Introducing the Rejected Page

In the interest of compiling all my submission records (Submittable and Duotrope) into one, organized location rather than expecting readers to dig through the archives of posts to find out who, when, and where I’ve submitted and what the submission response time was, I present to you a Rejected list. Similar in structure to Court Merrigan’s Failure Page, it’s intended to expose you to lovely literary journals you might never have heard of before and to give you a general idea, as this blog originally intended, of how long you can expect to wait before receiving a rejection or acceptance letter. So instead of sporadically forcing a Slow Sunday blog post upon you, you can check the list whenever the fancy strikes. Also you can check out my published page to learn about other great journals and magazines!

Does this format work for you, or is there valuable missing information you’d like me to include? I’m open to suggestions :]

What 1,100 Words Looks Like: Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2011

I’m currently plowing through the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the creator of NaNoWriMo, as I prepare for the incredibly unplanned month of writing ahead of me.  (Being that I’ve gotten SNOWED IN  the weekend before Halloween–strange and unacceptable–I have time to start and finish an entire book.)

Four inches of snow before Halloween; Pennsylvania, 2011

Reading it is actually calming down my nerves quite a bit . . . and leading me to call everyone I know and begging them to be a “NaNoWriMo Nazi and/or slave driver” for the next month.  (Baty recommends that NaNoWriMo participants brag about our aspirational, completed-novel intentions beforehand so that we’re guilted into actually finishing.)

One of the main things the book stresses is pre-planning our writing time by recording what we do on a daily basis, color-coding the essential, important, and non-important activities and committing to replacing the non-important and occasional important activities with writing time.

My average day as it stands now looks a lot like this:

6:30 am:  Wake up, make sure younger sister hasn’t overslept her alarm and is heading out for school; fall back asleep.

7:00 am:  Wake up again.

7:00 am-7:30 am: Shower, dress, eat, pack lunch.

7:30 am-9:00 am: Drive to work while listening to a lovely audiobook.

9:00 am-1:00 pm: Official editing day job.

1:00 pm-2:00 pm: Lunch break.  Sometimes blog, sometimes read, sometimes take a walk in the local park.

2:00 pm-5:00 pm: Official editing day job continued.

5:00 pm-6:15 pm: Drive back home while listening to more of the lovely audiobook.

7:00 pm-8:00 pm: Physical therapy.

8:15 pm-11 pm: Hang out with family and/or boyfriend.  Sometimes this involves writing/blogging while boyfriend is doing homework.  Sometimes this involves watching unnecessary amounts of television.

I’m thinking that if I forfeit that extra half hour of sleep every morning (even as I say this I know it’s unlikely), make my lunch break a power-hour (higher likelihood), write some more in the parking lot before physical therapy (similarly high potential, as long as traffic doesn’t steal away the time), and commit to being in the same room with those I love but generally ignoring their presence (possible, especially on nights when the boyfriend is ignoring me because of his own heavy homework load) while I write should make NaNoWriMo physically possible for the first time ever, for me at least.

If you were reading between the lines, you noticed that I cut out my blogging time for the next month.  Sad, but true.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take a working vacation and neglect the blog for awhile (I’m sorry!!).  I’ll still be on Twitter–mostly for the daily bragging (or shamefully pathetic) tweet of my word count–and apparently we can have friends on the NaNoWriMo website this year, so don’t miss me if you don’t want to; be my writing buddy and we can cheer each to the finishing line!  (I’m listed as HannahKarena.)

I tried NaNoWriMo once before, my sophomore year of college, and promised myself I would never put myself through it again until after I graduated.  You don’t have free time in college; you just have time where you can multitask homework with something more social and pleasant.  Like doing homework in a group at Dunkin Donuts at 11:00 pm.  Or watching reruns of Will & Grace on the couch with your roommate while you read your textbooks during the commercials.  There was simply no room to fit more homework-like activity.  Kudo’s to Amanda, a freshman who’s making a go of it despite the odds.  Also kudo’s to Katy and Sammy, who are not freshman but lead busy lives and deserve ample amounts of credit for their pledge.

