stories, tales, and stuff issue #4 charming and a good vibe
I got immediate feedback for that piece that I entered into the contest I mentioned recently. I knew the story was not going to place, but for a few extra bucks they offered an in-depth critiquing service which I badly need. No matter how much self-editing happens, you always miss something.
The feedback is they found the story charming and a good vibe but tenses (my failure) and points of view were the issue. The story is cut up badly, but I did not take this personally. It’s never meant to be personal. I had the idea after all. I gave the story life. I am its parent, and it is my child.
I’m also not of the mind everything I write is A++ perfect. I cannot honestly expect the world is going to fall at my feet.
What do I write? I’ve been asking myself this same question. Right now, I’m working on a stream of conscious short story influenced the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Happening in a single day, Mrs. Dalloway consists of a woman who preps for a party; ex-lovers in various genders come to town; a man kills himself. The end. My piece is about a woman prepping for a party but she finds the whole thing tedious but also it needs to happen. Why? Still asking myself that same question.
From my Mrs. Dalloway influence piece: River Oust1 (working title):
This party was blind; blind of ownership; blind of togetherness; blind of companionship. Yet, people gave the impression they were enjoying themselves for one reason or another. Perhaps to find a quick fuck, a job opportunity, a friend who would be true to them. I did not mind so much anymore. I long gave away to finding my own pleasure in the bodies that came through the door. I would be amiss if I did not mention that I too played that game at one time: a quick fuck, a job opportunity, a friend who would be true to me.
But as I’ve gotten older, and I believe a bit wiser, it was not so much easier anymore.
Others I am writing: a piece is about a nameless protagonist is desperate to be one of the “cool” people. It involves a coffee maker. A piece about a man whose girlfriend commits suicide.
Finished but needs to be edited: a piece where the main character escapes her name by “eating” and “swallowing” vowels and consonants. A woman, clinging to the last of her beauty, teaches her son to pick up women using herself as the bait.
Is this weird shit? I mean, it’s not here is what happens from point a to b.
Why am I so hot to put a label on what I write? No idea. Do I want to know? Probably not.
Last week I talked about my submission spree, and it continues. I mine my existing pieces, clean them up, and away they go. I’ve got 22 pieces, as of Sunday, out in the wild with another three rejected and one accepted. I entered six of my tiny poems (ranging from 10 to 43 words) to tiny wren lit. I count those six as individual submissions.
I haven’t told anyone this, but I started a poetry Instagram account about five years ago. I came up with a name, created an untraceable email, and posted every couple of days. I hashtagged the fuck out of the posts and likes started rolling in. I stopped posting because it stopped being fun and was a lot of work. I downloaded the poems and deleted the account.
(Since they were all images, they weren’t indexed on the internets and are safe for me to submit somewhere.)
Here is one I did not submit to tiny wren lit:
the gods speak
through the wind
in the trees
Is that any good? Is anything I submitted any good? I have no fucking idea! Poems are supposed to capture the time, the feeling, and the place. At least, that is what it means to me. One year I was determined to learn about poetry. I bought poetry books and studied the work. For the spoken word stuff, I saw a cadence and a rhythm. It was freeing and insightful. For everything else? It looked all the same to me. And I thought: I can write like this.
And I did.
But, again, is it any good?
I do read the magazines (for flash and poetry) to see what they accept and compare it to my work to see what fits and what does not. I have nearly 40 poems that were on that insta account just living in my digital binder. I must do something with them.
A friend of mine, who has edited me before, offered up her services again recently. I reached out last week, and she hasn’t read my messages (FB Messenger indicates when the message has been read and you can’t turn that option off). Now I’m worried.
With that in mind, I posted on Editorial Freelancers Association as recommended to me by a chum on a writer’s mailing list. I did create an account on Reedsy but I heard it can turn into a shit show since there really isn’t any oversight on who joins.
(I’m a bit peeved because another person requested, on the same list, help to look for an editor and several people pointed out to a database the mailing list maintains of members who do that kind of work. Wth.)
With EFA, I post the job (no account required) with as much detail as possible and my rate of pay. EFA provides a list of current trends in rates, so I picked the type of editor I needed and I’m paying at the top of the rate for the work. Even though it’s a bit pricey, the average copyeditor, per EFA stats, can do between 5-10 pages an hour depending on the work with 250 words per page. My work is smaller than that so I’m looking at an hour or two couple of weeks.
Not long after the ad was placed, I got over two dozen responses. I spent so much fucking time over the weekend going through their examples, their websites, to see if they were a good fit. One woman wrote that she didn’t do anything offensive or sexual content. I wrote in my ad I write swears and sexual situations. If you cannot read my ad, how do you expect me to believe you are going to be a good fit?
One person advertised to me he was the cheapest around. I’m not looking for cheap. I’m looking for someone who is good. His claim to fame is he lists he has “two Harvard” degrees to his website. No details on what those degrees are, no listing of his other education or certification. Why should I hire you?
One woman typed her own name wrong in her URL for her website. Rejected. Another woman didn’t proof her own resume. Rejected. I sent out a piece to several people that I had already submitted but I knew was missing “something.” Self-editing can only do so much. Only one picked up a word mistake (“truck” when I meant “trunk”). I haven’t read the rest of the responses just yet.
It feels overwhelming.
Another interesting tidbit: Several more people have sent back their sample edits already and I’m waiting on a few more. It’s crazy to see how many differences there are in copyediting. I hope to pick one or two people by end of week.
Duotrope sends an email every Friday of upcoming themed issues, agents who are accepting queries, lit mags that were now open for submissions. Sunday night I went through that email and it took me hours. You go to the lit mag’s website. You read the work they publish. You read the submission guidelines. If it is a match, I add them to my spreadsheet.
Oh, the newsletters my invisible BFFs. So many newsletters who promote other contests and submission calls.
But the good news is, I wrote a poem and started another short story (the dude whose gf offs herself) this week. J asked me why now? Why am I writing so much? I told him about my dream and how when I opened my digital binder for my work, the dreams were already laid out and ready to be written. I hadn’t thought about those pieces in over five years. The break has happened. I needed this break.
What prompts me to write? A sentence forms or an event. I have no idea where it will take me.
My husband was in the bathroom, shaving.
Are you almost ready, I asked.
Give me a few he responded.
I heard the shower turn on.
What do I want from this? Right now, publication. Why I’m hiring an editor. Hiring editors and how they look at my work teaches me how to write better. One editor tore a piece apart and included links to suggestions on how to rework some of the piece. I haven’t taken a creative writing class in nearly two decades. I am grateful for this, and I’ll be more than likely to hire her. (I also have feelers out for another person. Can’t hurt to have more than one editor! I just won’t send them the same pieces. This sample edit process is doing my head in.)
I know that the turnaround times for most of my submissions is weeks. But I hope to have something published again soon.
1. River Oust is where Woolf killed herself. If anything, I am consistent.
“the gods heard” (flash) / Friday Flash Fiction, March 2023
Note: After I submitted this piece, I dug a bit more into the website and found the “editor” published everything submitted. It was too late for me to retract the piece. I wasn’t beloved of the gods heard so I don’t really care it’s auto accepted but it does feel like cheating. And cheap.
From “Body of the City”:
The city’s story is wrapped around my body. The soot of my hair to the dirt of the unground, I am a walking imprint of an anywhere, anyplace, any location of buildings and parks. When I unwrap my clothes, the city does not fall away but rather it grows into suburbs and divisions. Neighborhoods spring up between the webbing of my fingers and toes. My nails are outlet malls, my breasts are theme parks, my nipples are strip clubs and mommy-to-be stores.