Going All Out

After a concentrated two weeks where LB and I saw both our families back to back, I'm finally getting back in the groove with my writing, revising, and submissions.  And today I've realized that I'm going all out.

Recently, a bunch of my friends have been getting agents, then two-book contracts, thereby fundamentally changing their literary careers in the span of literally one year.  A boy can only dream . . . Of course, because I'm human, I've been waiting by the phone too for the same phone call, waiting for the same miracle to magically transform my writing career into a solid object, but so far, I've been mostly stood up by publishing industry (literary journals have been much kinder to me).  Agents are happy to tell me how talented I am, but their rejections are always about the fit.  Truthfully, it's hard not to feel bad about yourself, especially when you stroll through the local bookstore and you see straight up shit on the coop.  But I'm an eternal optimist, obviously delusional, and also very stubborn, so I'm not giving up.  Not when I'm so close.

This leads me to the whole point I was making before I digressed earlier.  Now that I'm back in action, I'm going all out, man.  I'm submitting queries for NINJAS to a bunch of new agents soon (I'm still waiting to hear from three agents who are reading full manuscripts, but the longer time passes, the less hopeful I get).  If Kaya rejects AMNESIA (they're taking their sweetass time, by the way), I'll send a query for it to fifty agents the next week.  I just sent out several novella manuscripts to Plougshares and the Massachusetts Review.  I'm also sending one of my best (and fave) short stories to several literary journals.  Lastly, I'm sending my memoir to a few indie presses that I think would be a good fit aesthetically, conceptually, and structurally.  Instead of staggering my submissions as I was forced to do during the school year, I'm now going full force.  And that's not even including a screenplay I'll start revising/continuing this weekend about two bike messengers in DTLA.

And it don't stop . . .



Sent My Second Novel to Sandra Dijkstra

If you'll remember, Tom ran into Sandra Dijkstra a year and a half ago at some literary event + asked him if he could recommend any up-and-coming fiction writers to her. TC Boyle was kind enough to recommend me (which was relatively easy for him to do because I'd just taken a workshop with him the previous semester so my work was pretty fresh in his mind), after which, she told him to tell me I should send her my novel. So, I stopped by Tom's office where he promptly hand-wrote a referral letter for me on SC stationery, sealed the envelope + then plopped the letter in outgoing campus mail. I was so flattered + excited. But then a week later, I sent Sandra Dijkstra a query letter with my first novel + I never received a reply. To be honest, I was really pissed off.

But because I'm a stubborn motherfucker + also because glitches in the matrix happen all the time, I decided to write Sandra Dijkstra a year letter with a new query letter for my second novel, just to see what would happen. And miraculously: It turns out that they never got my first query letter. This shit happens all the time, man. If anything, I was relieved to hear they hadn't received my first query letter because I was superfrustrated at not getting a response. Anyway, long story short, they apologized for not getting my first email but told me they'd love to read my second novel, so I've been doing a master revision for the past two weeks + I just sent them the entire novel a few minutes ago. Would it be fucking amazing if they picked me up? Hell yes. Do I think this is really gonna happen? No idea. See, one of my biggest problems is that I always think everything could change in a flash + I keep pushing for that moment to happen. But I make no assumptions, I just cross my fingers during these liminal moments + keep on writing. Maybe it'll work out. Maybe not, but either way, it's a chance I didn't have before.

My Advice to Another Aspiring Fiction Writer on Submitting to Literary Journals

Darren Manley, a writer friend of mine, asked me for advice on submitting to literary journals since I've been killing trees for years now. By the time I'd finished, I thought my response might possibly be helpful to other aspiring writers who are braving the odds. Obviously, if you have a fucking agent, then you have different rules. And, I'd like to point out that my publication history is lean at best. But since I have had a few good publications to my name, I thought this might be helpful for someone out there looking for a few pointers on submitting to literary journals. Here it is:

