Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Creative Writing Whammy Double

The rhythms of academic life have kept me from my blog for most of November (and December doesn't look much better). Ah, to be a Scan-tron feeder and not one of those poor souls who must read hundreds of papers per term. . . . But I digress.

There's really no news on the writing front, or at least no positive news. I've been shopping around some science fiction stories--almost all my work, I find, has a fantasy/sci-fi edge to it, so I figured why not go all the way?--but so far, no bites. This is not surprising; many of these markets receive 500 story submissions per month, and they reject the vast majority of works submitted. (Some of them also have incredibly fast turn-around times, between 1 and 3 days. Some even provide links so you can chart the progress of your story online--or at least, watch it moving up in the queue and then, once it reaches the #1 spot, wait anxiously for the decision that, in the case of rejections, arrives seemingly within minutes.) If anything comes of this quest to break into a new market, I'll let you know.

The other thing that's happened in the past week is that an old essay, one I submitted to various markets nearly a year ago, was accepted by one of those markets--but, alas, it had already been accepted by another one six months ago! For those new to the game, the way it works is that some markets permit simultaneous submissions; that is, they don't mind if you submit your works for consideration to multiple markets at the same time. This used to be taboo--editors didn't like spending time on a story or essay only to find that it had been accepted elsewhere--but given the lengthy turn-around time in many markets, increasing numbers of them have come to recognize that it's simply not fair to force a writer to wait for an exclusive decision that might not come for a year or more. (Academic markets, alas, haven't gotten the news, and they not only demand exclusive viewing rights but move at a snail's pace--which is why much scholarship is out-of-date the moment it hits the shelves.) The proper procedure, for those markets that do accept simultaneous submissions (not all of them do), is to indicate up front that you're submitting a work simultaneously, and, if it's accepted by one of the markets to which you've sent it, immediately notify all the others. That's exactly what I did in this case, but the second market must have missed my note, and so they thought the essay was still up for grabs.

Obviously not a perfect system, but what can you do?

Since I've talked about science fiction in this post and since I don't want to end without offering something substantial, here's a link to my story "Snooping," which appeared earlier this year as the lead story in the first issue of the speculative fiction journal The Squirrel Cage. It's the science-fictioniest thing I've published so far.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Creative Writing Double Whammy

Today I've got two exciting developments to announce in my writing career. First, one of my creative nonfiction essays, "Positioning," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This is quite a thrill for me; the Pushcart Prize is one of the top awards for fiction, poetry, and essays published in small presses. Thus, though only a fraction of the nominees make it into the annual Pushcart anthology, it's a real honor to be nominated.

Second, a new story of mine, "Little Sister," has been published by the online journal wtf pwm. This story developed slowly, over a year or more, but it came to me (I kid you not) in a dream. When I woke up I couldn't recover the specifics; I was left, mostly, with a scenario (older sister at younger sister's funeral), a narrative strategy (first-person narrator referring to an unnamed "you" speaker), and a feeling or tone (smothering, consuming guilt). It took me a long time to work out how (or why) these fragments fit together, what they meant, what details could be created and crafted to sustain them. But as a rule, I don't disdain the power of dreams in concocting fiction. Though academic writing, in my experience, comes from one place only--reading and research--fiction comes from everywhere: an encounter, a road sign, a memory, a meal, an embarrasment, a dream. I guess that's one reason I've come to prefer fiction: it comes from my whole life, not just a narrow and rarefied slice of it. And presumably, this is why fiction speaks to more people too.