Finding the Perfect Gift

Plus September 2019 Round-Up

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for a 241-year-old book. 

There was a time when I hated Anna Karenina. Yes, the same novel that is considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—of all time. 

Back in 2009, I listened to an audio version of the Constance Garnett translation, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. Up until the end of part 7, there was definitely more to like than dislike. And even though it seemed as if Anna was a supporting character in her own story, Tolstoy still managed to make her sparkle despite all her flaws.

After she dies, however, the story continues for quite a while after (if I remember correctly, there were almost two full discs left before the end). Even though she was not the only main character in the novel, I felt so invested in her story that there was no point in going on.

Not to say that the other MC, Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin, was not interesting. He was. But his story drags on long after Tolstoy makes his point.

Eventually, I gave Anna another chance in 2015, when I read a new translation of the novel. While I appreciated it more the second time, I still was not crazy about that last part. After reading over 700 pages about Anna’s and Levin’s spiritual and moral paths, I didn’t get that big payoff. 

A great ending should be like a reward to a reader, a thank you gift for sticking with a story or poem.

My problem lately has been trying to find the right gift for you, dear reader.  

As I mentioned in last month’s blog post, the new story I’m currently working on is longer than what I’ve done in the past (it’s currently around 7,600 words), so the reward for this one has to be greater. 

In general, a good ending should not only resolve the conflict built up over the course of the story, but it should surprise readers, too. And by “surprise,” I don’t mean telling them it was all a dream or saying the butler did it. You have to surprise in a way that fits with the logic of the overall story. If the main character turned out to be the killer all the time, you have to (as Nabokov once said) leave little “plums” for readers to find. (For the record, there’s no killer in my story.)

I’ll be honest: Trying to come up with a resolution that also surprises have never come easy to me. I have at least a couple of stories stuck in the purgatory known as Google Docs because the beginnings and middles are good but the endings don’t deliver that thank you gift. For this new story, I’ve been struggling to find the right ending, but I think I’m finally getting close. At this point, it may be a matter of making a few tweaks, but we’ll see. 

Regardless, I’m determined to get this story right. After all, when a whole story is great, the reader is not the only one who gets rewarded, but the writer does, too—with a publication. 

Submissions

I only managed to send out two submissions in September. I received one form rejection last month, but I’m still waiting for several markets to respond to works I submitted during the summer. Two of the journals just closed their submission windows, so I’m sure I’ll be hearing from them soon.

How was your September? Please let me know in the comments.

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August 2019 Round-Up

It’s been a while since I’ve written an actual blog post. In fact, other than announcing published works and updating some of the pages, I’ve neglected this blog over the last couple of years. Since it will probably be some time before my next publication, I decided to try something new with this blog: a monthly summary of my writing activities. 

 

Writing

I started my latest short story in late July, and I’m currently working on the second draft. At the moment, it’s a little over 8,900 words, but I’m hoping with a few more rounds of edits, I can get it between 7,500 and 8,000. Considering that over the last few years, I’ve written mostly poems and flash fiction under 1,000 words, this new story is rather long for me. I don’t want to give too much away, especially since I’m still working on it, but this project is both a “return to roots” and a personal challenge, as I tackle a subject I’ve never written about before.

Because of the length and the subject, it will probably be a while before I’m ready to send this story out to the world, but that’s okay. One thing I’ve learned as a writer is that it’s about the quality and not the quantity. It doesn’t matter how often you get published. What matters is that you write pieces that leave lasting impressions on readers, and that is what I hope to accomplish with this project.

 

Submissions

I sent out three submissions in August and received two rejections. One was a standard form, but the other was a personal rejection, which, despite not being a win, was very encouraging. The editor wrote that my story was “well written” and he “really did enjoy it.”

One of the other submissions was to a market I’ve been trying to break into for the last year and a half. To date, they’ve rejected me four times. Also, I had to withdraw from them once. Maybe the sixth time’s the charm?

So far for the year, I’m at 24 submissions for the year. Not a lot, but not bad considering I haven’t had much to submit this year.

 

How about you? Please feel free to let me know what you’ve been up to lately in the comments.

Oops! How did I forget to mention this?

This morning, I was doing some updates, and I realized that I forgot to mention something that was published back in April.

Earlier this year, the poet Ryu Ando invited me to contribute to the Operating System’s 8th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 Series. I chose to write about the nineteenth-century poet Edwin Arlington Robinson and how his poetry influenced me as a writer.

It was a huge honor to be a part of this, so why I forgot to mention it on this blog is a mystery.

Anyway, if you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here.

 

The End of the Exclamation

Last Wednesday, tNY Press (which was, until last year, the Newer York) closed its doors after five years on the experimental literature scene.