yo darren,

what's going on, man? great hearing from you. you know, my take on submitting to journals is deeply subjective + may only be true for me. but i have a series of conflicting hierarchies in terms of what i think is the most important when submitting to literary journals: first off, whenever possible, send your stuff to journals where editors actually read it. it may take longer, but if an actual editor will be reading your stories, i actually think you have a better chance of getting published because fiction readers tend to be bottom feeders in an aquarium, they tend to be passionate, opinionated + idealistic but also insecure, self-righteous, impatient and unpublished, which is a fucking terrible skill set for reading unsolicited manuscripts, especially when they're MFA students because usually, they're working on their own shit, worrying about workshop, trying to balance their lives + generally, reading for the literary journals isn't their job. sometimes, readers are a 100 times more obnoxious than the editors themselves. the problem is trying to figure out which journals have a front line of readers + which do not. basically: it's unavoidable, since almost every university-affiliated journals uses its MFA foot soldiers to screen incoming manuscripts, but i actually think that journals that exist outside of academia or that let editors take a crack are better, though their acceptance percentages are even smaller: journals like Slice, Crab Orchard Review, ZYZZYVA, N+1, for example, the editors read everything.

also, look at Santa Monica Review, which has a slant towards West Coast writers. Mcsweeney's is always worth a try + i've gotten good feedback from editors many times, which makes me feel like they're generally looking for material from the slush pile, which isn't always the case with journals like the Paris Review, New Yorker, et al.. i'd normally suggest staying away from TLR, Fence + the hudson review, because they take over a year to send you form rejections, at least in my experience. also, journals like glimmertrain are just one big contest. it's kinda fucked up actually. and in terms of journals where students DO police journals, i'd say, look at journals that have PhD students in CW reading because those readers are generally more mature, better published, chill + much more serious than MFA students, though there are many exceptions. for example, the missouri review is a great journal, so is quarterly west + SE Review + witness + 3rd Coast (all read by PhD students in CW).

one other thing, always send your mss. to the best journals first + then come back to reality with less ambitious journals, otherwise you'll wonder after a piece is accepted at a mid-tier journal if an better journal would have accepted it. stranger things have happened. don't worry about simultaneous submissions either because journals are so bad at getting back to you that by that time you've already received a rejection from another journal. you can always email a journal + tell them to remove your mss. from the docket + they will. it's less work for them. also, there are a couple great online journals too that you should consider. one is faultbetter, which usually publishes great shit consistently. narrative is also slick, but they charge $25 per submission, which is total bullshit. wait for their open submission month before submitting.

another thing, journals always receive less nonfiction than fiction, so consider sending the former. always google the editor's name whenever possible so you can include it in your cover letter (+ always write a CV--cover letter, not curriculum vitae). if you have any pub.'s, list them in your CV. if not, don't worry about it. don't shy away from online submissions either because many of the best journals now accept (or only accept) online submissions. by the way, most online submissions managers don't even show readers your cover letter unless they specifically click to see it, so don't worry about it (but still write one). this is obvious, but: make sure the first page is virtually flawless. i didn't think about this for years but that simple difference in revision can keep you in consideration after many other manuscripts get rejected.

lastly, expect to get rejected all the fucking time, often for no goddamn reason, or for the most random, subjective, personal, nit-picking, bullshit, platitudinous, captious, dumbass reasons imaginable, like, because the reader hates 3rd person limited, or because he can't stand coming-of-age narratives, or because she
only likes coming-of-age narratives, or because they hate your politics, or your character's name or they believe stories shouldn't have adverbs, or because they've been brainwashed into believing that the only acceptable dialogue tags are he said/she said or because like me + you, they have way too many opinions on good writing, even though they haven't published shit, which they also resent. also consider that in a way, you are the readers's competition, so naturally, they're harsher on you. even the best readers aren't perfect, they have their own stylistic + technical biases. often they can't identify a great story unless it's so amazing it knocks them unconscious, but even that can be a problem because they'll resent you for bruising their pretty English major faces. when you have a sec., go to an indie bookstore, buy a copy of a few literary journals + skim through the rest + get a feel for the journal's aesthetic, it's layout, its politics + always read parallel pieces to see how/if your piece fits.

okay, i hope that helps. good luck man, fighting the good fight!

peace, blessings,


My New Strategy for 2011

I sent out 103 manuscripts to journals in 2010 + I only have one acceptance so far + only 8 manuscripts left in that cycle. I'm not saying it's not worth it to send your shit out there because you kinda have to if you want to get published + since literary agents read literary journals, it's kind of a necessary evil. But now that I know what I know about 2010, I feel like I wasted an incredible amount of time that I could have spent writing. So, my new strategy for 2011 is simple:

1. Write the shit out of The Ninjas of My Greater Self, since that seems to be the book that's getting the most attention for me right now, making it all the more important that I finish it.