I did write my first book in college, though.  I invented a “How to Write a Children’s Book” independent study where I wrote my book for credit, so my class schedule actually built-in writing time.  Every two weeks I had 2,000 words due.  As I face NaNoWriMo–where I’m expected to write 1,667 words a day–that deadline of long ago seems laughable, but it was really good practice for me.  By the end of the semester I had a roughly 18,000-word manuscript with a beginning, middle, end, and break-neck-speed pacing.  (That summer I rewrote/edited it and it slowed down into its expanded current size of about 35,000).  The reasons for this less intense productivity were:

  1. I was carefully editing my pages as I went so that my adviser (shout out to Professor Lawrence!) could actually enjoy and potentially be mildly impressed by my prose.  NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, results in 50,000 words of garbled crap worthy of nobody’s eyes but mine own; instead of being born naturally–complete with all ten fingers, plot devises, and toes–NaNoWriMo projects are like a really horrifying Frankenstein experiment.  It’s going to take months of rewriting and hardcore editing before this new book is even reasonably presentable to the general public; and,
  2. It was historical fiction and I was spending hours every week doing extensive research.

To help myself along this time, I’m doing a completely fictional book.  No research.  Everything will be pieced together from my own imagination.  Also, to help I’ve already gotten 6,000 words written.

Now stop right there.  I heard all of you start hissing “cheater.”  I promise, I’m not cheating.  I solemnly promise that I will not include these first 6,000 words toward my 50,000-word goal.  Instead, in the end I shall have a 56,000-word manuscript.  But the benefit of already having a head start is that I have a grasp of my characters, the narrative voice, and a general idea of what I want to happen along the way.  I went into my first NaNoWriMo experience completely blind and started writing a random novel.  When it died after 6,000 words or so, I started a new one.  And when that one died, I gave up.

This year, I’m dedicated to actually finishing.  My motivation?  The 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  They have two categories–general fiction and YA fiction–and the winner of each gets a $15,000 royalty advance and a publishing contract with Penguin.  What’s not to be hopeful about?

Hope to see a bunch of you in the NaNoWriMo chat rooms, lots of you at the finishing line, and everybody else in a month!

Just keep writin’ writin’ writin’ and don’t forget to submit, submit, submit.

*For gauging purposes, this post is an example of 1,100 words.  Can you write that plus a smidgen more every day?

The 4 Rules of Polite Simultaneous Submissions

I’ve read blog posts before where people claim that it’s “rude” or, at the very least, makes them extremely uncomfortable to simultaneously submit their writing to multiple journals or to multiple literary agents.  This is ridiculous!  Think about it.  If you have submitted your manuscript to a single literary agent, the wait time is, perhaps, eight weeks.  If you’re a betting sort of person–particularly a slots machine player–you know these odds are totally not in your favor.  And getting your writing published is already an upstream battle; simultaneous submissions is one of the tricks (a completely fair and legal one!) to increase your odds of becoming a published writer sooner.  The same goes for short stories at literary journals.  You have to expect rejection at least a few times–even the greats were rejected before they were discovered; wouldn’t it be better to submit to five places all at once, get four rejections and one acceptance in the same span of wait time, rather than doing it single file and having to wait years, perhaps, to get a “yes”?

Not only does it harm yourself as a writer, but journals and agents expect simultaneous submissions because it’s what smart writers do; it’s part of the industry and as long as you politely warn them in your cover and/or query letters and promptly withdraw your work from consideration elsewhere it is perfectly acceptable.

How to Simultaneous Submit your Work without Stepping on Toes:

1.  Read the fine print.  Make sure that the literary journals and agents you’re submitting to accept simultaneous submissions.  (Most do and they’ll mention it on their submission guidelines page; for example, see fugue, CutBank, and So to Speak.  Those who are morally against the practice also mention it there.)  There is nothing worse that simultaneously submitting something and then withdrawing it from consideration elsewhere when they don’t approve of the practice.  You might have burned a bridge with an editor and a journal so they won’t even consider your work again.  (This is not meant to scare you off!  As long as they say they don’t mind simultaneous submissions, you’re golden!)

