Today, I got the best kind of email from an editor at Longreads and learned that I’d sold an essay of mine from my experimental memoir, DREAM POP ORIGAMI. This is a major victory for me . . .Read More
My short story about class/race in Humboldt Park, "Guide to the Other Side of the Universe," which is part of my short story collection, Geography of Desire, was accepted yesterday in the Angel City Review, an awesome LA-based literary journal. Stay tuned for more deetz!
Today I got an email telling me that my personal essay, "When Words Make You Real," was accepted in the mixed-race anthology The Beiging of America, which is awesome. I'm happy, proud even, to be part of such a groundbreaking but also crucial anthology exploring what it means to be mixed race (in my case, hapa) in America.
Today, I got the great news that a chapter from my novella, The Laws of Rhetoric and Drowning, was accepted by Hobart, which publishes fantastic fiction and interviews, among other things. I'm really happy to see this piece put in the public eye! Stay tuned for more deetz.
I just got the awesome news today that my lyrical essay "Obāsan in a Cup," which is part of my experimental memoir Dream Pop Origami, was accepted in the always-awesome Guernica Magazine. Even more shocking, it will be published tomorrow. Many thanks to the smart, perceptive, and insightful suggestions from Raluca Albu, the CNF editor at Guernica. Stay tuned!
Matthew Salesses runs and directs an awesome column at Pleiades about workshop craft and workshop pedagogy and I'm happy to say that my essay "The Velocity of Flying Objects" about my own workshop methodology will be published soon on the magazine's website. Stay tuned.
I got the good news recently that my flash fiction piece "Living in the Future," which is part of my short story collection Atlas of Tiny American Desires, was accepted in the literary journal Arts & Letters and will be appearing in either the Fall 2016 or Spring 2017 issue. Nothing like a short story acceptance to keep my spirits up.
The period between March and June has always been, and will probably always be, a dramatic time in my life. Most of the best (and also worst) news I've received is during this time frame. For example:
1. Winning the Sparks Prize
2. Getting rejected from the JET program (for being too old)
4. Hearing back from all the tenure track jobs you applied to, where they gush about what an insanely large and especially talented pool of candidates there were, which made their job especially difficult
5. Seeing my short story on Tin House's website
6. Getting accepted in Notre Dame's MFA program
7. Visiting Rome, Hong Kong, Macau, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Tokyo, and London
8. Finding out whether I'm getting (re)hired at UC Irvine after an exhaustive application process
9. Getting married to LB, something I never thought I'd do and something I never wanted to do until we fell in love
This list could go on. If we were at a café, this list would go on. But the point is, shit always goes down this quarter. Sometimes, it's bad. Usually though, it's good. But it's always crazy enlightening (and crazy dramatic too). So, it's with immense curiosity (and slight trepidation) that I wait to hear the state of the world for me in 2016. Stay tuned, people. Shit could get crazy.
Yesterday, I got the good news that my short story "My 12-Step Program for Yuki Hiramoto," which is part of my debut collection Atlas of Tiny Desires, was accepted by the Santa Monica Review. Of course, this is fucking awesome, not only because I've been sending the SMR submissions since oh, 2005, when I started my MFA program, but also because it's one of the best journals out there. Certainly, one of the top west coast journals. And, while I know the publishing landscape has changed a shitload since then, I happen to know that my friend and mentor, Aimee Bender, found her agent (Henry Dunnow) after she'd published her own story in the Santa Monica Review, so there's always hope when you're getting your shit out there for the world to see.
I've published enough short stories and lyrical essays in enough legit literary journals and also received quite a lot of positive editorial feedback to know I'm certainly talented enough for this game. But, for the past couple years, I've been struggling with a complex feeling of appreciation and exasperation with the good rejection standstill. There are a bunch of journals, some of them very prestigious, that keep sending me good, sometimes even great rejections. And I'm incredibly grateful for them. I really am. At the same time, while I used to think that eventually I could turn a good rejection from a great literary journal into an acceptance (as I did with Fiction), I'm now starting to feel like the good rejection has replaced the acceptance letter. In other words, I'm starting to think that some editors are never gonna accept my shit, and the good rejection is actually a modern day consolation prize for the wall separating me from more famous authors with recognized agents. I mean, good literary journals are only publishing 2-4 stories in any given issue anyway, most of them submitted by agents or solicited from the editor herself/himself. The way the math works, some editors are simply never gonna publish you. Ever. And the rejection letter is as much a note of encouragement as it is a mea culpa for the stacked odds against you.