2. Send submissions to only the journals that are essentially game-changers, meaning:

The Paris Review
The New Yorker
The Atlantic
Tin House
A Public Space
Southern Review
Black Clock

Now, granted, these are some of the most prestigious journals in the business + will increase my rejection rate from 99% to 99.9%, but I think that's okay because I don't mind being rejected from the glossies/gatekeepers. In fact, though it's unfair, I kinda expect that. With small MFA-affiliated journals, however, I don't expect that kind of rejection, which is a huge mistake since the average fiction reader is a white, 20-something MFA student, often male, highly opinionated, unpublished, insecure, technically competent, idealistic + overworked writer who wants to be the next great American writer. When it comes down to it, fiction readers in MFA programs don't really want to read your shit. They think they do before they get recruited to read for a literary journal, but after two months, it takes up too much time that they need to work on their own shit, not to mention all the crap that's getting dumped on their lap in workshop. In the context of MFA programs + reading for literary journals, rejection--whether it's deserved or not--becomes the most effective way to get back to your own writing, sad to say. Also, with that extra .9%, I will feel like I'm really fighting for a dream since getting picked up in any one of the above journals will change your writing career in some way. Not so with most of the very good + very small literary journals peppered all across America. Lastly, lots of major writers have found their agents or started their career with the following journals. If it sounds like I'm vaguely giving up the prospect of publishing new stories in journals, I actually am. I won't stop fighting, but I will stop expecting it to work out + focus more on my writing, which is the only thing I used to care about when I first started writing.

In the meantime, I'm gonna spend less time mailing out stories to journals my parents have never heard of and more time working on my second novel, which is probably where my literary career begins anyway. And if I'm wrong + one of the above journals picks up one of my stories, all the better, but I'm definitely not expecting that, at least not without an agent.

Let's Get This Party Started!

Another year, another dream. Another year of fresh hope + another year of trickling rejections (most of them by trigger-happy fiction readers purging the slush pile of a million stories uploaded on some type of online submission manager). But that's okay. You have to risk rejection everyday to get published + live like a writer, so I finally got out my first round of submissions today for 2011 to the following journals:

American Short Fiction
Threepenny Review
The Missouri Review
Story Quarterly
9th Letter
Quarter after Eight
Prairie Schooner
Crab Orchard Review
Salt Hill
New Letters
Playboy Fiction Contest
Santa Monica Review
The Atlantic
Michigan Quarterly Review
Georgia Review
Harvard Review
A Public Space
The New Yorker

What are the odds of any fiction writer publishing in those journals? Oh, slim to none. And we all know that the glossier you get, the harder it is. But like I give a shit, man. You've got to put yourself out there as much and as often as you can tolerate it. Someday, the same assholes that reject you will be quoting your ass, pretending they saw your talent all along. But the crazy thing is, a few of those readers were right about you from the beginning, so you work your ass off to defy the odds + find them the way they found you.

6 Ways I've Kept Hope Alive This Month as an Emering Writer:

1. I sent BLANK to Graywolf press

2. I submitted stories to RHINO, Zoetrope, N+1, Alaska Quarterly

3. I also sent a new story to Dave Eggers (he told me he likes Africa stories back when I was a MFA student at Notre Dame, so I sent a new Africa story to his assistant, who forwarded to him for me)

4. I randomly emailed Melanie Jackson (Rick Moody + Miguel Syjuco's agent) + asked her whether she was accepting unsolicited query letters right now. Just seemed like the considerate thing to do before filling up her inbox with another pitch. Chances are, she won't let me know how considerate I was

5. Tomorrow, Lissa, Marvin + I are interviewing Miguel Syjuco in his hotel room for our debut issue of Flying Fists

6. I received a message on FB by a fan of mine who called "A Full Cellar" a masterpiece. Ah, how wonderful it is to feel like a writer + touch the contour lines of art for a second + see the social effects of your words!

