Happy Friday, Author-Friends

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Kim Gordon

"I Went to Rejectionist World and It Was Not A Democracy"; Or, Some Thoughts on Our Deep Thoughts

So do you remember that time last week when we were like "Publishing! So boring! We're going to talk about ourself now!" and everyone pretended for a minute that www.therejectionist.com was ever about anything BESIDES the Rejectionist, and was maybe at some point a mildly useful blog for people who were writing a novel or something, but then we all kind of came together to agree that www.therejectionist.com is now, currently, as of this moment, all about The Rejectionist And Her Deep Thoughts That She Has, many of which are not, in fact, about publishing at all, although most of them are in some way about books? Oh. Well, that happened. So here's the thing! WWW.THEREJECTIONIST.COM IS A BLOG ABOUT THE REJECTIONIST AND HER DEEP THOUGHTS. It is as though we are having a party in our brain, and you are invited OMG THE DECOR IS SO SOOTHING IN HERE, there's a lot of black, and an AMAZING CHANDELIER. But here are some things about the party in Rejectionist World! It is, although virtual, a party that is happening IN OUR HOUSE. And our house, like your house, has rules at it. THESE ARE THE RULES.

1. The Rejectionist has many opinions. These are opinions that the Rejectionist has arrived at after a lifetime of careful study. These opinions are based on the following tenets: racism happens a lot, and we don't like it; other kinds of oppression happen a lot, and we don't like them either; books shouldn't be stupid; MMM CHEESE DELICIOUS. Some of the opinions in Rejectionist World may be displeasing to you and that is your very own business. But maybe it is time for you to go to a DIFFERENT WORLD if that is true! Because IF YOU DON'T LIKE US YOU ARE ACTUALLY NOT INVITED TO OUR PARTY. And if you don't like queer people, feminist people, brown people, or smelly cheese YOU ARE ACTUALLY NOT INVITED TO OUR PARTY. Also why would you want to COME to our party IF YOU DISLIKE US. That's torture. For everyone.

2. In the real world if we were having a party at our house, and someone came to it, and then that person was like "Hey Rejectionist! here are some reasons why racism is great," we would kick that person the fuck out of our house. Just as if we went to, say, a Rotary meeting on how community activists were the same thing as terrorists, wearing a homemade sweatshirt with the slogan "If You Can Bake A Cake You Can Build A Bomb," they might ask us to leave THEIR house. Yes, that happened. A long time ago. ANYWAY the internet is kind of the same! We are not interested in this conversation:

The Rejectionist: AN OPINION

Random Stranger: I don't like that opinion!

WHY? Because it is our party which we are having for fun. FOR FUN. For our OWN fun. Why would you have a party if you couldn't have fun at it, hmmm? And also we enjoy inviting our friends to our parties, and they know who they are, and they are not going to have fun if people are being asshats at our party, either! So we might delete your comment! We might be like TODAY IS NOT A DAY WE FEEL LIKE EDUCATING THE UNIVERSE ABOUT HOW PRIVILEGE OPERATES WHEN THERE ARE MANY MANY FABULOUS INTERNET RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC! Rejectionist World, like our house, is not a democracy! BUT LUCKILY FOR YOU THE INTERNET SORT OF IS, at least to the extent that you can have YOUR VERY OWN INTERNET BRAIN PARTY about YOUR VERY OWN THOUGHTS and you don't have to invite us there AT ALL. You could even call it therejectionistisnotinvitedtomyparty.blogspot.com, as that domain name is currently open. There you are!

3. It is an immense joy and delight to us when we make a post that is like RACISM IS STUPID SO IS HATING ON THE LADIES and lots of GLORIOUS AMAZING COMPLETE STRANGERS are like OMG I KNOW, HANG IN THERE, and it makes us feel less alone, and as if we are maybe not fighting such an immense and lonely and exhausting fight, and far and away the most fantagulatistic thing we have had happen to us out of this wacky Internet Experience that is www.therejectionist.com is that feeling, and the emails we get from people we have NEVER MET telling us how we make them feel less alone also. It is MAGICAL. It is the only reason we are still doing this. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. WE LOVE YOU, AUTHOR-FRIENDS. That's not a rule, but it is a thing we wanted to say.

4. We hope we do not have to say this, but it is the internet, so we will: THE REJECTIONIST HAS OPINIONS BUT THOSE OPINIONS DO NOT PREVENT HER FROM DOING AN AWESOME JOB AT HER CURRENT LOCATION OF EMPLOYMENT WHICH HAPPENS TO BE A LITERARY AGENCY. Similar to how you probably have opinions and then go to work anyway. Mmm hmm! Bananas! Although if the first thing you think upon encountering www.therejectionist.com is "Man, I hope my novel does not fall into the hands of this assistant, who clearly hates racism," you might want to reconsider your novel JUST SAYING. Oh also: THE REJECTIONIST HAS MANY OPINIONS THAT ARE NOT (regrettably) IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM SHARED BY THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE and also THE OPINIONS OF THE REJECTIONIST IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM SHOULD BE CONFLATED WITH THOSE OF "STEVE" WHO IS ONE OF THE MOST FANTASTIC, PROFESSIONAL, HARDWORKING, SMART, AND AMAZING LITERARY AGENTS IN THE UNIVERSE, not that the Rejectionist isn't smart or hardworking, but you get our point.

