Tag Archives: Publishing

View from the Slushpile

13469972673_24e89ab38f

I’m the Fiction Editor at Kartika Review, and I take great pride in sifting through KR’s slushpile (I personally read the whole slushpile) and connecting with the work of other writers. In fact, great friendships have come out of the slushpile; I keep in touch with them to this day, and hang out with them at AWP and online on twitter.

But the slushpile is not without its gripes. And I decided to tweet about some of the things I experience each time. I tweeted in real time, and I hope the advice is well received. My friend Elizabeth Stark aggregated them on a blog post at Book Writing World a few days ago.

Here is part of the list…

1) Reading thru @KartikaReview slush pile. Do NOT start ur story with 3 pages of ITALICS. No. Just, no. nonononononooo.

2) Reading thru @KartikaReview slush pile. Do NOT start ur Asian-themed story w mentions of rice paddies/kohl/silk/lotuses/etc. NO. nonononono.

3) Reading thru @KartikaReview slush pile. If ur NOT Asian, I do NOT want 2 hear abt ur travels thru Asia fucking prostitutes & smoking opium. (Don’t wanna hear if you ARE Asian, either–but so far, it’s not a trend for writers of Asian descent to write the above, thus the specificity).

I am considering tweeting about manuscript protocol, too…

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction Editor, Helpful, literary magazines, Publishing, Writing

Sometimes silence isn’t a rejection

Penny legs up on the bed. Happy baby.

I wrote a story a few years ago. In fact, it was a story I began writing before my stroke. It was a story I resumed writing and editing after recovering from my stroke. It was a story that led me to Kartika Review and my current position there as Fiction Editor (thank you, Sunny). It was a story that had been good to me.

It was a story I sent out about sixty times. And it got rejected about sixty times. Maybe like, fifty-seven times. I didn’t hear back from a few places (like I said, about three places)–but after awhile (a year?) I just assumed the rejection got lost in the mail or that the more passive litmags didn’t even want to bother with sending a rejection. In one case, the litmag went under.

I stopped sending the story out. In the back of my mind, I thought I would revise it further. But really, I gave up on short stories and decided to focus on my novel. So it sat on my hard drive. The characters lingered in my memory.

It’s one of a number of short stories that I wrote and never had published. Some of the unpublished stories have placed as runner up in contests, an official way of saying they had “potential,” but like one of my mentors said, “Almost still means no in publishing.”

Short stories are heartbreaking to write, for me. So much effort, such a tidy format, so much legwork to submit, and such little chance for publishing. I mean, short story collections make literary agents break out in hives. Editors will more often than not buy story collections if the writer commits to writing a novel for their second book.

So it was with both my heart and head that I decided to focus on my novel.

It was a total surprise to me when last week, an editor emailed me about the story that had been rejected about fifty-seven times. The last time I’d sent out the story for consideration was almost three years ago. It had been almost three years since they received the story. “We’d like to consider it for our next issue,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if that meant yes–but I was still shocked that it wasn’t a no, after all this time. And it did turn out to be a yes; they’d accepted my story. At last.

6 Comments

Filed under literary magazines, Publishing, Writing

writing slump

post-summer-cloudburst rainbow over the EV

I’m in such a writing slump. But really, it’s no different than any other summer, when as the outdoor temperature rises, I slide into writerly hibernation. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas–I have tons, much of it gained from workshop with Junot at VONA last month. I can see the end of this stage of revision. It’s an amazing feeling.

But you see, it’s not the ideas. It’s that the words don’t come. It’s maddening to see the finish line, but to feel unable to move towards that end.

I sit at my desk regularly, because faith is eventually rewarded; if you’re not at the steps waiting, you may miss the Muse when she decides to visit. The day the Muse visits is amazing–it’s like the dam breaks and all the words come flooding forth. But waiting is…well, it’s a turd.

In the interim, I’m keeping busy. I’ve lots of travel these days (I love travel!). And entertaining. And I’m reading. Feeding the ideas. And I’m scribbling down story and character development notes on my novel.

I’m also thinking about ways to get “unstuck.”

Firstly, I realized that part of why I was so stuck was that I was preoccupied with requested edits on a short story that was accepted for publication in a litmag.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under literary magazines, Novel, Publishing, Writing

Quick blog post, June 15, 2011

Rapture Art

I am sitting down to write for the first time in weeks. Life has been hectic, albeit in celebration, these days. Lots of parties, outings, (non-writing) work, meetings, travel. I wonder at times if the world is cold-blooded; now that the temperatures have risen, the pace of activity has quickened.

And in the face of a frenetic social schedule and steamy summer, I find myself fantasizing about winter–a time of year when the ubiquitous jackhammers silence, the snow casts a monochromatic scheme over things, and getting dressed is mostly about getting that down parka over my jeans and tshirt. (Yes, I spend almost the entirety of winter in a tshirt and jeans under a parka). I love when nighttime outweighs daylight and a party is not outdoors but cast in lamplight and candles. You’d find me happy in wintertime Narnia.