Rejections, Meet Undaunted Writer

I'm not gonna pretend I wasn't disappointed with my recent rash of rejections from the Indiana Review, Ploughshares, One Story, Crazyhorse, New South, Colorado Review + the Calvino Prize where I wasn't even a finalist (ah yes, licking my wounds from that one).

But yo, rejection is the name of the game in this industry. Rejection is the rule + acceptance is always the beautiful exception. We all know that. And since I still have other manuscripts on the burner, really, it doesn't get me down too much. Sure, I get snarly + pissed off sometimes. I frequently tell fiction readers + editors to fuck off out loud when I get rejections, but I also know it's not personal. People are controlled by both aesthetic preferences + taste. We pretend it's about literary merit, but mostly it's about what we like.

Anyway, to appropriate SC's slogan, I'm gonna fight on motherfuckers. I'm a talented writer like thousands of other fiction writers in this country, but I'm also fiercely determined. Stubborn too. And I'm just gonna keep on writing, submitting, revising. Though I only got 3 stories accepted in 2009, they were also my best pick-ups since I started submitting short stories to journals. And recent submissions to the Missouri Review, Quarterly West, BOMB, Witness, Alaska Quarterly Review, Quarter Past 8, Mid-American Review, Threepenny Review, Black Warrior Review, North American Review + Harper'
s helps keep the faith alive. I write big, I dream big + I submit big. And every now + then, these three worlds converge for a brief moment.

Rejections, come again, son. I remain battle-tested + undaunted by you.

New Wave of Submissions for Fall 2008

Because talent isn't enough in the world of lit. fiction, I've submitted manuscripts (self-contained novel chapters, short stories and lyrical essays) to the following journals for Fall 2008 (electronically, of course):

McSweeney's, One Story, Nimrod, 9th Letter, Indiana Review, Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest, Meridian, Virginia Quarterly Review, 3rd Coast, Ploughshares, Emerson Review, The Literary Review, Sentence, Quick Fiction, A Public Space, The Kenyon Review, Cimarron Review, AGNI, The Baltimore Review, Witness + The New South.

Should I expect more heartache and agonizingly long wait periods, followed by a storm of rejection letters and a bunch of generic form emails based more on taste than technique? Of course. Do I think my odds are slim to none that most of these journals will pick up something of mine? Yes, I do. Do I still have the same naive hope that this time things will be different? Of course. Please read my Writing Is A Viral Entry if you want to know why. Will I let the staggering odds against me prevent me from slowly developing my fiction career? Absolutely not.

See, this is my attitude: I already know that I'm a gifted fiction writer. I'm just waiting for the rest of publishing world to figure this out. In the meantime, I'm going to keep paying my dues and continue improving as a new voice in fiction until I can finally get editors to see my talent. Yes, it's difficult. But I knew this going into it.

8th Message to New Yorker Editor without a Response

Hey B******

Yes, believe it or not, I've sent you at least 6 other emails with my story pasted. I have no idea what the f*** is wrong with electronic world but I'm pretty sure it's not on our side. It really shouldn't be this hard. My only guess is that the New Yorker Email system/Submission Manager filters messages with abbreviations and RE:'s to avoid spam. I wrote one email that started with BJJ, and several others as responses, all of them with the story pasted in the body of the email.

Anyway, let's try this again because we're stubborn. How funny would it be if you finally saw my story after it had been built up by days and months, and it was just:


Hi, she said.
Hi, he said.
You're cute, she said.
Not as cute as you, he said.

The end.

Okay, anyway, that's my pathetic attempt at making light of this because it's the only thing I can control right now Branden. On to business: so here it is yet again. I hope you finally receive it and most importantly, enjoy it. Please email to confirm:

Otra Chica

Maybe They Liked My Story. . .

