2nd Piece Accepted in 2017

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!

5th Piece Accepted in 2016

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.

4th Piece Accepted in 2016

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!

3rd Piece Accepted in 2016

"Castaways and Worry Dolls," one of my self-contained chapters from my novella The Laws of Rhetoric and Drowning was accepted today by Joyland magazine and will be published in October 2016. While you're there, check out my friend Bonnie Nadzam's piece "4 Ghost Stories."

2nd Piece Accepted in 2016

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.

1st Piece Accepted in 2016

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 Spaces in Between

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)

3.  Getting accepted into SC's PhD program in Literature and Creative Writing

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.

 

1st Story Accepted in 2015

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.

1st Piece Accepted in 2014

Today I got the best kind of email.  Simon Waxman, the managing editor at the Boston Review, contacted me to publish my lyrical essay,"The Day I Lost Rock and Roll," at the BR.  So, of course, my day became fucking awesome.  This essay is part of my high-concept memoir, Dream Pop Origami.  Be on the lookout for my essay in the near future!

Taking A Break from Journal Submissions

Getting rejections from literary journals is no big thing anymore.  As an emerging fiction/nonfiction writer, you have to make your peace with rejections because you're gonna get a shitload of them.  There will be times when you'll get nothing but rejections for months and months and months.  More than you can possibly imagine.  One year, I got over a hundred rejections.  And what will fuck your idea of normalcy in this industry is that one day, one of your talented writing friends will get something picked up in a journal you've sent like a millions manuscripts to, and then you start to think:  shit, maybe it can happen.  Or:  well, why not me?  And writers need a certain among of unjustified faith to push through the inevitable rejection.  They need something to keep them moving forward when the evil voice inside their head says, "maybe there's a reason why you're not publishing anything.  Maybe you're just not good enough."  So, a certain amount of unjustified and unbridled faith can be fucking crucial in the biz.  Otherwise, we'd just give up.

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.

2nd Story Accepted in 2013

I was kicking it with LB last night, watching The L Word, eating snacks + drinking ocha when I saw this email on my iPhone.  Then, I got insanely happy.  One of my short stories is gonna be published in Tin House for the Flash Friday set at the Open Bar.  I can't even begin to tell you how stoked I am about this.  Can I get a woot woot?  Here's the email:

Dear Jackson,

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?  

Best,

M****

M**** C******
Associate Editor
Tin House Books
2617 NW Thurman St.
Portland, OR 97210
www.tinhouse.com

1st Piece Accepted in 2013

After a rigorous (+ very helpful) revision dialogue with Jennifer Derilo, the very sharp, very smart + very detail-oriented Creative Nonfiction editor, I'm proud to announce that my lyrical essay "The Transfusion of Yukiyo Kanahashi" will be published in the upcoming issue of the Kartika Review.  This lyrical essay is part personal narrative, part memory + neuroscience critique, + part metamemoir.  It's a non-linear work about the last week of my sobo's life (my Japanese grandmother's), intertwined with political, cultural, nostalgic + speculative narrative strands.  It's a beautiful + heartbreaking + language-driven + emotionally raw piece, + needs to be shared with the world I think. I honestly can't think of a more culturally important journal to publish an essay about my sobo's life than in the Kartika Review.   I'll keep you posted. 

2nd Story Accepted in 2012

I was at Argo Café, the one near the Water Tower when I checked my email on my iPhone + saw this message today:

Dear Jackson,

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, M*****

Now, Bob sent me a nice rejection letter last year for a story I'd sent him + also told me to give my regards to Aimee + Tom the next time I saw them since he'd published stories by both of them both in the 80's + also more recently.  So I called him, my heart beating madly in my once-sticky t-shirt (typical Chicago summer, man).  I figured he just wanted to talk to me about my story + tell me the things that didn't work for him, a sort of gracious rejection.  But he was out, so I was left in complete suspense.  As it turned out, he'd sent me this email that never made it to me until a month later (5 August 2012, to be exact), which would have cleared up a lot of things:

Jackson:

Thanks for the call. I read your story and want to take it for AR.  I will call this afternoon.

Bob Fogarty

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.

To give you an idea of how badass this journal is (if you already know, feel free to skip this part), the Antioch Review is one of the oldest literary journals in the country + has published luminaries like:  Ralph Ellison, John Dewey, Philip Levine, Sylvia Plath, William Trevor, TC Boyle (holler!), Gordan Lish, Raymond fucking Carver, Edith Pearlman, Aimee Bender, Bret Lott, Ha Jin, among others.  It's just such an amazing honor to get a story accepted in this journal.  I've sending stories to this journal off + on for over 7 years. And now, it's all worth it.    

1st Story Accepted in 2012

Wow, look at this shit, it appears I may be on a roll, people. Two accepted short stories in two months! すごい,な?Whether this is part of a new trend or whether it's the last acceptance I'm gonna get for years, either way, I'm fucking ecstatic to get a piece accepted in Quarter After Eight. I've been sending them stories since 2006 + this is a small major victory for me. Also, considering how great the innovative writing is in QAE + how QAE has published well-known writers like David Shields, Steven Millhauser, John D'Agata,, I'm flattered to be a contributor of that journal. Anyway, here's the acceptance email:

Hi Jackson,


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.

Best,

Steve

Payment is a contributor's copy of the issue your in.

1st Story Accepted in 2011

¡Yo, por fin! The drought is finally over. It's been a year and a half (actually, nineteen months) since my last story was accepted + I admit, there were many days where it looked really bleak, but fortunately for me, that drought is now officially OVER. Just a few minutes ago, I got an email from Hal Jaffe at Fiction International telling me that my conceptual story, "When Silence Is a Old Warehouse and Love is a Pocketful of Rocks" was accepted. The truth: I'm fucking ecstatic! FI has published some fucking dope literary luminaries such as William Burroughs, Robert Coover, Joyce Carol Oates, Allen Ginsberg, J.M. Coetzee + Bessie Head, just to name a few. Anyway, here is the acceptance letter:

Hello Mr Bliss,

Sorry it's taken a while to get back to you.

I like your text, "When Silence Is a Old Warehouse and Love is a Pocketful of Rocks" and would be pleased to publish it in FI's Ways of Seeing issue.

Please send an electronic version (word.doc) to my assistant M****** M***** and cc me.

Include a brief contributor's note and your home address.

Many thanks,

Hal Jaffe, editor

1st Story Accepted in 2010

Finally! My first accepted story of 2010. I woke up yesterday + the first thing I read on my iPhone was:

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.

Sincerely,

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!

If You Want to Be a Fiction Writer, Understand the Stats + Then Ignore Them

Once you've published a few stories in some good print journals, you realize that you have to go through the same process of submitting, waiting, dreaming + getting rejected, each + every year. So, waiting for that first journal acceptance of the year can be nerve-wracking. Think of professional tennis players when they're out there on the court during a live Wimbledon match, muttering things to themselves like: His serve isn't that fast. You can totally take him. Don't forget about his backhand. Need a winner. Cross-court, maybe. Time for an ace, motherfucker.

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.