Maybe, that's cynical of me. Maybe, I've got it all wrong. But as it stands right now, I feel like I have to focus my energy of finding the right agent for my memoir and the right presses for my novels. Nine years ago, I'd be ecstatic with my publication history. Now, I'm like: meh. Not because I don't appreciate it, but because my best work hasn't even been published yet. It hasn't even grazed the future readership it'll have someday once my books are all finally out there in the world, ready for public consumption.
I just finished reading "Cabrón" and would love to run it on the morning of September 26th on The Open Bar. Does this sound good? Can I gift you a subscription to the magazine or a book from our catalog?
Tin House Books
2617 NW Thurman St.
Portland, OR 97210
I am writing to let you know that Bob Fogarty, the Antioch Review editor, is trying to reach you. He sent you an email and called as well. Perhaps you can try to reach him at ***-***-****.
Thanks for the call. I read your story and want to take it for AR. I will call this afternoon.
Later on, he called me + we did talk for a good twenty minutes about David St. Jean, who was the former poetry editor at the Antioch Review (my first year at USC, I took this amazing interdisciplinary graduate seminar with David St. Jean + Frank Tichelli, a class where poets wrote a series of poems, ending in a complete poetic cycle, + then composers set those lyrics to music + finally MA + PhD musical performance students performed the music with your words--fucking amazing). Then, we talked about Tom, Aimee, Rogers Park (where I live now, what I called a little Berkeley + Bob called a little Brooklyn), how walkable Chicago is, how great its mass transit is + about how creative programs are slowly being devoured by English Departments (Read: Columbia College). And then at the end of all of that, Bob told me he really liked the energy, voice + intensity of my short story "The Blue Men inside My Head," + thought the length was appropriate for the subject matter + that he'd be happy to publish it in the Antioch Review. Again, if I'd received the above email, the suspense wouldn't have suffocated me so much! Still, I was so excited I almost came in my pants. Fortunately, I recovered + told him I was really flattered/excited/happy to finally get a piece in his journal.
Thanks once again for your patience. Also, I'm glad to say that we
have room for "Kothar" in our next issue due out in February. It's a
piece we all enjoyed reading and are excited to feature in QAE.
Now we need you to provide an electronic signature to the attached
contract by typing in your name and send it back. Also, please attach
a .doc copy of the piece. Finally, we need a brief biographical
statement that you can include in the body of the email.
I'm glad this worked out.
Payment is a contributor's copy of the issue your in.
Dear Jackson Bliss:
Congratulations! The editors were very impressed with your submission to Quarterly West. Please send us a brief bio for the contributors page.
The Editors of Quarterly West
2010-04-14 09:56:01 (GMT -6:00)
I'm so excited that my story, "30 Roofies," finally got accepted. It's one of my favorite stories + was inspired from the month that LB + I spent in Peru in 2008. Can't wait to see it in print. Thanks you editors at Quarterly West!
Same thing applies to me. I go through this mind-fuck every year: Well, maybe you're not gonna get any stories accepted this year, but that's okay because last year was a good year for you + you can't fucking expect your shit to get accepted every year--that's arrogant. Maybe this will be the year you get your first book published. Sometimes, it just doesn't happen + that's okay because the important thing is, you're writing the best shit you've ever written. Don't forget: sometimes the stock market rallies right before closing. Anything can happen in publishing, don't forget that. You might get a flurry of acceptances right before the New Year.
Anyway, the point is: It doesn't always work out for you when you're a fiction writer. In fact, it usually doesn't work out for you--let me just count the rejections I've gotten just in 2010. Hold on while I look it up: Okay, 18 rejections since January, which doesn't sound bad, but that's because I still haven't heard from 41 journals. Also, I've amassed 62 rejections since last April. To put things in perspective: in 2009, I submitted 84 manuscripts (+ about 6 query letters) + I got 2 stories picked up. Now granted, those were two of the best journals yet for me, but still, look at those stats, man: 2 journals / 84 = 1/42 chance. So, to give you an idea of how fucking hard it is to erupt into this industry, when I look up the Missouri Review's submission guidelines, and they say that they accept less than 1%, to me, 1% is fucking great. I can live with a (slightly less than )1% acceptance rate, which just gives you an idea of how warped this industry is. So, the point is, understand these stats (meaning, don't expect miracles + don't expect your career as a writer to be a rapid evolution because it always happens way slower than you expect it to), but then, after you've done that, ignore the odds (because they're clearly not in your favor) + just keep writing.
If it's in you, you can't + won't stop writing--it's not even a choice. And you'll need that stubbornness to get to where you wanna be, which is somewhere.