I was checking up on the status of one manuscript I sent to FENCE Magazine 7 months ago. Of course, being a dumb ass, I hoped that this great lapse of time meant something. Maybe all the editors are sitting at a table, sipping espressi, discussing the merits and demerits of each piece, and one of the editors took a personal liking to my story and defended it with so much passion and intelligence that the other editors took a step back and were like, yo, let's do it! Let's give this Jackson Bliss a act in the Great Literary Show. . .

Reality Check: But when I woke up from my day-dream and tried to check my submission on their high-tech submissions manager, the fucking thing didn't even recognize my email address, even though I'd registered last year when I'd submitted my last story. It's as if I'd never submitted that piece. So, being a stubborn artist at the core, I did the SAME FUCKING THING OVER AGAIN AND REGISTERED AND SUBMITTED ALL OVER AGAIN. But this time I submitted a different story. Ah, signs! If only literary fiction writers would accept all the signs the universe is giving us, none of us would write.


On a good note, I recently finished another short story I'm very fond of, about a woman in Lima who drugs tourists and steals their shit. This actually happens. Oh, another thing, I think Erika and I are moving to Argentina. Fingers crossed.

Bitch Session about Literary Fiction (Journals)

You know, i'm an incredibly patient man. i am. i've been told this many times and i'd like to think it's one of my unusual talents--like making up lame-ass jingles on the keyboard--it's just something i can do without putting any thought into it. the truth is, i rarely complain about the fickle and elitist nature of literary journals, but recently it's been pissing me off so i'm gonna bitch about it. i'll understand if you don't wanna read this.

Here are the reasons why american lit journals are a failure right now:

1. College MFA students shouldn't be the front line for lit journals.. i understand they make the editor's life a lot easier, and occasionally, some MFA readers have sharp eyes for sharp writing, but most of the time, they don't have a fucking clue. i mean, what do these little fuckers know about getting published? What did I know about publishing fiction when I was a reader for the Notre Dame Review? Absolutely nothing! Most fiction readers have never published a damn thing to save their fucking life, so the fact that they're simultaneously deciding what is basically publishable from the perspective of writers who are essentially opinionated amateurs, is fucking absurd.

2. The same 40 writers keep getting published over and over again and it has made this market dull indeed. i don't care if you're junot diaz, i don't want to read a story from you every time i shell out 5 bucks for a new yorker. what i don't understand about writers is why they don't understand their own saturation points. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And there's def too much of a bad thing

3. My personal opinion is, it's better to write 4 amazing books than 14 very good ones, but writers feel pressured to pump out a novel every 2 years, even more if they're commercial writers

4. Until magazine start embracing short stories again, which creates an implicit message that the short story is not an intrinsic part of our culture, short stories are still going to be part of the domain of high-brow realist garbage literature, read almost exclusively by other writers. aspiring writers read them (the honorable ones, anyway), established writers publish them, and then other wannabe writers buy their journals to steal their tricks.

5. New writers shouldn't have token cameos in lit journals just so they can say, look, we're not the enemy of the emerging writer. it's gotten so bad that journals like Ploughshares actually have a new writers issue, which only points out how rarely they publish new writers.

6. If it takes you a year to reject me, you need to send me your home address with the rejection letter so i drive to your stuffy apartment and smack you across the head for wasting my time and feeding my irrational dreamworld.

7. Safe sucks. The traditional writing programs like Iowa + Columbia are injecting this industry with writers that are very polished technically, and most of the time, don't have one ounce of soul, originality, rebellion, genius or ambition to save their lives. for every tc boyle there are a million writers gifted at creating beautifully empty fluff that sounds amazing + doesn't mean a thing + doesn't have any staying power whatsoever. it has become enough simply to write + to publish, not necessarily to matter, to provoke, to critique, to explore, to take readers to a high place of awareness, to depict social injustice, to explore complex social issues, to create a place of beauty, to render deeper insight into our own existence

8. If only lit fiction writers had some of the imagination and intelligence of experimental writers, and if experimental writers could match the strength of their ideas with the quality of their prose that many lit. fictionistas have, we would be a changed world indeed.

