, several weeks after I wrote to accept their pieces, Dick and Bane both responded. My delusions of grandeur dissipated in the weirdest of ways. Then sprouted again. Then dissipated once and for all.

    Tune in next week for Part II: “See Bane Run; Run, Bane, Run. See Dick Dick; Dick, Dick, Dick.”

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