AS THEY SAY IN ELVISH, AUTHOR-FRIENDS! Say Speak "friend," and come on in. So much for that thing we also said about posting less. Oh well.

There Ain't No Getting Over It

Today we are feeling a little more serious, Author-friends, after reading this unbelievably amazing post on bullying by the superlative Neesha Meminger, whose blog you should be following RIGHT NOW WHY AREN'T YOU, and this other also amazing post on internet harassment by blogger Annaham over at Tiger Beatdown. Bullying is something we have been thinking about ourself a lot lately, since a pile of bull(y)shit is now law in Arizona, and we know it's probably going to be overturned since, you know, racial profiling is like sort of technically illegal, which is so reassuring and why it never ever happens in real life; but the fact that that bill even made into the arena of public discourse, let alone was signed into law by the governor, is hurting our heart pretty fucking hard. On a more personal level we have been thinking about bullying since it is springtime in New York, a season when the ladies tend to wear REVEALING GARMENTS (you know, like short-sleeved shirts) and the gentlemen are stirred into an understandable FRENZY OF EXCITEMENT at the UTTERLY SCANDALOUS sight of, like, NAKED ELBOWS, and make free with the street harassment (for the record, New York is in no way more egregious than other places in this department; there are just a lot more people here, so the number of advances per block increases exponentially), and there are some days getting followed down the street by a dude yelling scary shit is not really what we're in the mood for. Shocking, we know.

Both Annaham and Neesha make the point that what gets referred to as "bullying" (as in, it's just "bullying," you'll get over it) is ultimately a deliberate and pointed targeting of difference, of people (queer, disabled, female, brown) who have less power by people who have more power. Both Annaham and Neesha point out that this kind of harassment gets dismissed all the time: it's just high school, it's just "illegal" "aliens" which is clearly not the same thing as actual human beings, it's just the internet, it's just dudes on the street, what's your problem, leave the room, love it or leave it, grow up, what do you expect when you dress like that, you'll get over it, shut up. But for those of us who deal with this shit in one way or another, to greater and lesser degrees, as ladies and queer people and people of color and disabled people and people who are sometimes all of those things AT ONCE, for those of us who deal with this shit EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES, it can make a day real long.

So really what we wanted to say, from the bottom of our heart, to Neesha and Annaham and the many people out there who make our own life a little more easy, knowing you all are carrying the flag of the people's revolution and saying amazing things and not shutting up, what we wanted to say is thank you, and you're awesome.

Neesha says this:

Part of empowering young people is to show them reflections of themselves as powerful, valuable, important members of their communities - no less deserving of privilege, love, wealth, dignity and respect than their peers. I know from experience that stories do that. Stories heal and mend and expand. Stories in books, stories in the news, stories in film, on television and in magazines. It's part of the reason I started writing to begin with.

And it's true, y'all, fellow standardbearers of the good fight, young people and not-so-young people alike; so let's tell OUR stories like nobody's business.

Happy Sunday From Satan/The Assistant

THE REJECTIONIST HAS 666 FOLLOWERS!

How to Reject a Rejectionist

Since you asked so nicely, Lydia!

Dear Rejectionist:

Thank you very much for submitting work to Fancypants & Pretension Quarterly. Although this submission isn't right for the magazine, we hope you will keep us in mind for future work. Not that we'll publish it. Also, only your parents love you; everyone else is just pretending.

Sincerely,

Fancypants & Pretension Magazine

In non-sad-kitten-related news, Author-friend Sanjay, whom you may remember from this excellent item, is HAVING A BABY (there is something in the WATER OVER HERE WATCH OUT!!) Congratulations, Sanjay!

Author-friends, Meet Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of the very excellent Gringolandia, a thoughtful, intelligent, and heartfelt YA novel focusing on a Chilean torture survivor, his son, and his son's Anglo girlfriend (it has funny parts, too! Promise!). Lyn edited the magazine MultiCultural Review from 1994 until this year, and is the author of the eco-thriller Dirt Cheap and editor of the anthology Once Upon a Cuento. She also blogs at Waging Peace. You can read an interview with her about the cover of Gringolandia here.

You've talked elsewhere about how independent and university presses can offer more opportunities to writers of color and multicultural stories. Do you think the mainstream publishing industry is becoming more open to these kinds of stories? Did you pursue mainstream publishing for Gringolandia , or did you know from the beginning you wanted to work with an independent press?