9. Lit fiction writers, stop stealing ideas from newspapers! use your fucking mind and come up with something original.

10. The dullness of the lit fiction market has made our art obscure. how many times have i told people different journals i've been published in, only to see their mouths hang wide open like dogs overheating in the backseat? it's not their fault. most writers are so sick of getting rejected that they've created their own journals and now we have more lit journals than at any point in history but we DON'T have more readers. Karmically, if you want to get published in a journal, then shell out 20 bucks that you'd use normally for a second pint + fucking subscribe to a journal instead. Just one.

11. As long as lit writers ignore their readers or write for their friends who are editors, this market and this profession is doomed. i'm not saying dumb the writing down, but i am saying the experimentalists and the literary fiction writers can, and need to, acknowledge the blatantly dialectical nature of writing/reading (roland barthes, eat your fucking heart out), which is why commercial fiction is so successful because the authors give readers exactly what they want, dreary and obsequious as that sounds. likewise, i think commercial fiction writers can elevate their craft, originality and level of ideas and basically expect more of their readers too.

12. I'm all for working my ass off but goddamit, i want to know who my agent is and which company is going to publish my first novel inshallah. and if not, please tell me so i can send my shit to someone else who will passionately stick up for the kind of art that i create.

13. Sadly, the more into my writing and my profession i become, the more time i spend in limbo not knowing what the hell is going on.

14. BDG, please please please help me. this isn't actually a point, but i wanted to say it anyway.

15. I've come to the conclusion that i've wasted way too much time submitting short stories to journals without almost nothing to show for it. i mean, the number of print journals i've published stories is prohibitively small, and sometimes i feel like only inertia, pride, ego and stubbornness keep me writing and submitting the way i do.

16. The sheer arbitrariness of lit journal acceptances has turned me off completely to submitting. i have friends who have worked in the editorial dep't of journals and readers/editors have picked stories (and rejected them) for the most ridiculous reasons you can imagine, from the fact that the reader likes butterflies and unicorns to the fact that he can't stand stories with hispanic voices or second person narratives.

17. I'm calibrating my submission technique. now i'm only gonna submit my stories to the best lit journals (defined in my own way), journals that accept online submissions, and journals that give me good rejections. enough of this flooding the market stuff. i tried giving the small, indie, obscure journal its fair share, and with some notable exceptions, it just feels like a small journal trying to be a big journal, not a small journal celebrating its smallness.

18. New Yorker: what the hell is wrong with you? does it really take you over 7 months to send me this as a rejection email:

Dear author,

We haven't read your story and never will because we don't know who you are and your name won't attract readers. So why don't you stop sending us stories until people know who you, then we'll make you (more) famous.

Okay, they don't say that, but they might as well. . .

19. I'm gonna get into journals through my the way most authors are doing it these days, so most of my attention is going towards getting BLANK and my (soon to be) 2 collections of short stories published.

20. Watch: the instant after i post this rant, i'm gonna get an acceptance from one of the journals i just excoriated (or not). but that's fine. my tastes change, my sentiments and my critiques change over time. i may even feel differently tomorrow morning, but right now, this is exactly how i feel. I make no apologies.

What Universe Am I In?

These past two nights, i've been doing strange shit RIGHT before i go to bed. Why do I do this? For example:

Last night, i was just about to close my little polar white Macbook when i suddenly decided to write three novel query letters to literary agents and try to pitch my novel to them, even THOUGH i'm waiting to hear from Mcsweeney's, Simon & Schuster, and my friend, BDG at Hachette promised she would read The Amnesia of Junebugs and talk to two of the greatest agents in the history of literary representation on my behalf, after a gentle push email, that is, and the strange thing is it just happened, just like that.

And tonight, i was about to go to bed, Erika was badgering me to fall asleep with her like she always does, and i was just about to follow her into the bedroom, and then the next thing i know, i uploaded a short story to Crazyhorse's 2007 fiction prize contest, wrote up a quick cover letter, and signed a check that's ready to be mailed off tomorrow. sometimes, i can be so random.