2.  Only submit your story to a handful of places.  You don’t want to spread yourself too thin or do more work than you have to.  If your submissions are well-targeted–meaning you’ve read the journal before, or, in the case of a literary agent, have read their bio and are positive you’re writing fits their criteria–then you shouldn’t have to submit it one thousand times, so writing one thousand letters all at once would be wasted effort.  Personally, I submit a story a maximum of four different journals at a time.  And for queries, I usually send letters out in batches of five at a time.

3.  Submit in tiers.  In these batches of submissions, don’t submit to the New Yorker and you’re local no-name literary journal at the same time.  What if that local no-name journal accepts your work?  Great, right?  But then when you go to withdraw from the New Yorker, what if the editor says “that’s such a shame, we were really interested in publishing it.”  The New Yorker is a much better publishing credit–and a paying market–than the local no-name.  But, the polite rules of the industry are that you must accept the first offer and turn down any successive ones.  So to avoid shooting yourself in the foot, group together journals and literary agents in order.  In the case of journals, submit to the most competitive, bit-of-a-stretch-chance ones first.  Then, once you’ve heard back from all of them, go down a tier and submit to a batch from that level.  Same goes for literary agents.  Submit to your top five favorite, all-star, dream agents first because they might be interested.  You never want to be disappointing that one editor or agent responded first.  You should be equally happy to have gotten accepted by any single person in the same tier.

4.  Be honest.  In your cover letter, don’t conceal the fact that you’re simultaneously submitting your work.  Just throw a sentence in there: “This is a simultaneous submission, but I shall notify you immediately should it be accepted elsewhere.”  And then, if you do get accepted elsewhere, let the other journals/agents know.  Don’t try to get a single story published multiple times.  It’s dishonest, will hurt your career because word will get around, and might also lead to copyright legal issues.

So while you’re waiting to hear back about that one story, go submit it again somewhere else!  Or if you’re waiting to hear back from that literary agent, send it to another one in the mean time!

When They Came to Delete the Book from the Syllabus

Sorry to have broke my usually reliable blogging schedule.  For some reason a billion writing deadlines have piled up on me this week in particular (I’m submitting something to the Tiny Texas House Writing Competition I mentioned a while back and Sucker magazine, which I mentioned even father back; deadline: this weekend) and instead of dividing my writing time I’ve been (am) burrowing and focusing solely on polishing up my short stories.

But I cannot let something so completely wonderful and appropriate as Banned Book Week go by unmentioned!  My favorite way to celebrate is to start of the week at the National Book Festival in D.C.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend this year and I am extremely jealous of all of you who saw Toni Morrison, Tomi dePaola, Katherine Paterson, and Brian Selznick, the author of the new talk of the town title, Wonderstruck,* a graphic novel like children’s book that made such a big splash that the NYC bookstore Books of Wonder renamed itself Books of Wonderstruck (I believe this is temporary and promotional).

But I did go the year Neil Gaiman made his appearance and read an entire chapter from his not-yet-released, not-yet-a-Newbery-Award-winner book, The Graveyard Book.  Magic.

Aside from this wonderful event, the best way to celebrate Banned Book Week, in my opinion, is to share moments when you personally experienced book censorship.  So here’s my story.

My tenth grade English teacher was an amazing lady.  She introduced me to two of the books that completely changed my life: To Kill a Mockingbird and My Antonia.  I always knew I loved writing, but her class was the first in which I felt that I was actually good at it.  Her prompts were tough, but I honestly enjoyed writing the essays on the weekends.  She assigned a lot of the classics and nobody censured her choices.

But my eleventh grade year, when I had moved on to a different teacher, she decided to add some new material to her class.  She had all her students read Snow Falling on Cedars, a book I was unfamiliar with at the time.  It wasn’t until after her classes read and discussed the book that problems arose.  I don’t want to ruin the story for you but, you see, there’s an extremely brief and extremely not-graphic sex scene.