I think mainstream publishers are more open to writers of color and multicultural stories than they were, say, 30 years ago, but I don’t think the economics of the publishing industry today encourages diversity. I see a lot of publishers who are unwilling to take risks and who see multicultural authors and stories as having a limited market. Hence the efforts to whitewash covers, supposedly to attract as broad an audience as possible in tough times. However, I think mainstream publishers will have to become more inclusive in the future because whites are becoming a minority in the United States and the United States is now part of an increasingly global society.Currently, independent and university presses are more open to writers of color, and more likely to publish a variety of perspectives on diverse cultures, including ones that defy and critique mainstream images. For instance, much of the mainstream multicultural fiction tends to focus on identity issues or relationships, often with a light touch. Books that address political issues, issues of power in a critical way, or that don’t fit neat categories, do not typically find mainstream publishers. An example is one of my fellow Curbstone authors, Lorraine M. López, who published a highly commercial novel with a large house, but her more hard-hitting and thoughtful works of fiction—including the young adult novel Call Me Henri, winner of the 2007 Paterson Prize, and her most recent short story collection Homicide Survivors Picnic, a finalist for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award—came out from small independent and university presses.

I didn’t pursue a mainstream publisher for Gringolandia because Curbstone Press held an option from the contract for my adult novel, Dirt Cheap . I’m glad I didn’t have to shop the manuscript, but I often wonder how it would have fared. I’ll get my chance to find out, because my editor wanted me to write a companion to Gringolandia from the point of view of Daniel’s younger sister. Now that my editor is no longer alive, nor is Curbstone Press, I have to find another home for this now-completed manuscript and my future work.

How did you approach writing cross-culturally? Do you have particular thoughts for other writers working on novels with characters who aren't from their own culture?

Before writing Gringolandia, I was intimately familiar with the lives of the people I depicted. Not only was I a member of the solidarity committee and a principal organizer of several concerts of Chilean musicians, I also taught English to students and refugees from Latin America and took care of their children. I knew the pressures they faced and the conflicts between generations when the parents’ hearts were in the struggles of their countries, while the children had assimilated to life in the United States.

As a cultural outsider, you have to possess this insider knowledge. I suggest having your work vetted by insiders and listening carefully to what they have to say—even if what they have to say is “Don’t!” I also think it’s important to give back to the community about which you write, whether it’s opening doors for writers of color, working with young people to create more opportunities in their lives, advocating alongside your friends for social justice, or helping communities in their time of need. Gringolandia grew out of my commitment to helping Chilean exiles restore the democracy that had been snatched from them on September 11, 1973, with the help of our own CIA. And because of my work supporting musicians living in exile or working underground in Chile against the dictatorship, a group of prominent musicians invited me to observe the transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1990. I consider this the most inspiring experience of my life, to see how millions of courageous people—people like Daniel and his father in Gringolandia —struggled against a brutal despot and their own fear to win back their freedom, nonviolently. And In the past month and a half, I’ve helped raise money for Chileans affected by the February 27 mega-earthquake.

Why did you decide to write Gringolandia from both Daniel and Courtney's perspectives?

One of the problems with both the first person and third person limited omniscient narrative is that the reader only knows what the point-of-view character knows. In Daniel’s journey to understand and reach his tormented father there’s a moment in which he gives up and disengages. This takes place about a quarter of the way into the novel, when Daniel’s father first comes home drunk and passed out and Daniel pretends to be asleep to avoid helping his mother. That he withdraws is entirely consistent with his character—his principal weakness is that he abhors conflict and is basically, in his mind, a coward.

Enter Courtney, who worships Daniel’s father but also doesn’t know how much she doesn’t know. She steps into the void that Daniel leaves, and the journey he doesn’t take leads her into some harrowing situations that she lacks the maturity to handle. There’s a lot of opportunity for dramatic irony here; through Courtney, the reader finds out a lot of things about his father that Daniel doesn’t know.

Daniel takes over the narrative upon Courtney’s return. Daniel senses that she’s different, but he doesn’t know why and he wants to find out—he wants to get his girlfriend back. When Daniel chooses to go after the people he has lost—his girlfriend and his father—he once again becomes the principal actor, the person who tells the story, who brings about changes in others and is himself changed.

You're leaving the MultiCultural Review to pursue an MFA (congratulations!). What's next for you? What are you working on now?

Thank you, though the MFA is taking a beating in some of the blogs these days. I’m doing it as an investment in my writing, something I’ve been reluctant to make in the past due to a long record of failure and frustration (the journey from initial draft to publication of Gringolandia took 22 years), but the critical reception to Gringolandia has convinced me that this is a career worth pursuing. I’d also like to teach at the college level, to bring my love of books and writing to young people who perhaps hadn’t shown much interest or experienced much success in these areas.My just-completed manuscript, The Minus World, is the story of Daniel’s younger sister, Tina, who had a hard time adjusting first to immigration and then to the return of her father. Three years later, she has grown more comfortable with who and where she is, until she is forced to spend the summer in Chile, where she doesn’t know the rules and ends up with a very dangerous boyfriend.

I’ve now started a new project, this one a contemporary realistic story for teens. I’m two chapters into the first draft and plan to use it as my thesis project. I won’t say what it’s about, because I don’t want to jinx it at this stage.

