Archive for December, 2013

Things Other People Posted

I’m half pretending not to be part of Facebook anymore, but one reason I don’t want to totally be off of it is that many of my friends find and post blogs and articles I’d never see otherwise. Here are some links that might be of interest to writers. Possibly they will result in longer posts when it isn’t almost Christmas and I still have lime-cardamon buns and apricot cookies to bake.

The poet and writer Claudia Putnam, author of Wild Thing In Our Known World, posted an article from another writer on the role of privilege and connections in the struggle to be published. And today, Dec 26, I found another article Claudia posted written by the artist and writer, Molly Crabapple, whose take is similar but slightly different than the first one.

She also recently posted this little bit by author Chris Orcutt about responding to rejection, while another online friend, Mitch E. Parker, editor of Camera Obscura, posted what might be called the Duotrope of Rejection Letters. http://www.rejectionwiki.com/index.php?title=Literary_Journals_and_Rejections. It appears he actually posted this same link in the comments to the aforementioned blog. The Rejection Wiki contains the copy of various rejection letters sent out by numerous journals. It can be both interesting and somewhat informative to compare what you received against what is reported here.

Just this morning Nathan Bransford, past literary agent and current social media guru, posted about creative fatigue, something many of us may be facing as the new year steamrolls our way.

Any thoughts on any of these blogs/posts? I hope some of them provide you with something to mull over this holiday season.

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Secret Santa, Gift Card Rant

I’ve played Secret Santa at two work places. If you don’t know what Secret Santa is, it is an activity where you pick a recipient and secretly provide a small gift, usually each day the week, before the holiday. There normally is a spending limit. In years past, we had a very low dollar limit for all five gifts combined. We drew names early enough shopping wasn’t a hindrance. In anticipation of the following year, I usually picked up holiday related items at post-Christmas sales.

My current workplace has increased the dollar limit to $20, the time limit to NINE days–you pick at least four–and we fill out a preference sheet as our ticket to participating. We draw our recipient four days before we start. Granted, this gives us a weekend to shop, but with the preference sheet, it makes me feel pressured. What if I don’t want to, or can’t, shop that weekend? For me, the fun is getting a small gift daily as well as trying to sneak a gift to my person each day, but nine days is too many!.

What I most object to, though, is the preference sheet. Yes, it is nice to know that someone is allergic to nuts or hates dark chocolate since you always wonder, do they like purple or should I have gotten the yellow Santa? Okay, so some basic information is nice if your organization is large enough you don’t know everyone. But when the questions involve hobbies and what stores you prefer, I feel as if I’m being handed a checklist and if I don’t purchase at least one item on that list, I’m a bad Santa.

To me, this is similar to the proliferation of gift cards or money as requested presents. Sure, now that postage often costs more than the gift you want to mail, gift cards are a good alternative for those at a distance. Before gift cards were the preferred present, my sister’s mother-in-law sent gift certificates along with a catalog with ideas circled. No rule you had to purchase that exact thing, but if it happened to be a sweater, it was nice to pick blue over pink, or make sure you ordered a size that fit. This year I’m giving my nieces gift cards to a local restaurant. With gift cards it is possible to be creative, but with money I feel like I’m nothing but the bank. I want to say to my sisters, “Why don’t we add up all the gift-giving occasions, multiply by twenty-five  for each gift/person, subtract what you’d spend on me, and I’ll give you a check to cover the kids’ lives.”

I don’t believe Secret Santa gifts need to be practical;frivolous and silly serves the purpose. I also don’t believe most gifts need to conform to what you want or what you expect. The best gifts both reflect the giver and the recipient. How will you ever know you like something new and different if you aren’t given the chance to explore possibilities beyond your usual field of interest or knowledge? The very best Secret Santa gifts I received were from a Danish woman who made me paper ornaments and Danish cookies. I have those Danish stars hanging on my tree today, twenty years after I received them. I never would have written on my preference sheet, “White handmade paper stars,” but I love them and look forward to taking them out every year.

The group at the first workplace, a nursing home, was small enough we knew or could tease out likes and dislikes without resorting to a list. (The year the handyman selected my name and immediately cornered me to say, “So, you like to ride your bike?” I knew immediately he was my Santa.) My current organization, although not huge, is spread out and many of us seldom interact with others. Maybe I’m the only employee who feels closer to my Santa and recipient. I can point out which teddy bear was given to me by whom, which Santa tin was presented by another work friend. For me, Secret Santa provides a chance to make connections and have some fun.

I wanted to relate Secret Santa and writing in some way but when I attempt this, it gets convoluted and involved and better saved for other, more specific blogs.

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Sometimes Early Success Is Not Helpful

When I first started writing, I wrote poetry and was reasonably successful in finding a places to publish. Most were in small, independent “journals.” One appeared in a college journal, Kalliope, in the same issue as Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Kathleen Norris, and Kathleen Spivak. That was my biggest success. Eventually, I decided I wasn’t a very good poet and started writing and sending out short stories. I was asked for rewrites and usually received a comment or two, if only a scribbled, “Thanks. ” I took an upper level fiction writing class at Colorado State University during which I handed in two or three stories. This class was huge, maybe forty students, mostly kids in their early twenties. Four or five were slightly older. The professor, an odd, quiet man and published writer, called out two stories he considered possibly publishable, both belonging to older students. One of them, titled, Casanova With Fleas, was mine. His suggestion for me was to cut; the original was around 12,000 words. I cut it to  6,000 and eventually to between 4,000 and 4,500 words. Meanwhile, I wasn’t particularly happy in my job, especially when I learned the only other employee of the senior transportation program I worked for made significantly more money than I did. The director of the program wasn’t willing to increase my pay even though I basically ran everything but volunteer recruitment. I decided to quit and give myself a year to see where I could go with writing.As soon as I gave notice,  we flew back East for my husband’s 20th high school reunion. When we returned, I had an acceptance for Casanova and a check for $35 dollars from a start-up journal, Modern Short Stories. I never did like the name, nor its pulpy look, but they were trying to produce a popular journal to be sold in places like smoke shops and airports. The unfortunate timing, though, made it so I’d met my goal before I started, and I think I wasted a good part of my year, not seriously tackling the business of writing.

My writing group usually has a holiday dinner at my house or a special-event restaurant in place of one of our December meetings. This year we plan to release Flying wish-papers  as well as set our yearly and/or quarterly goals. The trick will be to write goals in such a way that success is achievable without undermining the desire to more completely fulfill each goal. Possibly those of us who are inherently lazy can overcome minor fulfillment of our goals by staggering goals or setting new short-term quarterly, or even monthly, goals.How do others handle setting goals, and has anyone else had the experience of prematurely meeting a goal and having your motivation self-implode?

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How Does a Literary Agent Target an Editor?

Here’s a post by the literary agent Linda Epstein on how she targets an editor. I’m exhausted just reading it!

How do you target an agent?

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