Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Should We Wave the White Flag?

Years ago, after receiving a long stretch of rejections, I wondered if the time I'd invested in submitting my nonfiction pieces to magazines and anthologies could be better spent watching old British comedies and dramas on Netflix. After all, the latter gave me a lot of laughs, which I'd heard was good for my heart. The former rewarded me with insecurity and self-doubt.

To ensure that I'd be better off admitting I'd never be a successful writer, I surfed around the Internet, hoping to find some ammunition to reinforce this notion of spending my time more wisely. I lucked upon this piece by Chuck Wendig's blog, terribleminds. Warning: do not click on this link if you are offended by four letter words or hilarity:

For my timid friends, here's Chuck's reasons, sans the hilarity:

  • You'd much rather talk about writing than do actual writing.
  • You spent your time doing everything but putting words on paper.
  • Your production levels are "poop noise"
  • That teetering tower of rejections threaten to crush you and your cats.
  • You got the wrong idea about writing.

If you've braved clicking on the link, you'll see that Chuck concludes with some tautological advice:
"Writing is about writing." Of course, getting published is yet another matter. So periodically I surf around looking for new venues where I can submit nonfiction. The other day I found these guidelines. I am not making this up. We (name of publication) seek nonfiction that takes pleasure in confusing boundaries, but also takes responsibility for constructing them. We appreciate nonfiction that refrains from pulling us along for a direct purpose, but rather suspends us in moments of both utter disbelief, and the etching out of how we come to believe; when the associative meanders a territory of meaning, rather than simply wanders without specific purpose.

After staring in awe at these words for five minutes, I requested comment from several writer friends, mostly contribuors and cocreators for the Not Your Mother's Book anthology series. 
Maybe I wanted reassurance that I wasn't alone in my bewilderment. To protect the guilty publication, I abbreviated its name as XXX.

Pamela Frost, co-creator of the upcoming Not Your Mother's Book…On Sex:
Okay.....????? Is XXX the name of the publication or did you change it to protect their identity? Sounds over my head. I get the confusing boundaries...I get being suspended in utter disbelief... BUT...WTF...when the associative meanders a territory of meaning????  Who is this publication?  Science fiction? Erotica?  Let there be joy in your life

Erika Hoffman: anthology contributor and novelist: LOL!  Sounds like a college kid who has been bullshitting his way through humanities courses. I think I’d rather attempt to decipher Greek, and I don’t know a word of it!  Well, maybe “gyro” so I guess I understand Greek better than I do that passage below! 

Pat Nelson, Co-creator of Not Your Mother's Book . . . On Being a Parent and On Working for a Living: What?! I am suspended in a moment of utter disbelief.

Stacey Gustafson, contributor to NYMB and author, Are You Kidding Me?  I am not sure if you are completely serious. When I read the submission requirements, this was my reaction. I submit to numerous anthologies, magazine and website each year. Usually the submission requirements are straightforward like, "We want real-life stories written by individuals 18 years and older, tailored for a mature-audience readership; stories may contain language and situations akin to a PG-13 or TV-14 rating.While we’re looking for stories about the side of motherhood most of us have experienced or seen first hand, we would love to read stories about the side that most of us don’t talk about because it’s too embarrassing or silly! No need to explain: you know what we’re talking about. Now write about it!" (NYMB). When I discovered XXX was seeking submissions, I read the requirements and fell into a coma after the phrase "in confusing boundaries." WTH? Enough! If I can't understand the requirements, I shall pass. 

And a concluding thoughtful and writerly response from Ruth Parks Andrew, Spokane novelist, who clearly is not prepared to surrender:

The info for this literary journal reminds me of college kids in their twenties or thirties, sitting in coffee shops debating Sartre and the meaning of  life and reinventing their own boundaries, before  the eventual gut kicks that we all get as life creeps up on us at one time or another.  It’s a joke that we ‘never get out of this life alive’ and I think it’s also a joke, from the dark side, that ‘we never get out of this life without the gut kicks, either.’ And when those gut kicks do descend up on us, we tend to rethink things like …boundaries, don’t we?
As for being suspended in moments of utter disbelief or the etching out of how we come to believe (whatever we end up believing) … well, I now live my life with a few well-thought-out boundaries firmly in place and would not have it otherwise. Like ready-to-serve Jello, I’m set!
I can leave the debating and wondering and figuring out of life to others and to long hours with friends in coffee shops debating the literary journals they read. I’ve read my share, finished my MFA, with a minor in Philosophy, so spent my share in this atmosphere long ago, but no longer have any desire to swim in that particular pool. To me it’s like standing on a warm beach, loving the feeling of hot sand between your toes, wondering if you’ve been out in the sun too long, just before a big wave slaps you senseless.
Of course writing this make me feel tainted by life and narrow-minded, but I guess it’s because I have been there, debated the different boundaries and philosophies and whys and why-nots of life, and am now pretty well satisfied with my boundaries, philosophies and habits.  No more need to debate and discuss. No need for confusing boundaries here for me, and I don’t want to write about them, either.
I can understand and appreciate these points of view. It’s always good for those with literary minds to question life before fully being into it. But when a journal asks for non-fiction that  meanders a territory of meaning, rather than simply wandering without specific purpose, like you, Terri, I’d ask, “What???”  Confusing boundaries? Meandering territories of meaning? Rather than wandering without specific purpose? To me the operative words here are meaning and/or purpose. And the bottom line is … confusing!
The funny thing to me is that this confusing statement has us debating the ‘pleasure’ in the confusing words used. I think at the very least that is worth another glass of full-bodied red wine or two, don’t you?  Maybe even three! Wish you were here.  We could have a good long chat.
This is not necessarily for any publication, but if you find something that tickles your fancy, by all means use it. Would love to hear what else you hear about this, and just how far off the mark I really am.  I guess I don’t really care any more how far off the mark I really am.  That tells you a lot more about my boundaries, doesn’t it?  Just pull another cork for me, dear friend.

My conclusion: I may surrender when it comes to trying to decipher submission requirements for literary journals, but I'll daily renew my New Year's vow....come here for a hug, old friends who responded, and my dear new friend, FICTION.

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha. I enjoyed this. My first thought was what Erica said. Some kid working on an MFA trying way too hard to sound big shot.