Some books you've read lately and found pleasing?

I’m part of a panel at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. My presentation is on “Latino Immigration in Fiction,” so I’m reading a lot of really great books (mostly for adults) about the immigrant experience. Among them are Reyna Grande’s Across a Hundred Mountains, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Raul Ramos Sanchez’s dystopic thriller America Libre. All of these are adult books, but among the 2010 children’s and young adult books I’ve enjoyed are Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich’s 8th Grade Super Zero, Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer, and Zetta Elliott’s A Wish After Midnight, which she self-published in 2008 but has been republished as part of Amazon Encore’s debut list as a result of its well-deserved critical success.

Happy Birthday, Iggums

"The other day I was talking to this sixteen-year-old runaway in Hollywood who was trying to be a starlet. I was looking at her nose rings and her piercings, and she'd managed to get a couple of gigs already. I thought, Well, the toxin lives. And I felt good."

Stuff We Did On Our Vacation, Part Two, With Assorted Digressions

1. While we were on vacation the state of Arizona lost its fucking mind. Arizona, you are so rejected. How about we pass a law that we are allowed to arrest someone on "reasonable suspicion" that THEY'RE AN ASSHAT. Hmm? HMMM? HOW DOES THAT SOUND TO YOU? Anyway, good luck getting that one past THE FUCKING CONSTITUTION WHICH LAST TIME WE CHECKED WAS STILL IN USE HERE IN THE UNITED STATES.

2. Oh yeah! The other thing we did on our vacation was NOT LOOK AT THE INTERNET. Not ONCE. Except to check our email, which sort of isn't looking at the internet, right? No publishing blogs! No goth-fashions blogs! No random vampire-fact googling! Author-friends, IT WAS AMAZING. It was LIBERATING. It made us feel NOT CRAZY! FILLED WITH HOPE! BUOYANT AND OPTIMISTIC! HEALTHY! As though perhaps a lot of what happens on the internet IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT! and merely DISTRACTS US FROM OUR PURPOSE! What did we do instead? Frolicked on beaches! Hiked in the woods! Petted baby goats! Played with doggies! Ate delicious snacks with persons beloved to us! Wrote in our little journal! Read cheesy fantasy novels! Had deep thoughts! Talked about how much we hate racism with our awesome friend Emiko! And so, on the heels of this transformative activity, we come to...

3. Realized we need to do other stuff besides blogging NO WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY ENTIRELY. We promise. But really, it is sort of like when you get the bicycle with the training wheels and your dad wants to take off the training wheels and you are all like NO DAD I CAN'T RIDE THE BICYCLE WITHOUT THE TRAINING WHEELS and then your dad is all like mm hmm and then takes them off and says he will hold the seat and then when you aren't looking he lets go and OMG LOOK AT THAT YOU DIDN'T NEED THE TRAINING WHEELS YOU ARE RIDING THE BICYCLE ALL BY YOUR OWN SELF.* All we are doing is telling you a bunch of times: a. don't be crazy b. don't write a stupid book c. if you are crazy and/or write a stupid book it is extremely possible you will get a seven-figure book deal anyway. You don't need us to tell you that, dear ones! You are so clever and brave on your own! We will still be here! After this week we will be here a little less, that's all. We will continue to make book reviews! and bad jokes! and Author-interviews! We might just write a little more about our self and our many interests, subjects we find vastly entertaining, and a little less about publishing, a subject that is rapidly losing any interest for us whatsoever and is anyway very well-covered by our many, far saner, more professional, and well-informed compatriots, who have much wisdom to offer you, and far less rabid foaming.** So don't roar your terrible Author-roars! and gnash your terrible Author-teeth! and roll your terrible Author-eyes!*** You KNOW you only read this blog to procrastinate and also so you can be like man, I might be getting rejected a lot, but AT LEAST I'M NOT THE NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT WHO MISSPELLED MANHATTAN SIX TIMES IN HIS QUERY LETTER or the person working on a PARANORMAL ROMANCE STARRING THE BABY JESUS. You can now think of the Rejectionist toiling quietly alongside you, amassing HER OWN collection of rejection letters (we already have a bunch, does that make you feel better?). Okay? OKAY.

4. We would also like to state for the record that last night we went running AND SAW SNOOP DOGG AND HIS ENTOURAGE ENTERING BROOKLYN BOWL (??). Yep, really.

*When our dad did this (almost everybody's dad does this, right?) we totally fell down, but we are very clumsy. Anyway, you get the point.

**It's true our outfits are probably more amazing.

***Did you know that book was originally supposed to be about horses, but got changed to wild things because Maurice Sendak couldn't draw a horse? How's THAT for a lesson about revision, hmm?

