Month: July 2015

Story acceptance

Here’s a tale about the weirdness of publishing.

I had five stories accepted for publication this year so far.  Three of them I had spent effort on and liked, but I knew they weren’t anything brilliant.  I placed them in journals I was happy with after the usual amount of effort.

One of these stories I had actually written years ago, back in senior year of college when I was first attempting to write seriously.  The original draft of the story was long and laborious.  I abandoned it after I used it as my writing sample for a workshop application and was promptly rejected.  This spring, I was going through old stuff and found this story and thought it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  I spent two days cutting its word count in half and replacing some of the truly awful dialogue (dialogue has always been a weakness of mine, and still is).  I figured I’d submit it just because, but wasn’t expecting anything.  It was accepted within weeks, to the first place I sent it, a journal that had been rejecting me for quite some time.

The last story is my favorite story I have yet written.  It went through about nine intensive revisions last spring.  I initially submitted it to all the top journals, getting many positive, personal responses but no acceptances.  I have been submitting it for over a year now, to 129 journals in total.  It was finally accepted by Jelly Bucket today.

It’s been hard to have my favorite story rejected so much, while lesser stories were accepted more quickly.  I think part of the reason is the story is about depression, and people who haven’t experienced it just don’t get it.  The most common critique was that people wondered why the main character is so unhappy.  I didn’t want there to be a reason because that’s what depression is; there isn’t one specific reason to be unhappy.  Giving my protagonist a reason would validate all of those cheerful types who think you can choose your mood.

Anyways, I think the story’s darkness perhaps prevented it from getting accepted at many journals where it was in the final rounds.  So thank you, thank you, thank you Jelly Bucket for giving a home to my favorite story!  I am so deeply grateful that “An Inquiry Into the Nature of Happiness” will finally appear in print.

Some Favorite Contemporary Writers

Allegra Goodman

cookbookAllegra Goodman’s novels are pristinely written.  They deal with interesting, relevant topics that other literary writers ignore.  For instance, Intuition deals with scientific fraud, and The Cookbook Collector is about computer start-ups, among other things.  Goodman handles her characters with a kindness that is rare in literary fiction, and actually uplifting to read.  It gives one hope that such an intelligent writer sees reason to be optimistic about human beings.

Richard Powers

galateaThis is another writer whose work acknowledges the social consequences of scientific and technological innovations.  Examples include Generosity: An Enhancement, about genetics and the genetic predisposition to happiness, and Galatea 2.2, about teaching a computer to read.  Generosity is the only literary novel I know of that addresses germ-line editing, which is almost within our capabilities.  Powers does write in a rather dark vein, meditating on threats to humanity such as environmental destruction and nuclear bombs.  But I appreciate that Powers dares to be intellectual, original, and relevant.

M.T. Anderson

TFeedhis is one of the most versatile, creative writers I’ve come across.  His novel Feed is an insightful, relevant, terrifying dystopia.  It follows teenagers who have internet chips implanted in their brains, which they use to chat, watch TV, and order a constant stream of clothes and other products.  A major theme of the book is how eager we are to look away from relevant problems, even as we’re destroying the planet and even ourselves.  It deals with materialism, environmental degradation, and addiction to the internet.  Anderson is also publishing a non-fiction book on Shostakovich this fall, which is exciting for fans of classical music like myself.

Megan Abbott

Abbott dare mewrites beautiful, suspenseful novels about dark things: murders, kidnappings, plagues.  It’s good that the books are short, because you will want to read them in one sitting.  Not only this, but her prose is poetic and memorable, some of the best in contemporary fiction.  My favorite novels of hers are Dare Me (cheerleaders gone bad) and The End of Everything (kidnapping, among other crimes).


Rebecca Lee

bobcatRebecca Lee’s story collection Bobcat is literary perfection.  She writes quiet, observant prose that occasionally lifts into a surprising and beautiful metaphor.  Her observations about characters are wonderfully striking.  I’m currently reading her novel The City is a Rising Tide.