The semi-finals are different than the final semi.

Good news: My short story collection, And When the Ghost Has Vanished, was a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’ The Hudson Prize. So that’s kind of a big deal.

The collection, which is comprised mostly of my MFA thesis stories, also includes “Must Believe in Ghost” which is being published by The Normal School in their fall issue. (You still have time to subscribe before it’s out!)

After a long slog of rejections (though, some very positive) it felt very nice to know I’m up to something good.

In the meantime, I’m going back to teaching composition (and joining the “long line” toward teaching creative writing courses) and expanding my book design work into independent and literary presses.

Support Outlook Springs!

Our first reading period has officially closed and we’re nearing our final line-up for our first issue, which we’ll be announcing soon. In preparation for this momentous event, we’re fundraising to supplement our costs—printing, website, Submittable, paying writers!

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Skip the lines and pre-order the first issue!

Our mission is simple: we want to publish the best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction from all nooks and crannies of Space/Time. Readers and writers alike will shape the mythology and history of the town by voting in town elections, writing news stories, submitting patents for various inter-dimensional inventions, et cetera.

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The perks are perky!

One of the perks of our Indiegogo Campaign is as simple as pre-ordering the inaugural issue.

There’s a ton of other stuff: stickers, t-shirts, movie posters from Outlook Springs-only films, like Moon Tuba. There’s a special Mystery Box from our Mayor, Judy Hernandez, who is in no way a cat. You can also buy a crooked politician or a local business.

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Be the most fashion-forward of your lit clique!

Right now, we’re running a raffle to win a FREE Fashion Fish T-shirt or a Buried in Books T-shirt: find us on Facebook and share this post for a chance to win. (No purchase necessary! Valid in all contiguous dimensions!)

Help us get this amazing wordwork out into the multiverse. Support an emerging literary magazine. Never mix bleach with ammonia. Vote early, vote often. Eat kale. Let literature plug the leak in your sad, corrupt, mortal heart.

When Losing Is Winning

I did not win the 2014 Missouri Review’s Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. Nope. Lost! DID NOT WIN. But I was so excited about the results I told everyone, jumped around (figuratively), and had such a goddamn big smile on my face, that four more rejections that week did little to scuff my shine because I was a semifinalist. Which means I was in the top 25, that elite 1% of stories that made it to the final rounds. Holy hell.

Early in your writing career, the reward system of your brain gets rewired. We face so much rejection that even the tiniest wins seem monstrous achievements. We might break our legs over and over trying to ascend Everest and almost die of exposure, but you should see us dance when we actually step up a curb without falling on our asses.

We check RejectionWiki for the slightest chance that we got a higher-tier form rejection letter, something our published advisors have said is like trying to read fortunes in tea leaves. We brag to our fellow writers about that Raiders of the Lost Ark golden idol of a personal rejection—sure we lost to some pompous prick and were almost killed by Amazonians, but by golly, someone fucking noticed us.

So sure, I lost the contest and had stories rejected almost 40 times last year, but this time, this time, that Pavlovian response of dopamine is mine and I’m going to savor that son of a bitch.

Rejectionland

A story was rejected yesterday. I’ve had three or four rejections in the last few weeks. I haven’t been submitting long, and I know this is par for the course, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

A bunch of my cohort had dinner with the well-known writer who came for the writer’s series of readings. He gave us a lot of advice about starting out and advised that we shouldn’t even worry about submitting right now, that we’re not ready, that we should be first and foremost honing our craft. He even suggested that we take some time after we finish our MFA before we really get serious, to let those lessons settle in and find your center as a writer. I don’t think that advice is for me. And after one semester, there’s a tiny part of me that’s worrying that this MFA isn’t going to teach me much I don’t already know.

At the end of last spring, I was riding pretty high. I had been accepted into half of the MFA programs I applied to, my senior thesis, a short story collection, won two $1000 awards—the department’s fiction thesis prize and an excellence award. I finished off the semester with two of the strongest stories I’d ever written and things looked good.

But now, it’s almost the end of my first semester of grad school, I’ve had nothing but rejections (though one story was a semi-finalist in a contest) and the last story I wrote is probably the weakest story I’ve ever written, and I’m fearing that I won’t get much out of the MFA. I’m feeling pretty low at the moment and could really use a win. You listening, Universe?

On the other hand, I know that the quality of work tends to dip at the start of an MFA because of the soul-shifting that results from a new place, new people, new methods, new influences, and new pressures. I know that eight bazillion publishers rejected J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss and everyone who’s crazy famous now. I know all these things, but those things are no bandage on the little wound of they-don’t-like-me-I-suck festering on my heart.