As I mentioned in my first post, tNY published my first fiction piece, “Anatomy of a Bird” (not counting the stories I published in college literary magazines). However, even if they never published me, I would have remained a fan. They published not only great pieces on the Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature (EEEL) and the Shrug (their print magazine), but they also released great books, such as S. Kay’s “apocalypse in tweets,” Reliant.

To really get an idea of what tNY accomplished, though, one just needs to read the email Editor Josh Raab sent out last week:

Over the past 5 years we have published 800+ writers, 600+ artists, 1500+ stories, 5+ books, and 4 issues of our magazine. We raised $35,000 from 700 strangers on the internet to Kickstart our mission. We’ve also been legally threatened by The New Yorker, assaulted by Facebook’s algorithm changes, and totally worn out by the literary publishing world and all its insular idiosyncrasies. tNY is officially closed at midnight tonight.

Your support, readership, kind words, and amazing writing have been our motivation throughout all of this. We still believe in the ability of experimental writing to change the way people think, we’re just not the people to do it, not right now. There is a new experimental press on the scene already, submit to them at he

There are certainly things I would have done differently as an editor which might have secured tNY’s future. I’m working on a reflective post of advice and anecdotes for people who want to start lit mags. Add me on LinkedIn or Medium where I’ll be posting it.

I’m moving on to make music and be a freelance book editor, find/hire me at joshuaraab.com. Chuck is going to keep on internet riffing and dadding at yourdeadbffsurl.tumblr.com. Megan will remain flustered at flusteredpoet.tumblr.com. Thanks to Christopher Morgan, Daniel Bullard-Bates, Celeste Mora, Alitzah Oros, Steve Vermillion, Melissa McDaniel, Nils Davey, Eric Paull, Jane Stephens-Rosenthal, Rebecca Weiner, Soren Stockman, and all of the people who believed in tNY and helped us get to this point.

Keep writing, keep reading. Today is the last day ever to buy books from tNY so go to the website and stock up. The store/site will go down at midnight PST, the EEEL will remain up as an archive, [Chris’ note: Since Thursday, I have not been able to access the ExperimentalLit.com site, which contains the EEEL. Until the site is fixed, my “Anatomy of a Bird” piece can be found in Medium.

Love you all,

Josh & co.

What’s interesting about all this is in April, they tweeted they were now part of the LA Review of Books. Here’s what they said about it at the time:

We don’t know what this means except that big things are coming. If it wasn’t already cool as hell to be published on our website, now our stories will be syndicated on LARB’s website and newsletters, and sometimes print editions. We hope their audience of hundreds of thousands of readers around the world ushers in a new day for our small press.  We’re as hellbent as ever on changin the way we read and write.

theEEEL is no longer at theEEEL.com, you can find us at ExperimentalLit.com.

Thanks for everyone who has supported us through the years and brought us to this point. Tell your friends. And keep submitting! And buy our books 🙂

But then a month later, Raab and the rest of the staff made this announcement:

It’s been an amazing 5 years. We’re so grateful and humbled by all of your support, and also by the neverending genius of our writers. But it’s time the editors move on to new things as we have grown tNY as big and strong as we are able.

That said, we’d hate to snuff out all the potential it still has. Between the print magazine, books, and our new partnership with the LA Review of Books (via ExperimentalLit.com), tNY.Press is an amazing factory for new writing talent and literary experiments.

We are looking to sell and/or pass the baton to a person or publisher who want to get their hands on a real dope venue for experimental lit. We are taking bids until June 15 and then making a decision on June 20th. Please share this post, tell your friends, spread the words, so we can put tNY into good hands.

Now it’s tempting to try to fill in the blanks of these press releases, all issued within a two-and-a-half month period, but I’m going to resist the urge to do so. Instead, I’m going to wait to see if Raab discusses the situation further in his Medium/LinkedIn posts.

Whatever the reasons are, tNY will truly be missed. They published some strange and unique works, such as a narrative about a young woman who likes to stand on her head (complete with upside-down fonts), a satirical ISIS contract, and a collection of surreal stories with diagrams. Plus most (if not all) of their texts were accompanied by art that was just as unusual. Through the words and art, though, tNY showed us that radical works could also be accessible.

Fortunately, there are other outlets for these types of works. As Raab mentioned in his email, there is at least one new pub on the scene: SN1. Press, which is now accepting submissions. There are some others that have been on the scene for a while. Weirderary, which is looking for “your weirdest stuff,” has been around for about a year. And then there’s Lotus-eater, which “craves originality and experimentation,” and the long-running [PANK]. There are probably many others I’m either forgetting or not aware of. 

So as Raab wrote in his email, “keep writing, keep reading,” because as long as there are people who want to invent new ways of expressing themselves, there will be publishers who will want to bring it out into the world.

Till next time,

Chris