Strange thing happened in the course of 10 hours: one of the queries i sent at 2 in the morning was to Miriam Goderich at the illustrious Gystel & Goderich, and i got this rejection email from her ed assistant later this morning that began with "Dear Author". that's a rejection in less than TWELVE HOURS. that has GOT to be a record in some time zones. the strange thing is, this lit agency hates generic queries but they sent me a generic rejection. there's a word for that.

There's a word for that. It's lame. L-A-M-E, lame.

I also discovered last night that the Writers Post Journal, the small indie magazine out of pittsburgh that was about to publish "Hula Dancing in the Bronx" suddenly shut down for good, without any real explanation. They didn't even email me to let me know. In fact, all of my follow-up emails got bounced back. Somehow this is worse than getting rejected. Putos.

Anyway, onward then.

Lastly: I sent out 19 more submissions for my last push of 2007 to journals like playboy, the virginia quaterly, the atlantic monthly, fiction international, iowa review, fugue, tin house, and many more. i think i have sent out close to a 120 manuscripts in the past 7 months. it's gotten so bad that the clerk recently asked me if i wanted to open up my own private account with the post office, complete with a free post office box and complimentary USPS cap. okay, that's not true. but it might as well be.

The Link between Domestic Chores + Manuscript Submissions

Yesterday i was in this crazy mood so i:

1. changed the lightbulbs in the bathroom
2. re-organized the strange pile of recycling bags
3. recharged LB's iPod so she'd have tunes for our run
4. washed all the dishes
5. prepped 13 new manuscripts (e.g. fiction and CNF)
6. made the bed
7. sent off my 13 new manuscripts to 13 journals, including Elle, Esquire, The Yale Review, Indiana Review, 4th Genre, Michigan Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Epoch & Black Warrior Review, among others

At the post office, the clerk and i started chatting and she wanted to read some of my fiction, which was really flattering, so i told her to look up my STAND piece and my WRITERS POST JOURNAL piece, even though they won't be ready forever. it was so nice.

Today, par contre, i finally did something i've wanted to do since graduation in may. i submitted my novel BLANK to mcsweeney's press. i'm sure it will take them forever to get back to me, but as long as they read the whole thing--as if, kid--i'm cool with that. so now my novel is under editorial and agent consideration at simon & schuster, grand central and mcsweeney's, and yo, i couldn't be happier!

Sidenote: sometimes i can be random. i was just about to shave and take a shower, and then, the next thing i know, i'm composing a cover letter to the book submissions editor at mcsweeney's and writing this blog in my boxer shorts. what is going on with my mind?

AWP Conference in Atlanta + Cave Canem

Busy week, man.

I spent 3 days in Atlanta for the AWP convention where i also:

Became friends with the editors at one story, one of my fave lit journals

Became friends with the non-fiction editor at 9th letter

Became friends with the crew at newpages.com where i might become their online journal critic

Hung out with Tony d'Souza who i admire for his Chicago connections, his impressive work ethic, even if he IS a complete and absolute hustler

Talked to the editors of at least 10 different journals that i have pending submissions at

Became friends with some of the mfa students at alabama

Went and heard Robert Olen Butler read

Met utahna faith in a flash fiction panel discussion, the editor that published my story, "City Lunch" in the fantastic international online journal, 3:AM Magazine

Listened to Lily and the other Chiasmus Press writers (including Lance Olsen) give an awesome joint reading (+ free mimosas, a def bribe for such an early morning reading).

Went to michael martone and john barth's reading in the crystal ballroom of the Hilton Hotel--mm stole the show, man. I bought 2 of mm's novels and chatted with him at the book signing. he even sent me 2-3 emails in the past week. He's a good guy that way.

Talked to one of the poetry editors at Tin House--jc was his name, i think

Played air hockey and won (Holla!) against Pei-Lin Lue, the Managing Editor at One Story

Met Atina, one of the fiction editors at red hen press, one of the better indie presses, this one, out of LA

Met fred ramney, one of the publisher's at unbridled press, who gave me his card after i told him about my novel and the interest that publishing luminaries like Lynn Nesbit has shown the manuscript so far.
--And we take agented and unagented fiction, he explained.

