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Writer, Editor, Designer

Posts from the rejection Category

Humans & other beings: My story, “A History of Burning” is now available in the Summer 2018 issue of Midwestern Gothic. This is a dream pub for realsies. Much like my story, “Must Believe in Ghost” and its appearance in The Normal School, I could hardly imagine a more fitting place for this story than Midwestern Gothic.

fireboyheartlandThis is the story that won the 2015 Tom Williams Prize in Fiction at the end of my MFA. Judge Kevin Brockmeier admired this story for “its energy, its color, its empathy, and most of all, because nearly every sentence is perfectly tuned to its own intentions.” Despite rejecting it, GC Waldrep praised this story for its “bravura opening” and for “making a wily virtue of telling rather than showing.” Tom Payne said, “Its narrative voice gets me, sailing far above this darkest blue of blue collar worlds with a sharp, historical intelligence.”

For me, this story was written in a single weekend, mostly out of a writer’s block of frustration. It’s also one of the most autobiographical of my stories. About 80% of what’s in this story are true events filtered through the lives of the characters on the page.

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Shadow CV: This story was rejected 38 times before it found its home.

This summer I’ll have at least two new publications out: My story of high-octane American childhood grief, “A History of Burning” will be published by Midwestern Gothic and “The Bangor Crows”, a tale of a woman overwhelmed by depression and the mystery of the chthonic evil that inhabits the town that Stephen King calls home, in Longleaf Review.

I’ve only just finished grading for the semester, a taking a quick jaunt to Wisconsin for my dad’s 60th birthday, then returning home to write a goddamned novel if it kills me.

It’s been two years of depression and writer’s block and it’s time to get busy writing. I’ve found ways to keep engaged: teaching writing and editing for Outlook Springs, but I’ve hardly written anything, paralyzed by the gap between how great I felt finishing up my MFA and the harsh reality afterward of my blank screen with the monsters of what-is-art-for-especially-in-the-face-of-advancing-fascism chanting, chanting, chanting, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” and shutting down all avenues of escape.

Creating characters, a whole world, is like getting into a new relationship: you have to be ready for the deep dive, to learn another person completely. But since the end of my MFA and the aftermath of the election, I have this bandwidth problem, this lack of signal, this literary attention-deficit disorder where I can’t pay enough attention to do the deep dive, to put in the time and attention of making people. There’s enough horror in the world; why should I torture fictional people too?

And suddenly, I am inspired to write a story where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

 

 

The cycle of submission and rejection continues. Which I’ve acclimated to, for the most part. The rejection never gets easier, but some rejections are easier than others.

For instance, I got a really nice and encouraging rejection from ZYZZYVA which absolutely made my day. Cloud 9. (A phrase which incidentally comes from the 1895 International Cloud-Atlas in which, of the ten cloud types, cloud No. 9, cumulonimbus, was the biggest, puffiest, most comfortable-looking.)

On the other hand, there are other rejections which make me want to blow raspberries of confetti from my mouth and throw up my hands in mock-surrender.

I had a story rejected from a journal for being eighteen words over their guidelines which, sure, I understand, even if that seems incredibly anal. But they also have a one submission every six months rule, which meant I couldn’t even resubmit it eighteen words shorter.

Another rejection came 196 days after submission where they said they’d recently made the decision to limit all prose submissions to 1000 words. That decision was made over three months ago. So for the first 100 days there was a chance, but for the almost next 100, was basically eh, no hurry.

And I get it. New writers must seem like zombie hordes to lit journals. Hundreds to thousands of drooling, groaning, gross corpses slobbering at your door and all you want is to let in the few remaining, good, living humans into your fortified compound.

On the bright side, with a single publication, my acceptance rate is “higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets.” Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 11.05.43 AMWhich means that either I’m doing better or am just luckier than most of these writers or the people getting published in these markets don’t use Duotrope to track their submissions. My bet is on the latter.

So ends my dispatch from the trenches. I’ve got twenty submissions out, seven stories in contests, and a nice clean suit and a confident strut so no one can mistake me for a zombie craving the brains of slush pile readers and fiction editors.