February 3, 2005


So I finished a story and sent it out to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, and Open City. I also submitted 30 pages of "North of Sunset" to a few small literary presses. I thought I’d start with some longshots for the story because it could potentially launch my career. It would be like winning the lottery. Sending out work makes me feel better: at least I’m trying, there’s always hope.

The NYer doesn’t allow simultaneous submissions which seems unfair. The likelihood of them publishing anything by me is remote, so I’ve got to wait around six months for a rejection letter while the story remains stagnant. Don’t tell anyone, but I submitted it to other places as well.

I haven’t written too many stories in my life. This one may be my favorite. I’ve always been more interested in writing novels. If I invent characters, I want to stay with them for a while. I become attached. I’m more interested in the scope of the novel. A good story can have the scope of the novel, but still a novel is less confined. I also think I might not be a good enough writer to write good short stories. It’s seemed strange to me that student writers are always taught to start with stories. To me, it’s harder to be that concise--I’d rather lay it all out, go in different directions. I’ve thought that I’d write stories later in life, which is backwards.

The advice I give to anyone who asks me about writing: keep going and don’t read it. You can only learn to write by writing. People have told me that they’ve stopped halfway because they were unhappy with it. If it’s not genius right away, they give up. It can make you feel like shit to read what you’ve written. I’ve read interviews with a lot of writers who say that their first drafts are horrible--unless you’re Jack Kerouac who was against revision. Spontaneous bop prosody and all. Bob Dylan also didn’t like rerecording anything. But Raymond Carver did forty revisions or more on a story. Not revising is insane to me. But I don’t revise until the thing’s basically done. If not, I’d rewrite the same page over and over again. I can be a perfectionist--which is tedious, like reading the same novel 100 times in a row, and doesn’t lead to perfection. Someone said somewhere, "Art is not finished, it’s abandoned."

I also don’t read a lot of short fiction. So I have a limited knowledge of the thousands of small lit magazines. If any of you know of good places to send the story, I’d be grateful for the help: Small magazines that I’d have a chance with and publish darker fiction--not brutally dark, just not calm.


Spiral Stairs said...

Congratulations on the send-out. I hope to send some stuff out myself in the next couple months. Thanks in no small part to your words of encouragement, I've enrolled in a writing class (which starts next week), and I've got one complete draft of a short story, though it's still pretty drafty. (I've taken a couple workshops before -- in fact, one of them was taught by Thomas Beller, one of the editors of Open City.)

I like your advice on writing very much. I have a very hard time not reading as I go; but you're absolutely right -- it vastly increases the chance that I will be deflated by my own apparent incompetence. It's an experience with which I'm too familiar.

My understanding is that virtually everyone ignores the obnoxious "simultaneous submission" rules. You can, however, get into a tough spot if someone else accepts, but you want to wait for the brass ring. I'm not sure what to do there except stall the other guy.

Once I'm ready to submit, I'm going to follow a tiered approach: (1) A batch to really good ones (although I think I won't waste postage on the NYer, Atlantic, or Harper's); (2) a batch to a second tier; and, if necessary, (3) a batch to everyone with a copy machine or a nearby Kinko's. The first tier is pretty easy to define; the problem is defining the second and third tiers. (I am assuming that you're working from the Writer's Market.) If you come up with a good classification, let me know.

Henry Baum said...

Actually, I’d be curious to hear about your 1st tier. My Writer’s Market is out of date. I know more about literary presses than literary magazines.

Spiral Stairs said...

I'll have to check when I get home, to remind myself. Ploughshares is definitely tier-one. I think "Story" is gone now. It certainly used to be tier-one. Others, offhand: Zoetrope; Glimmer Train; Triquarterly; Paris Review ...

I also think Zyzzyva (sp?) is supposed to be good, and it only publishes left-coasters, so that might work for you.

I'm not part of any MFA clique, and it's not like I actually read these things regularly. So I may be wrong, too. I just look in the Writer's Market, and see who has huge circulations and who has published authors I've heard of.

I'll see if I can suggest others when I have the book in my hands.

Henry Baum said...

Thanks a lot for that, Stairs. I’ve heard of most of those but I hadn’t thought about submitting there. Sometimes I think too big to a fault.

darling maggot said...

check my blogroll under the writing resources heading for a bunch of markets to submit to, henry. and screw the no simultaneous submissions rule. if writers had to follow it, we would make 1 or 2 submissions a year. it's silly.

Anonymous said...

wicked excellent.

sorry. maine in me.

good luck. let us know!

i want to read it!

Henry Baum said...

Thanks a hell of a lot. I’m making submissions to: Granta, Zoetrope, Zyzzyva, Triquarterly, Glimmer Train, The Paris Review, Night Train, and Underground Voices. Don’t know why I forgot the Paris Review.

Monkcraft said...

Have you heard of the International Directory of Small Presses (published by Dust Books). It is wonderful - has all the listings you need for a lifetime. It comes out every year and is listed on Amazon - and there is also a web site. Good luck in all that you do - James

domynoe said...

Dreaming In Ink has a Markets Category on their forum that's open to the public. It's small now, but growing, and also tries to keep updated on the markets posted.

I tend to sub to one zine at a time. Shorts will probably never make me a whole lot of money, so I'm not too worried about them being out at one market for awhile.

Ecks Ridgehead said...

Always nice to stumble across someone in the same boat as me. Good luck with your submissions!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried the Land-Grant College Review? It’s really pretty and has a wonderful story by Aimee Bender in the first issue. Not affiliated with any MFA clique either. www.lgcr.org

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