Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Adventures in Rejection: When Literary Magazines Die

In this wild world, where large publishing houses are closing or consolidating and small presses face huge hurdles to keeping their doors open, it should come as no surprise that literary magazines often fail. 

And yet, somehow, that feels like the worst rejection of them all.

It's one thing to see an individual poem turned down for publication. But when an entire lit mag tanks for whatever reason--lack of funding, low readership, the demands of the editor's day job--it hurts me. Even when an outlet has declined to disseminate my work, I like to see them succeed, because it means that other writers are getting exposure and that other readers are discovering new pieces that move them. If a lit mag shuts down, those opportunities are negated for everyone involved.

Is this because of a lack of interest from the larger public? Because no one has surplus funds to donate? Because the editors are being crushed at their other workplace (let's be honest: most people are doing this as a passion project, a side gig that is often thankless)? I can't say. What I do know is that it makes the literary world a less diverse place, and that is never a positive thing.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Updates, Links, Et Cetera

- Remember awhile back when I discussed the limits of nostalgia and how throwback fever is affecting current television shows? Turns out that Nathan Fillion, star of the much-beloved, much-mourned Firefly, is totally on board with me. Bless.

- There are plenty of fall offerings for adult arts programs at Interlochen, so check them out!

- Last month, the MacArthur fellowships for 2016 were announced. There are tons of cool people on the list, including Gene Luen Yang, author of  American Born Chinese, which is an excellent graphic novel.

- Here is a list of finalists for the National Book Awards.

- Bob Dylan was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for literature!

- The Louisiana State Fair starts soon. Hit it up 27 October - 13 November.

- Leaving Kent State, written by Sabrina Fedel (a fellow graduate of Lesley University's MFA program!), will be available in November from Harvard Square Editions.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Who Are You

When I was in college, a classmate of mine turned to me, apropos of very little, and said, "You were a goth in high school, weren't you?"

I gotta tell you: in my head, I heard an actual record scratch. And then I turned to him and said, "What?"

Apparently I give off a certain vibe, because at least two more people have brought this up independently of each other over the years. There is also a popular idea floating around out there that I am the real-life version of Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory, possibly prompted by my fleeting resemblance to her in both looks and demeanor (I don't know; I've only seen like two episodes of the show). 

As a side note: when I was in the process of writing this post, my friend Melissa sent me a picture of Amy Farrah Fowler making a face because she has been in on this conversation since the first time someone compared me to that character:

And here is a picture of me:

Honestly, I don't see the resemblance.

At any rate, neither of these assumptions is correct, at least in my view. While it is true that I wear a great deal of black, I never did the pale skin/raccoon eyes thing, I wasn't a fan of Marilyn Manson with the exception of two or three tracks, and I wasn't part of the Hot Topic scene. To my knowledge, I've never undertaken a course of study in physics, nor do I havea doctorate. (It's just me and my lowly MFA over here. Wait, did I say lowly? I meant MOTHERFUCKING AWESOME.)

For the most part, I am just me: an amalgam of quirks and influences, personality traits and genetic materials. This is true of everyone else in this world, as well. Try as you might to label anyone, they will always find a way to subvert your expectations, whether it's the "goth" girl who has a soft spot for pop music or the "nerd" who appreciates sports as much as science. So don't go making judgments based on your interpretation of the evidence at hand. Just let people be who they are (unless they're jerks, in which case it's totally okay to gently recommend that they be less mean.)


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Your Adverbs Are Literally Killing Me

It would seem that I have not published a true writing post in some time, and I would like to address that deficiency! Here, you will find my opinions about the use of adverbs in fiction (and, I suppose, in poetry).

If you've taken a creative writing class at anything beyond the beginning level, you have heard that adverbs are bad for your writing. But why is that true? Another adage that writing instructors employ is that old one we all get sick of hearing: "Show, don't tell." By combining this with the directive to avoid adverbs, we have our answer.

Consider the following sentences:

1) She walked swiftly to the edge of the field, breathing heavily.

2) She jogged to the edge of the field, her breath coming in short bursts.

Which seems more informative to you? The one where the adverbs are doing the work, or the one where the verbs and adjectives take the reins? If you think the answer is the former, you may need to reconsider your affinity for adverbs.

You see, "walked swiftly" could mean a few different things: power-walking, a slow jog, a panicked shuffle, and so on. Jogging, on the other hand, indicates a specific type of movement. This is why precise verbs are more important than modifiers, which are often vague.

The same is true in the second half of the sentence, where "breathing heavily" may mean panting, gasping, or over-filling the lungs. Replacing this with "short bursts" clarifies the picture for the reader.

Next time you're writing, keep this in mind. It will help you weed out weaker spots and improve your sentences!