Winter is the time of year when I get most of my writing done. I am not sure why this is, but after numerous writing seasons, this is confirmed as fact. Thankfully, I normally live in San Francisco, where summer is one long glorious winter.

But it’s summer in NYC, where it can get so sweltering that my legs become slick with sweat (sexy, I know). I’ve stocked up on summer dresses. I’ve cut my hair. I’m trying to figure out summer makeup. And I’m writing and seeing how it goes.

Because I haven’t blogged in awhile–thought I’d do a “quick blog post” as an update.

Read/Reading:

  • Nova Ren Suma’s debut YA novel, Imaginary Girls. Buy it.
  • Beginning to read manuscripts from VONA. Did I mention VONA before? I got a lot of rejections in the past few weeks (everytime I opened my mailbox, it seemed there was a lightweight envelope addressed in my own handwriting)…but I will be in Junot Díaz’s fiction workshop this summer. I haven’t had workshop with him since 2005, and I’m excited about working with Junot again.
  • Can you believe I’ve never read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse? So I’m picking it up.

Wrote/Writing:

  • My novel. I am trying very hard to work on nothing else.
  • But I did write up my parents’ visit to NYC, and in particular, their jaunt to Queens, over at AAWW’s Open City blog.

Viewed:

  • A lightning storm from inside a jet. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye, and I looked out the plane window. I’d missed whatever it was. Then another flash in my peripheral vision–was my retina detaching? I kept my eyes on the infinite black horizon–and there, there I saw it: an illumination of the clouds beneath. Lightning storm down below. It was like the animation of synapses firing inside a brain, the clouds brain matter and lightning, genius.
  • Too many couples breaking up on the streets of Manhattan to count.
  • An “I love my dildo!” sticker on a residential vehicle in San Francisco’s Mission.
  • Sailors falling-down-drunk during Fleet Week.
  • Bridesmaids. The female response to The Hangover–booyah!
  • Lots of nekkid people looking out their windows in the hotel across the street.

Memorable eats/Culinary outings:

  • Fine dining Israeli food at Zahav in Philly. Israeli food is much more than pita and hummus, people!
  • Too many great meals in Manhattan (some upscale, many more cheap eats)–I’ll have to do a different post on my favorite eats here.
  • Everytime I return to the Bay Area–the first thing I want when I get off the plane is a Gordo burrito. If I land too late to get a Gordo burrito, I just get it the next day. NYC has Dos Toros (a direct derivation of Gordo) and it is good–but isn’t the same.

Cooked:

  • Oh holy crap, I’m turning into a New Yorker; I don’t think I’ve cooked anything substantial in weeks, not even when I was in San Francisco.

Happenings:

  • I have an excerpt from my novel out in Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience. I’ve been trying to keep my lips sealed on this until closer to publication date (in October), but I can’t keep it closed anymore! The book is available for pre-order from Amazon–and yes, it features a sex scene from my novel.
  • My short story “Ume” will be out in Kweli Journal’s June issue. The piece holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first piece I began and finished after my stroke, from which I took about 2 years to recover. “Ume” was inspired by a friend who told me a story in hopes that it would awaken a part of my damaged brain, and the story brought me hope that I could write again.
  • Tamiko interviewed me about writing and MFAs as part of her “(private)” MFA series at kikugirl. I had fun reflecting on my MFA experience, and I hope some of it will resonate with you.
  • I have a stigmata on my left foot. When I slammed my foot by accident into a spike, I at first thought, “OW, what did I hit?” and then thought, “This is a very particular kind of bruise–this hurts more than a bruise.” I looked down. I saw the hole.in.my.foot. And then I started crying hysterically as I ran for a bandaid.

Never happened:

  • The Rapture

3 Comments

Filed under Quick Blog Post

We Count

sidewalk graffiti, Greenwich Village

VIDA* recently released its statistics on published work along gender lines in major literary magazines. If you haven’t heard by now, the results revealed that men dominate. By a mile. Consistently. Across all magazines. What ensued is a wave of dialogue about the disparities, one that VIDA* begins by saying:

“But as these facts come to light–no longer imagined or guessed at–so does the truth of publishing disparities, the unfortunate footing from which we can begin to change the face of publishing. We are no longer guessing if the world is flat or round; we are wondering how to get from point A to B now that the rules of navigation are public and much clearer. Questions long denied will lead us to new awareness, to challenge current publishing practices, and to query the merits of selection on the level of individual publications and review journals alike.”

The Southern Review’s Jeanne Leiby did a count of the litmag’s past publications (as well as its submissions). The count revealed a slight favor towards male writers…and the submissions reveal the same. The result? More questions than answers from Leiby:

“I’m pleased with these numbers, but I still have more questions than I have answers. I want to know why there isn’t parity in the slush pile. Are there simply more men writing? Or are there more men submitting? I’m seeking a way to see the larger landscape, the whole industry, the biggest picture possible to give context to what we’ve discovered. What are the percentages of women and men in undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs? Is there a break occurring someplace in the chain? What is the ratio of male to female literary agents? What is the ratio of female to male editors? Publishers? Does the gender of the editor or publisher have a direct correlation to the work she publishes? Some of these statistics shouldn’t be too hard to come by, and gathering the numbers is an important first step. VIDA has shown us that there is a problem. Now what can we do to fix it?”