Picked up something like 25 free lit journals from the AWP Book Fair

Smoked 3 cigarettes (bad Jackson!) and drank lots of Heineken--all of which tasted fantastic

I submitted stories to:

Michael Martone
quick fiction
the greensboro review
mid-american review
missouri review
9th letter
dave eggers
cream city review
tarpaulin sky
colorado review
smokelong quarterly
blood lotus
miranda literary review
word riot

Also, i went and heard Cornelius and Yusef Komunyakaa read tonight at the Cave Canem conference reading.

Sad Times in Snow Country

I submitted a short memoir about my grandmama to brevity journal. i would LOVE it if they would pick it up. it's perfect for them. and it's a homage made with so much love and adoration. it's strange, when someone you love dies, you sometimes find that you love them more once they're gone, or at least, you love them with more honesty and less restraint. only cuz you didn't really understand what they meant to you when they were alive, cuz you were blinded by routine, weighed down by baggage, cuz you were afraid of losing them, which meant losing the part of you that is part of them. but once they're gone, you don't have a choice anymore. sometimes you just love them because you're not afraid anymore. i've written about my sobo a few times. i just don't know another way to show her my love except by putting a picture of her on my altar, and using language to capture the things that have slipped through my fingers.

I Hate Rejections!

Well, it's really my own fault. i submit like crazy and so of course i get rejected like crazy, but usually, i get a few rejections letters, oh, now and then, and then i have time to build up hope, and then another rejection letter, but who cares, it's just one little guy, and then i submit again, and then a few more rejections. but i guess this week is like the week of rejections! cuz i got four more rejections today, all of them online. that's almost 10 rejections in 72 hours. what's up with that?

this sucks.

recent rejections from:

1. the miranda literary review (but a good one: your lyrical essay was creative and really interesting yadda yadda).
2. 6 little things (a nice one: fantastic imagery)
3. vestal review (your shit's too tight for our crappy review--okay, they didn't write that, i'm just fantasizing, that's all).
4. brick Magazine. (again, a good rejection: we really enjoyed reading your essay, but we just don't feel like it fits with our mag yadda yadda).

i realize and acknowledge that these rejections were, for the most part, good rejections. but on somedays, LIKE TODAY, i don't want any goddamn moral victories. i want publications, i want bragging rights, i want a longer italicized scction of my cover letter, i want name recognition, i want journal respect, i want all those stupid things i despise in the male writer's ego and i'm not going to hate myself for it, that's just how i feel today. i've been reading these journals. and admittedly, the stories in them are really good, but my shit is just as good, sometimes i think it's better. i'm sorry if that's conceited, maybe i need this unjustified scrap of writerly delusion to keep writing, but i feel like it's true.

anyway, my strategy, as always, is to submit like crazy to more journals. it's redemption time baby. sure, i'll get more rejections, but as long as the bombers are in the air, i feel like i've got as good a chance as anyone. hit me up kid.

i'm submitting to:

9th letter
sentence journal
mid-american review (x 4 flash fiction--holla!)
hayden's ferry review
bellingham review
new orleans review
alaska quarterly (since they gave me a decent rejection)
bryant literary review
santa monica review

nothing would thrill and satisfy me more than to publish the very things william rejected, and prove my publishability. i'm using this as motivation. and nothing would heal my crappy mindset than to get my first big break from a kick-ass li journal. i just don't know how long it takes for emerging writers to do this without a literary agent.

god i'd love to know what's in lynn nesbit's mind these days. if you're good at channeling other people's thoughts lynn nesbit, you really want to make jackson bliss one of your clients, he's hella talented and his work ethic is fucking sick, AND he loves:

old people, animals, children, his mom, his brother, writers (who don't reject him literary journals), japanese food, traveling, kindness, hugs, making out, thai food, a mid-grip handshake, a soy chocolate banana shake, birds, moms who love their kidz, anime.

oh well, it's worth a shot.

anyway, i'll see some of you tonight at the sparks prize reading and valerie's par-TAY, by which time i should be feeling much much better.

peace, joy, health, love to youz,

we out,