Are you scandalized?

Apparently somebody’s parents were.  Calls were made and the district formally decreed that the book was never allowed to appear on class syllables again.  Let me explain something here.  My hometown and high school are considered very liberal in the grand scheme of the United States so this minor act of censorship was not taken lightly.  People were furious.  Similar to the recent national outrage about the Republic school district and the not-so-minor censorship of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (a book, which my school district happened to assign as required reading this summer for my younger sister).

But do you know what the best part of it was?  Everyone took the censorship as a book recommendation.  For weeks afterwards, every copy in the local libraries was borrowed out non-stop.  People went and bought their own copies.  A majority of the students and teachers carried it around in the hallways, reading it during study hall and lunch break.

So if you hear about a book being banned, rush out and get a copy immediately.  If it’s worth being banned, it probably means it’s worth reading.

What’s your banned book story?  Recommend those books!

*I would just like to mention that I’m betting it AT LEAST gets short listed for the Caldecott Award.  He won it back in 2008 with The Invention of Hugo Cabret too.  You heard the prediction here first!

And the Versatile Blogger Award Goes To…

Me!  And many other lovely people.  First is was bestowed upon Katy and her blog The Storytelling Nomad and now she has shared it with twelve other bloggers,, myself included.  Thanks Katy!  My impression is that it’s like those chain letters we use to tape to our friends doors when we were in elementary school with threats of never-ending bad luck and potential fatality if we did not photocopy and distribute copies to a handful of other friends. Do you remember doing this?  I used to LOVE playing that game.  Anyway, I digress.

There are four simple rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.

Seven Random Things About Myself:

  1. I’m obsessed with the pattern plaid.  Seriously.  Even if it’s the ugliest object ever, if it’s covered in plaid I will mostly likely buy it unless reasoned with.  I was even given a roll of plaid duck tape for Christmas one year.
  2. On the topic of Christmas, I still write a letter to Santa with my younger sister every year.  We include a postscript to the reindeer, a plate of cookies, and carrots.  I don’t have much excuse–my younger sister is fifteen.
  3. Instead of “crap” I shout out “crumbs” when I am frustrated and am in need of a satisfying exploitative.
  4. I think 6-inch-heels are comfortable.  And I’ve never twisted my ankle wearing them.
  5. My favorite place in the world to visit is Sunset Beach in Cape May, NJ.  It’s the only place in the world where you can hunt for Cape May Diamonds.
  6. I can crack my hip joints on command.  Yeah, kinda gross to hear.
  7. I’m obsessed with family history and I make family members repeat stories and spell-out people’s names in old photographs in albums until they’re sick of me.  Ancestry.com is my new best friend and I spend way too much time on the website trying to find clues in the census records.

Nine Newly Discovered Blogs:

  1. After I Quit My Day Job is the blog of a funny Philadelphia-based writer, which makes me happy.  I feel like Philadelphia is a forgotten, empty, an non-creative city sometimes.  The blog was listed on the writing tag page earlier this week and it’s where I learned about skirt.com. Read Kat’s essay, Adventures in (M)anthropology, there.
  2. Publishing Lane is all about Samantha, who just graduated from college, got up and moved to New York City with the expressed intention of breaking into publishing.  Read to find out if she was successful!
  3. Switzy Thoughts is a really lovely writing blog I recently fell in love with.  I’m so happy every time she posts.
  4. Most of the blogs I follow are Tumblrs, so I’m just going to provide the link to the one that is most like a blog in that it is text-heavy rather than picture heavy.  Louisa May Today started in NYC, traveled to Seattle, and is now back home in Sydney, Australia.  Definitely worth backtracking and reading the archives.  If you don’t think it’s funny then you don’t have a soul.
  5. The Book Nook is a book review blog, covering mostly (and awesomely!) chick lit.  I just discovered this friend and this blog and love both :]
  6. Mr. Micawber Enters the Internet is the experiment of an independent bookstore owner who is posting lists of other indie bookstore owner’s favorite books of all time.  There is a new list every few days and it’s a great way to get some recommended reading from the best readers there are.
  7. Wish You Were Here is the beautiful personal blog of a writer talking about writing, mothering, running, cooking, and managing bouts of anxiety/depression.
  8. In their own words, Let the Words Flow “want[s] to get the word out about FictionPress authors who are breaking into the Real World of Publishing, and we want to be a source for new and young writers who don’t know anything about Publishing and need a friend to guide them through it.”
  9. Lily White LeFevre is another writing blog (noticing a theme here?) which I am very fond of.  Mostly writes about the composition process surrounding novels and full-length manuscripts

