Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Writey Awards 2007

When conversing over email with a friend earlier this year, the subject of how my writing had been going came up. I tried to find an artful way of expressing both my frustration and my desire to keep mailing envelopes stuffed with stories to the four corners of the country and this is the best I could come up with.

Certain Buddhist sects practice what is called "spirit training." This practice can entail anything from picking up stray leaves off the temple grounds, dusting picture frames, or cleaning floors with hand-towels. The purpose of spirit training is to breakdown the ego with tasks for which their is no acclaim. Through doing work which one doesn't receive praise or encouragement it is hoped that the practitioner will lose his sense of self and be able to be more fully dedicate themselves to the spirit of what they hope to achieve in the future. My writing this year has been my own form of spirit training.

This year I have received thirty rejections, and no acceptances. The most troubling part of my struggle this year however has been the number of times I've received no response at all. I have one story which has been out for over a year, and another which has been out for two. A half dozen stories and essays have been mailed for ten months or more. Silence. Spirit training. I go to my basement to write each night and hope that in the morning good news will find me. I go on.

My year hasn't been completely devoid of success however. A story I placed years ago finally came out in print in an anthology from The Jesse Stuart Foundation. Two poems I sent out last winter are forthcoming in Main Street Rag. I've a gave a reading in Louisville, and had a college class use one of my stories as text. There have been reasons to continue.

I have made progress this year as well. My work, at least in my eyes, has gotten better. I'm close to finishing two books and they are much better realized than the earlier drafts I had completed in the past. And there is still the hope that something sent long ago will find a home.

But for now here are my Writey Awards for 2007:

Worst experience:

My experience after submitting to The Florida Review in December of last year.

Rejection is something that any serious writer becomes accustomed to and expects. Most any literary journal no matter what the size is flooded with submissions. To give you an idea when I was an M.F.A. student at Spalding University one of our responsibilities was to read submissions sent to The Louisville Review. In an upstairs room of a wonderful old stone building students like myself would find boxes stacked floor to ceiling that were filled with work waiting in numbered envelopes. We were asked to read at least five and rate them from one to five. By the end of the residency most of the work might have been reviewed, but there was always more stories, essays, and poems than student readers.

It takes time to get a response. Three months is a short time, six months is becoming the standard, but every work deserves a response. The Florida Review fell short in this regard. Not only did they not respond (which I can understand because work does get lost and my work has disappeared in the mail before), but they never answered any emails sent to check on the status of my story after six months. They also didn't answer the phone messages I left. In the end, it left a sore spot since I got the sense that they didn't care.

Best moment of 2007:

If I had to pick one moment I would say that it was the reading I did as part of The InKY Reading series. I read three short-short stories, two of which originally appeared in The Southeast Review, and had a wonderful time.

The Final Tally:

Rejections: 30
Acceptances: 0
Waiting for response: 19

Here's hoping that 08 brings more shining moments at the mailbox, and more fruitful hours spent night watching the type stream on late into the night.

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