The Rejection Quilt

Being quiet around here means I’ve been dealing with a lot of rejection and getting angrier than I should:

rejection1

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There is really no reason for this seething because: 1) This is nothing new to me, 2) I know it isn’t personal, 3) there are tons of submissions, and of course, 4) publication is largely a luck of the draw, depending on who is reading, what that person likes, the mood they’re in, the point they are in their life, and all these other variables that are well beyond my control. See? I’m being levelheaded. And yet.

Melissa and I were talking recently about how we should make quilts out of our rejections. To keep us warm at night. I sometimes think about making an Excel spreadsheet of all my rejections and acceptances, but realize that may only exacerbate my problem. This is the literary rabbit hole: We’re all mad here, Alice.

Here are some good things that actually haven’t made me feel crazy:

I’ve missed reading submissions. I like to see what people are trying to write, what kind of vibes are out there in the literary zeitgeist. You can distinguish patterns after a while. I’ve thought again and again about starting my own literary journal, but I always decide against it. It’s a huge commitment and I think I’d just rather spend more time working on my own writing instead.

I’ve been using Ello as more of an unfiltered brain collage. Like Twitter but with less people scrolling through. I told Facebook how I was enjoying it because no one is there. This was something I posted:

I don’t know how I feel about social media anymore. I used to love it (genuinely and unironically) back in the days of MySpace and Livejournal, but I have a much more bittersweet relationship to it all now. I think this is mostly because: 1. There is so much content and noise to filter through that it hardly seems worth the time, and 2. there’s not very much dialogue, despite there being plenty of words. I used to have a much better sense of community too, which is something I thought was not very important to me. How things change.

I guess I don’t really know where to put the words anymore. What goes where? Does it matter? Won’t it achieve the same result if I just scribble to myself in a notebook? I’ve never been the writer who thinks about audience or even thinks about having an audience at all. I just do it to do it. Social media isn’t about promotion for me, it’s about productive discussion and connecting to people who might make good friends someday. Not even readers, necessarily.

It’s October already. The year is disappearing. I made a new mix tape on 8tracks that’s all about witches and witchcraft:

The Smell of Cinders and Rain

I don’t know much about road trips. What little I do know about them comes from memories of anticipation in the backseat on our way to the Magic Kingdom and the dreams of my own city of multicolored monorails. Who ever cared about the rides? Or Mickey Mouse? Only the monorails ever mattered.

This Fourth of July was the first time I ever took to the road by myself. I drove until I was nearly in Georgia. A new friend let me stay at his place. Friends are now only ever found online, or else, in books. The cicadas were very loud, a full-on orchestra of insect legs. There were Southern accents and Sonic’s to drive up to. I’d assumed that Sonic was just a drive-thru you saw in commercials, a television myth. At night, there were explosions from fireworks and burning barrels the neighbors were using to get rid of old things. Watching movies inside, we inhaled all the smoke from the fires. Heading home, the rain soon returned with a familiar earthy musk. A breath out. I wonder about wanderlust and why that was never a rhythm I could rest my temple on.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the extremely positive response to my list of journals. It somehow caught fire via social media and ended up with a mention in the Review Review newsletter. I received emails from editors asking to be included (which I was more than happy to oblige) and teachers thanking me for taking the time to put it together, that it would be useful for their classes. I hope it will continue to prove useful for some weary internet travelers.

tartaruspersona3

About a week ago, Cartridge Lit published a poem of mine. They’re a newer journal interested in publishing videogame literature and interviewing writers who play games. My poem was partially inspired by my experience playing through the videogame Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3. I am very interested in the intersections between these forms of media, especially in how they shape and influence identity. Recently, I read this post by Merritt Kopas about hypertext and the exploration of sexuality, gender, and body issues. Why shouldn’t videogames tackle these subjects? I’m happy to see how the medium is rapidly expanding to include these spaces and provide a new means of personal expression. We can’t have enough of those.

Your Surreal Adolescence

Do you have any rain rituals? I think about the patterns of forgetting the garden and remembering the sound of wind chimes coming from our neighbors’ patio. I think about all the times I played a farming simulation video game with my sister, since rain is always so important for the crops and knowing when to put the animals inside. I think about the times I had problems with sleep as a child because of my brain buzzing too loud when it was time to be quiet. I listened to those cassettes of rain falling in all types of geographies. Now, I can sleep through hurricanes. I’m a boulder in a pool. I fall deep and quickly, dreamless. Plunk.

My story, Angels vs. Salamanders, was published in the debut issue of Wyvern Lit. The editor, Mr. Brent Rydin, is a treasure. He sent me very helpful edits and somehow managed to publish the finished issue on the day of his wedding. You simply can’t be more dedicated to the literary arts than that. The story itself is another surreal tale of adolescence in the vein of The Electric Level. There’s slang, identity confusion. There’s a club with cliques. You have to pick a side. But of course, you find yourself where it all splits down the middle.

I’ve been working on poems and getting rejections. I’ve gotten bolder. Some have been from fairly big journals. Some were more personalized, which always hurts more than you anticipate. Maybe hurts more than form rejections sometimes. I feel confident enough that they’ll find a good home, however. I’m revising and reading more journals to maybe have acceptance rub off on me.