Brevity also jumped into the discussion, with a concerned, but brief post about their most recent issue, raising again, more questions than answers to the issue of gender disparity.

And Kartika Review, the litmag for which I was Fiction Editor, did a quick count of all of our past issues: 49% of the published literary work was by male writers, and 51% of the work by female writers. We didn’t do a count of the submissions–we haven’t been tracking gender. Did we favor women? Or is this a reflection of our slushpile? Do Asian Pacific American women (for our litmag is an APA-focused litmag) submit more often? But then again, the slush pile isn’t all writing from Asian Pacific Americans–we’ve published a number of works written by non-Asian Americans, Kelly Luce and Jill Widner included.

As a litmag editor, I didn’t let gender or ethnicity sway my decisions–but I was still very conscious of each issue’s selections. Was there a balance between gender? I tried very hard to achieve that–sometimes going so far as to reach back into the slushpile to select an additional piece (but not replacing pieces) to do so. Was there equal representation between all the regions of the Asian diaspora? Though impossible to represent every region of Asia (Southeast Asian, South Asia, West Asia, East Asia….), I was conscious of representation throughout my tenure as Fiction Editor.

As Fiction Editor, I was also conscious of my position as a gatekeeper–a bouncer, if you may. We at Kartika Review are humble enough to fully admit that we’re not the “hot club” on the street–we’re the small, neighborhood dance club off the beaten path. The line outside our door may not be as long as those of other litmags. But–I was still a doorman/bouncer.

And I felt, many times, like the bouncer in “Knocked Up,” played with apologetic brillance by Craig Robinson, admitting the entrance system is unfair, “It’s not cause you’re not hot, I would love to tap that ass. I would tear that ass up. I can’t let you in cause you’re old as fuck. For this club, you know, not for the earth.”

Sometimes, I swear, I wish I could include that quote in my rejection letters from Kartika, which I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaated dreaded sending out. As a fellow writer, I felt like each rejection letter was a sucker punch sent out into the universe.

Editors and agents are gatekeepers. We have responsibilities to art (we have to pick the very best), and we also have social responsibilities (we have to be conscious of what our selections represent).

What few people, if any, are bringing up around the VIDA* count is that publishing does not only have gender disparity issues–I feel there are issues around race, too. (Yes, I’m going there). The awesome, always-keeping-it-real-who-can-now-add-Pulitzer-Prize-Winning-to-his-descriptors Junot Díaz, alluded to this issue of representation at AWP. In my friend Elizabeth Browne‘s AWP summary she admitted, “I giggled uncomfortably when Junot Diaz told us how white we were (‘there’s Boston white, and then there’s AWP white’).”

I love that VIDA* has opened the door to a dialogue that needs to begin in earnest. I love that VIDA* has opened the door wider to consciousness about gender disparity in publishing. That we have questions to answer. Important questions to answer. Because these questions might, and hopefully, lead to self-examination and revision of our processes. Because these questions will wake a publishing conscience.

But I think we must also apply these questions about equality to categories beyond gender. I am going to take the liberty of taking Jeanne Leiby’s thoughtful questions and add color:

“Are there people of color writing? Are writers of white European descent submitting more than people of color? What are the percentages of people of color and whites in undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs? Is there a break occurring someplace in the chain? What is the ratio of literary agents who are white to literary agents who are of color? What is the ratio of editors who are of color to editors who are white? Publishers? Does the ethnicity of the editor or publisher have a direct correlation to the work she publishes? If there is a problem…what can we do to fix it?”

I quailed before posting this–because I’m no activist in the realm of activists. But this is also an excellent opportunity to broaden the discussion. This is an excellent opportunity to DO something, even as my friend Margaret La Fleur uses these numbers to address HR3 (the “no taxpayer funding for abortion act,” not even for rape victims, not even when the mother’s life is at stake).

We all count.

*Vida is also the name of my friend Patricia Engel’s awesome, unblinking, critically acclaimed (by the NY Times, even) story collection, one you should buy and read.

21 Comments

Filed under Fiction Editor, literary magazines, Literary Rejections, Publishing, Writing

“I’m big in Japan…”

Yomimono

My short story, “It’s Been Way Too Long” was accepted for publication by Yomimono, a small but reputable Japanese litmag a few months ago. Yesterday, issues of Yominono, with my published story, arrived in the mail…and I can now say, “I’m big in Japan” in response to those who tell me, “I’ve never read your work.”

Yomimono

It’s not my first time in print, but it’s my first time in print since my stroke and being able to resume writing fiction. And it’s been a long time since my last time in print (I’ve been finalists in contest, but no publications for years now)–so I’m a bit psyched. :)

Also, did you hear? I can now technically say that I’m “big in Japan.” :P

4 Comments

Filed under Writing