Stuff We Did On Our Vacation, Part One; Or, A Pictorial Essay on Vampire Habitats

So! We missed you! Did you miss us? NO YOU DIDN'T. YOU MISSED HAVING ONE MORE BLOG TO READ SO AS TO PROCRASTINATE YOUR NOVEL THAT TEENSY BIT LONGER DON'T LIE WE SEE RIGHT INTO YOUR LITTLE AUTHOR-BRAINS WITH OUR REJECTIONIST LASER VISION. We are SO ONTO YOUR SCAM. Mmm hmm. Anyway! Guess what we did on our vacation? WE WENT TO FORKS. NO REALLY. Because, you know, we were in the neighborhood, and le R. Père was a good sport and indulged us, especially when we told him it was for the Author-friends.

You have to be careful when picnicking at La Push or werewolfs will steal your roast-beef sandwich! Luckily we avoided this disaster, although le R. Père did insist on feeding potato chips to a temerarious chipmunk, over our objections.

Here we are with le R. Père at lovely Lake Crescent! That's our favorite Slayer shirt and by Slayer we mean AS IN BUFFY, which is probably why we were not approached by VAMPIRES, because they were all like OH SHIT THE REJECTIONIST BROUGHT IT AND WE DON'T FUCK WITH THE ASSISTANT WHO CLEARLY BROOKS NO SPARKLE:

Here's a deer! We didn't eat it.

We're not sure what angle they used while filming Twilight, because this is what Forks looks like in real life. All four blocks of it:

Here's some Twilight firewood, for all your camping needs (the other side of the sign reads "Burn to keep away nasty vampires"):

Even vampires have to update their Facebooks!

Someone in Forks has a sense of humor:

Every business in Forks, from the lone gas station to the feed store, has capitalized on Twilight mania by putting up movie posters and promoting itself as Forks's premier purveyor of best-priced Twilight merchandise, but "Bedazzled by Twilight" totally wins all contests, hands down. The interior of the store is made up like a primeval vampire-forest, lit only by clumps of christmas lights dangling from the ceiling, which is painted to resemble a starry TWILIT sky. You know. THE SKY AT TWILIGHT. GET IT? A lush green grasslike shag carpet covers the floor! Papier-mâché trees loom in the dim glow!

Here are life-sized Bella and Edward, ensconced in their gazebo (is this from a part of the movie we didn't watch? Someone please illuminate us):

Here is wolfmorsel Jacob, silhouetted against a La Push sunset, with his REAL MOTORBIKE:

We were all set to interrogate the young gentleman at the cash register but he looked so utterly, profoundly dejected in his stiff New Moon sweatshirt that we left him alone. We also spotted a SUSPICIOUSLY PALE young lady applying for employment, but she MYSTERIOUSLY VANISHED before we could accost her! Shortly afterward we caught sight of an "Edward can beat me up and tie me to the bedframe anytime" bumper sticker, became extremely agitated, and had to leave the store.

MORE ABOUT OUR THRILLING VACATION TOMORROW, DEAR CREATURES!

Service Interruption

The Rejectionist now takes a much-needed vacation from the tinterwebs, dear ones! WE KNOW. WE'LL MISS YOU TOO. WE'LL BE BACK IN A WEEK. PROMISE.

xoxo le r.

Image from the most amazing website in the universe.

Vengeance Is Mine, Saith the Assistant

(Morning. ASSISTANT, seated at desk, types quietly.)

PHONE: Ring! Ring!

ASSISTANT: "Steve"'s slush-crushery, Rejectionist speaking!

LADY ON PHONE: Good morning! This is Linda, enthusiastic telephone salesperson representing the Purgatorio Supreme Emporium of Extraneous Items! May I please speak to the person in charge of office storage solutions management decisions?

ASSISTANT: Um, that person is out of the office. Er, unavailable. No, actually, deceased.

LINDA: Oh! Oh dear!

(Audible turning of ASSISTANT brain-gears.)

ASSISTANT: NO WAIT! WE MEANT IN THE OTHER OFFICE!

LINDA: I'm sorry?

ASSISTANT: Yes! In the other office! The person in charge of solutions is Cretinous van Poopypants! In the next office! Mr. Poopypants would enjoy nothing more than to make office storage solutions management decisions! All day! You simply must speak to him at once!

LINDA: (Pause) Really?

ASSISTANT: YES! Mr. van Poopypants was just lamenting the dearth of office storage solutions! Just yesterday! Lamenting! In fact, you should call Mr. van Poopypants every day, at 11:32 AM, when his assistant is allowed to take a three-minute restroom break! If you call when the assistant is away from the desk you'll be sure to reach Mr. van Poopypants directly!

LINDA: (Uncertainly) Every day? Are you sure?

ASSISTANT: YES! EVERY DAY! Do you have an email newsletter?

LINDA: Why, yes! Yes we do!

ASSISTANT: Mr. van Poopypants would be ECSTATIC to receive a regular office storage solutions management newsletter! Why don't you call him at home also! And on his cell! There are so many arenas of Mr. van Poopypants' life that would be enriched by a constant influx of office storage solutions management decision opportunities!

LINDA: Oh my, you've been so helpful! I can't thank you enough!

ASSISTANT: Mr. van Poopypants will be so pleased! It's YOU who should be thanked, friend Linda!