I know I’m breaking the original rules but I haven’t discovered any other new blogs as of late.  As soon as I fall in love with six more blogs at first sight, you’ll be the first to know.  Promise.  But while you’re waiting, how about you check out the blogs above?

How to Delete Paragraphs without Crying

I was getting tired waiting to hear back about the same submissions from the same places and realized that I literally haven’t submitted anything since BEFORE the NYU program. [shocked gasp]  Of course, this is not only completely unacceptable, but an unsustainable writing practice.  Thanks to Kat over at her blog After I Quit My Day Job mentioning her new (and hilarious!) publication credit, Adventures in (M)anthropology, I discovered skirt.com.  A website always in need of non-fiction essays aimed at women, it was the perfect home for a story I’ve been trying to place since last summer.  The only problem?  Skirt.com’s maximum word count is 1,500-words and my story was 2,400-words.  Yeah, exactly.  Yikes.

What do you do in these situations?  Do you sigh deeply and look for a different publication with a higher word count?  Or do you try to edit?  How many words are you willing to delete without fear of killing a little part of your writing soul?

I’ve found that having two Word documents is the best way to trick yourself into deleting sentences and paragraphs that you’ve grown emotionally attached to.  You leave the original document as is.  It is a historical document.  Preserve it.  Then on the editing document, have at it!  Delete everything that you don’t think belongs, even if it’s the most beautifully constructed sentence ever.  Don’t worry, it’s saved in the preserved document and you can visit it later, maybe even transplant it into a new story where it actually belongs.

It hurts less to know that it’s not really gone, not permanently deleted.  The trick makes me a much better editor of my own work and, with the help of my critical younger sister–who shows no particular favoritism for any of my prose, unless it’s actually decent–I was able to shave it down to the right size.  Cross your fingers for me!  Skirt.com responds in 6-8 weeks.

No Labor Day Weekend Plans? Write a Whole Novel in 72-hours and Get Published!

So this morning I was talking with my new coworkers and most people responded to the question “what are you looking forward to” with a list of exciting holiday weekend travel and/or adventure plans.  I was one of those lame (or, if you look at it from another angle, spontaneous) individuals who had nothing special planned except making a trip to Staples, paying some library overdue fees, and working up the energy to take a run.

If you similarly have nothing special to do–and I mean nothing, including sleep because you’re going to need every available second–there’s still time to sign up for the 3-Day Novel Contest!  Entry ends at midnight tonight!  Come on, be spontaneous!

What They Want:  A novel!  Can be anything, any genre, any length, about anything.

When They Want It:  You have to stop writing by Monday night, midnight, and then mail it in the next morning.  They can tell if you’ve cheated and sent in something you’ve been working on for awhile.

Contest Rules:  see this link.

Entry Fee:  $50

Prize:  1st prize is publication by 3-Day Books Press.  2nd prize is $500 and 3rd is $100.  Everyone else gets a novel written and a fancy certificate for participating.

Go sign up and start writing!  Why not!  Gives you something to do while you wait for the rain to stop.  Besides, you’d have the best bragging rights at work on Tuesday.  “What did you do this weekend?” they’ll ask.  “Oh, nothing much.  Just wrote an entire novel in 72 hours.”