There’s a piece that started off as a half-story of less than 300 words and transformed into a slice of a character sketch. Or a vignette. I’m not sure. Metazen published it and you can read it online. I feel like I’m in very good company here too because they’ve published a few of my friends, who are all fantastic writers themselves. You should read them too. I also feel like I want to do more with this character? Regardless, I know I’m destined to someday write a story of siblings because there just aren’t enough of them.

I want to help with diversity in the publishing landscape. We’ve gotten to the point, I think, where this is a huge topic that is finally being addressed in the media as it should be. Not just in publishing, but in the film and video games industry as well. In order to do my part, in any little way I can, I’m trying to compile a list of literary journals and presses that exclusively publish women, LGBTQ writers, and writers of color. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message, especially if you’re an editor of any of these journals or presses yourself. I’ll publish the list here on my blog once I’ve collected a decent amount. My goal is to keep updating it as I discover more and to provide writers seeking out these places to have a good starting point.

Forget Your Nerves

I have been typing and typing, but no words. Numbers instead. Little robot doing repetitive tasks. The nerves are dead. Open your hands for me. They’re too soft. I can almost feel the blood. They might make nice replacements.

In November, I attended the Miami Book Fair with an old friend from college. We had the same creative writing professor summers ago, Mr. John Dufresne, who had a new book out. It was hot and wet as we walked the barricaded streets, but never rained. There were crowds of people, which would normally send me running, but the knowledge that they were there solely for books and writers was more of a comfort. We had nutella crepes in the makeshift food court and freshly squeezed lemonade. I got some new books for $5.

Book haul:

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I forced my friend to go to a queer poetry panel with me. It was hosted by Reading Queer. The room was packed. People had to stand. Looking around, there were wings inside my chest. There were fantastic writers on the panel, like Eduardo Corral and Maureen Seaton, who had a poem published alongside me in Pear Noir! #9. They read some of their poems. There was a performance piece that made my head tilt a little. There was awkward laughing and a bottle of champagne.

I was reading the latest issue of Birdfeast and I came across a name that was like an arrow in my brain: Caroline Cabrera. I took to the internet and saw if I could find more. There was more, much more, and even a book of poetry. Of course, this was Carrie from elementary school. I remember. Carrie who always got straight A’s, Carrie who hung out with Julie who also got straight A’s, Carrie who would no doubt become a teacher, and did. Not Carrie who had telekinetic abilities, but she probably should have. I immediately sent her a message and we were able to reconnect. How odd that two Catholic school kids would turn into writers running in similar writing circles, reading and publishing in the same kinds of magazines.

Amidst all the end-of-the-year list-making, I was nominated for my first ever Pushcart Prize. The nomination came from Ghost Ocean. I wonder if I’m allowed to call myself an indie author yet?

Let’s go back to words. Let’s make them routine again, and hopefully they’ll be neighborly to the numbers that have grown into a town. Norton Juster would be proud.

Small Stories, Small Spaces

I am not going to launch into a reintroduction or make excuses because I promised I wouldn’t last time. I will just say things as they are.

A few months ago, I was asked to help read submissions for Keyhole Magazine, which I happily agreed to. They now have a new online portion to the magazine and it’s worth a look. It will be updated periodically.

I’ve been reading small books and messing around with poetry. Most of my thoughts work themselves into short fiction or notebook scribblings or to-do lists. The dregs become the poems.

Vector, issue 2

Three poems of mine will appear soon in the second issue of Vector. One of these poems features a fictionalized version of my sister. If anything, that should sell you. I also noticed that this issue features a lot of writers who also happen to be editors of other literary magazines (Monkeybicycle, Word Riot, Sundog Lit, Untoward). A colorful bunch. Characters from the internet have arrived and we will haunt you.

PANK 9

I am also happy to say that my short piece of fiction, “The Geography of Squares and Circles,” will appear in the print issue of PANK 9. The piece is about a family with very different moving parts, parts separate like the seasons. They exist like islands, and unfortunately, it takes a son’s self-destruction to bring them together.

Sundog Lit, Games issue

Online, I had a fragmented piece of nonfiction appear in the Games issue of Sundog Lit. It’s about growing up, alienation, sexual identity, and video games acting as both a means of escape and a place of solace. It’s probably one of the most personally intimate pieces I’ve published yet. Admittedly, I felt like this wasn’t very different from writing fiction. The themed issue itself was large and fantastic, which the Millions selected as recommended reading.

Going smaller now: I have a short short in Ghost Ocean (in which I also do a reading for you) and a piece of Twitter-sized fiction in Nanoism. They are sad, of course, but also maybe a bit surprising.

My sister is trying to write a story about one of her boy band concert experiences and her professor wants her to show, don’t tell. Of course. So I offered her a first line: “We were hugging and sobbing.”

Mom has found an old, unfinished dollhouse in the garage that we’re going to put together. As a hobby, she used to build sets from pieces. Looking at all of the small furniture and knickknacks scattered on the table, I am anxiously waiting to see what kind of place I will call my own.