(Joy radiates from all the corners of the earth.)

FIN

Happy International Raistlin Majere Day!

We were quite startled (and DELIGHTED) to discover how many fellow Raistlin fans lurked quietly amongst our beloved Author-friends! And so, in an expression of great joy and solidarity, we have officially declared today, Thursday, April 8, INTERNATIONAL RAISTLIN MAJERE DAY. Today is a day to celebrate all things Raistlin! Why don't you take a little sojourn in Raistland (GET IT? RAISTLAND??? OMG), the premiere Raistlin-fan website! buy a Raistlin shirt! befriend Raistlin on Facebook! who knew you could even CALL RAISTLIN AT HOME?!?!? Fucking bananas! EVERYONE LOVES RAISTLIN!! Seriously.

SOME MORE IDEAS FOR CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL RAISTLIN MAJERE DAY

1. Drink some bitter, smelly tea! Dandelion root, burdock, and astragalus are all quite rank, and have the additional benefit of being good for your liver.

2. Sneer. A lot. If you have to, practice your sneer in the bathroom until it's really terrifying.

3. Put yourself first. All day. Would Raistlin eat the last cookie at the staff meeting? YES HE WOULD.

4. Be kind to someone less fortunate. Remember, Raistlin showed great kindness to the humble and unloved gully-dwarf Bupu! Even the meanest among us can secretly harbor a boundless love for the oppressed!

5. Be smarter than everyone else all day. Carry around books no one at your workplace will understand. Make exasperated noises a lot and stomp off when people say things you find displeasing.

6. Quietly but ruthlessly mock jocks and people who are more attractive than you. Tell them you can see what they'll look like when they're really old and hideously ugly. Stare at them until they become uncomfortable and look away, then laugh.

7. Make whispered pronouncements in a dead language. Say things like "I must travel roads that will be dark and dangerous before the end of my long journey" while looking very solemn.

8. Go home and change into a red bathrobe. Hang out looking sinister. Throw fireballs at your enemies.

How shall YOU celebrate INTERNATIONAL RAISTLIN MAJERE DAY, Author-friends? Tell us!!!!

The Cold and Ugly Light of Truth: Special MFA Edition

Dearest MFA-getting Author-friends! We have a very special and sobering message for you today, inspired by the reams and reams of MFA-produced short stories and fictive efforts we have been reading lately, many of which are quietly pointing us toward the inevitable conclusion that whatever the hell they are teaching you up in there, it has nothing to do with Publishing. Lucky for you, little ones, you have us! to pour the ice-cold pitcher of Reality Water over your febrile and loftily-aspirationed heads!

1. Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Have I published a short story in The Paris Review? 2. Have I published a story in the New Yorker? 3. Am I Wells Tower? 4. Am I a talentless but famous white dude with lank, greasy hair? If you cannot answer "yes" to at least one of these questions, your odds of publishing a short story collection are somewhere around .001%. If you can answer "yes" to two of these questions, those odds will go up slightly (if you answer "yes" to questions #1-3, you should totally call us, we will buy you a beer at the Pencil Factory and you can tell us about being in a band with Al Burian). It doesn't matter where you got your MFA (sorry, Iowa!), it doesn't matter how much McSweeney's loves you, it doesn't matter how many awards you have gotten (unless one of them starts with Guggenheim or MacArthur) or how many times you have been in Best American Short Stories; your chances are very, very bad, and they are exponentially worse now than they have ever been. Half the reason we are so goddamn cranky is that we are constantly seeing profoundly talented people passed up for books that are "more commercial" (read: "OMG the hot new dude at school IS ACTUALLY A SUPERNATURAL ENTITY WHO WANTS TO DO IT WITH ME!!!!"); it makes us sad, but the industry right now is not a pretty picture, dear ones. Publishing in highly regarded literary journals will absolutely help your career, but it won't get you a book deal for a story collection. Read some of these people: Edward P. Jones, Lydia Davis, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Elmore Leonard, Mavis Gallant. Ask yourself: am I this good at writing short stories?* If the answer is no: write a novel. No really; WRITE A NOVEL. If you query an agent for your collection, and the agent says "Great! Come back when you have a novel," we're going to say we told you so.

2. Do they, like, hand out a memo on your first day of your MFA program telling you that writing about alcoholic working-class men who cannot communicate with their sons/fathers/wives is the only way to convey Authenticity? Well, take it from the assistant: we never want to see another goddamn book about an alcoholic working-class man who cannot communicate with his son/father/wife ever, ever again, particularly if that story is written by a 22-year-old white kid from Westchester County. Other important things you should know: abortion does not always Tear Relationships Asunder, and anyway Ernest Hemingway already wrote that story in 1927; people from the South occasionally do things besides beat their children; it is possible for a character to have a Moment of Self-Actualization without killing an animal with his/her bare hands; FOR CHRISSAKES HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO TELL YOU NOT TO OPEN YOUR STORY/NOVEL WITH A SNOWSTORM. Don't be sad; you should see what WE were writing when we were 22 (hint: it was fucking terrible). Everyone needs some time to crank out the piffle, except for maybe ZZ Packer. But you must learn to be ruthless with your own self. If it is bad, DO NOT SEND IT OUT. YOU HAVE TIME. Even if you are not 22. Trust us. José Saramago didn't publish a novel anyone gave a shit about until he was 57.

3. You have to write a query letter. You really do. Your query letter needs to tell us the following: 1. Who you are and 2. WHAT YOUR BOOK IS ABOUT. Even if you are a Stegner Fellow.

4. You may have more options if you are looking to publish with independent and university presses, who are often helmed by awesome and brilliant (if penniless) people who are much more open to the idea of, say, a surrealist short fiction collection, or an experimental novel written as an homage to Oulipo. The important thing to remember is that big publishing is owned by Satan, and what Satan cares about is money, and the prevailing sentiment in publishing is that short story collections/high fullutent literary fiction projects don't sell. (Is that even true? Who knows. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned sure seems to be doing fine. Oscar Wao spent a real long time on the NYT Bestseller list. As with some other conversations we've been having about what "doesn't sell," often times "it won't sell" is shorthand in publishing for "we don't feel like trying very hard to market it/we have no idea but it seems scary/we would rather spend money giving a large advance to Lauren Conrad/people of color?!?!? WHAT!! THEY READ??!?!.") Again, we are not telling you this because we think it is the way things ought to be; we think it is a rather awful way for things to be; but so is capitalism, and no one is listening to us on that count either, okay? Okay. Odds are good you're paying out the nose for that fancypants degree; make your program bring in real live agents! real live editors! and real live publishing professionals! who can talk you through the process and explain how the industry works. We are not here to discourage you!** but to make you stronger!

*One clue that you might be: agents will be contacting you, not the other way around.

**Well, we are definitely here to discourage you from writing stories about alcoholic working-class men who cannot communicate with their sons/fathers/wives, commencing with a snowstorm.

Dear James Franco

We were going to write an open letter to James Franco after reading his short story in Esquire last week, but the inimitable Sady Doyle did it for us. You want to know what reading really, really bad "literary fiction" is like? It's like this: "Now me and Jack-O' are driving down the dark 280 freeway. Me and fat boy cruising. And I think about that missing tooth, and that gap, and how there was never a gap in that place before, and about three dimensions, and how the gap was on the inside of his mouth unless he opened his mouth and how things, shapes, folded in on themselves, and four dimensions, and if time is variable, then how do I vary it, and why do I want to? Because everything just focuses in on me and I hate it." Yeah, we hate that, too. Thanks to our beloved Chérie l'Ecrivain for directing our attention to Mr. Franco's literary activities.

Stuff We Did This Weekend

1. Found ourself the victim of an unfortunate series of events involving a peacefully napping Rejectionist and cat, a Support Team transporting a small tub of hydrochloric acid from one end of the apartment to the other (don't ask), the dropping of the small tub of hydrochloric acid and subsequent agitation of aforementioned cat, who leapt to her feet and ran across our face with claws extended; the end result of this disastrous chain of causality being that we look distinctly as though we spent the weekend brawling. However, we feel this lends a pleasingly rakish effect to our appearance, and we have gotten quite good at saying "Well, the other guy is dead" with a perfectly straight face when people ask us what happened.

2. Saw the ludicrously amazing band Dark Dark Dark, which may have resulted in a certain Rejectionist having some Very Emotional Moments and getting a little weepy during a couple of songs. So what. Shut up. Possibly there were also serious thoughts about buying a truck, quitting all our jobs, filling our pocket with the meager contents of our savings account, bailing out of this cesspool of a city, driving across the southwest a bunch of times with the wind in our hair, sleeping under the stars, and going swimming in rivers. WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING IN NEW YORK WHERE THERE ARE NO TREES AND ALL THE PEOPLE ARE CRAZY. Dark Dark Dark is on tour right now! go see them if they come to your town! If this song doesn't give you chills you have no heart and you are not allowed to be our friend any more.

3. Went running. Was almost run over by a horse-drawn wagon overflowing with delighted Hasidic children, being driven by a man with a pronounced white-blond hair-metal mullet in a half-shirt and cutoff jeans shorts. SPRING IS HERE.

4. We have been so homesick lately that we actually tried to watch the Twilight movie, which is filmed in our ancestral homeland of the North Olympic Peninsula. Oh my god, Author-friends, that movie is REALLY. BAD. We didn't make it all the way through but we did get to have a Cleolinda moment with our Support Team, who watched about fifteen minutes with us, and was all like "But they are out in the daytime?" and then we were like "They can go out in the sunlight, it's just that they're REALLY SPARKLY," and then he made an astonished face, and we were all like NO REALLY AND ALSO THEY EAT DEERS BECAUSE THEY ARE VEGETARIANS AND THAT MUMBLY LITTLE PIPSQUEAK IS REALLY A WEREWOLF. Twilight is never having to say you're kidding!

We Shall Never Tire of Brief Notes on the Importance of Proofreading

From this amazing flickr set.

Love is Like a Bottle of Query

We know some of you think we are making up the terribleness of many of the queries we receive, and we are in fact a hateful and high-fullutent person, lolling about with our dogeared copy of Swann's Way (en français, naturellement!) and looking down our nose at the toiling masses whilst extolling leftist-elitist tripe! Well, that last part is true (okay, not in French. The Lydia Davis translation)! BUT THE QUERIES ARE STILL TERRIBLE. And, after racking our little brain for a comparable experience we could force you to undergo, so as to truly have some understanding of what our working life is like, we realized: reading queries is a lot like reading online personal ads. Like, A LOT. So try this little thought-experiment: go to, say, Craigslist New York. Scroll through the "men seeking women" section (IT'S FOR RESEARCH). Now imagine ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE WRITING NOVELS. Seriously, all of those people ARE probably writing novels, which is fine, and we are happy for them, but DO YOU WANT TO READ THEIR QUERIES? No, you do not. To fully illustrate our point, we present to you a number of examples, selected from real live online profiles from a variety of dating websites. THE THINGS WE DO FOR YOU PEOPLE.

NOTE: We tried really, really hard to be gender- and orientation-neutral in our selection, but the particularly insane profiles were all heterosexual men ("Obviously," says our Support Team). Make of that what you will.

1. The Hostile Query. "Am I that repulsive or am I cursed? being nocturnal has its disadvantages but this is ridiculous! I've been on this site for over a year and the only contacts I've gotten is 2 scam messages!" Would you go on a date with this person? No. So why would you note that your query has been rejected 234 times? Or tell us how much you hate agents? Or let us know that publishing is a sinking ship helmed by effete commies? Hmm? You see where we are going with this?

2. The Snoozefest Query. "I am a very caring and compassionate person. I enjoy reading, writing, traveling, music, good food and quality conversation." OH SORRY WHAT WAS THAT WE FELL ASLEEP. In all likelihood, is this a very nice person, who would doubtless be a very charming date? Yes. Are you ever going to find out? No. This is like saying, "My book is thoughtful and well-written," or "I have spent many years learning the craft of writing." TELL US SOMETHING WE DON'T ALREADY KNOW, PEOPLE!

3. The Query Letter Written From the POV of Your Novel's Protagonist. "Hulk have needs! Hulk have feelings! Hulk wonder if love exists or if love just a delusion Hulk driven to embrace rather than suffer the utter loneliness of life! Hulk not like other guys, Hulk sensitive, warm, nurturing and protective. Anybody fuck with Hulk's woman and Hulk smash them like bug!" You see now why that doesn't work?

4. The WTF Query. "im looking for awomen for ltr relatioship,im single independent person looking for a nice women.im looking for areal women any race,any religion any cast.important good humanbeing,imalso amatured well established person,im very caring loyal person &i also need a loyal&honest women.im not say im a beautifull person,but i have a charming personality im good looking&handsum guy" You think we are exaggerating when we say we have received queries that read exactly like this. We are not.

5. The Asshat Query. "Some notes on how I search the women on this site: 1. I look at pictures. If there are none that show the person, I move on. 2. If they look good, I look at: Height, age, smokes and drinks. Answers of 5'3-5'8, 18-25, no (etc) and yes (etc), in that order, earn a favorite. 3. I then read the article. Ones I am interested in I will try to find using sleuthing skills." Yeah. Kind of like those queries from the next Nabokov, "Hemmingway," and/or Melville, whose work will shortly be adapted by Spielberg for the big screen. Don't call us; we'll call you, tiger.

6. THE WINNER: "I'm a good, game lass with a big ticker and an even bigger bullshit detector. I like to ride that fine line that is so right, between the fucked-up avant-garde and the really low-brow un-mentionables of life. I'm a word nerd with a penchant for philosophy. I like tricksters, that Joseph Campbell concept of folks or creatures that stir things up purely for the purpose of unveiling the truth and causing a little mischief, and I like to believe I have a bit of this in me. My bark is as bad as my bite, but if I care for you, you are forever golden in my eyes and I will treat you like the heavenly creature that you are. I am fearless when it comes to love and life, and I don't take kindly to those who aren't of the same mind set." Once you've winnowed out the nutballs, dating, like requesting fulls, is a subjective business. Maybe you hate Joseph Campbell with an abiding passion, and would instantly rule out this young lady, regardless of how nice she sounded otherwise. Maybe an agent only reps spy novels, and will ruthlessly send your ms to the shredder even if you actually ARE the next Nabokov. Whatever. This paragraph tells us so much about this person, her interests, what makes her tick; it is lively; it is compelling; it contains charm. Think of your query like this: you are selling us not only your fabulous gem of a book, but that package of delights that is YOU. What stands out is not hyperbole, weird gimmicks, or unwanted gifts; what stands out is a hefty dose of wit and a voice that is utterly yours.