2015 Ends, 2016 Begins

It’s the first of January and I am wearing an old army hat, floppy, wide brimmed, the sort of thing which it is useful to bring on camping trips and bush walks, as I write this. I was wearing a sort of Santa hat – festive, spangly, yet black – last night and again this morning after the cat and the dogs woke us up and moved the coffee hour to an earlier part of the day than we guessed it would be when we went to bed, late, last night, after Sydney’s midnight fireworks on TV and then the wait for a song we knew and actually liked (something from our youth) on ‘Rage’, the music video show.

Headwear isn’t important. Being here, writing something, is. I suppose.

It has been a distracting and busy few months, the last quarter of 2015. There are things which I shan’t explain, things for another blog, at another time, where my identity is even more secure, and truth may flow more freely – if that happens at all – which have been going on. It’s not terribly mysterious and it just means time away from usual activities to help older relatives with things they need to take care of – but it has been tiring and time consuming and it isn’t likely to end any time soon. Well … not for a while, anyway.

And it means my reader may have grown anxious for updates which never came. Or possibly she even forgot me and moved on to some other bloke with a made-up name who writes about writing, about life as it relates to writing, about observations (which constitute writing, in their own way), and actually writes little things, sometimes, which are intended to be considered as fully fledged examples of fiction writing, in their own right (as it were). It may be wrong to suspect my reader of a lack of loyalty when my loyalty to her has dropped off markedly of late.

In any case, if she’s still here, she should know that I’m back, and intend to renew my acquaintanceship with her, albeit in a limited way, for a time – abbreviated, compared with the way things used to be – an austerity blog, of sorts. If you will. And so on.

 

2015 began with a certain confidence. My first story had been published and there was no reason to think that there wouldn’t be more to come. I thought (and may have written) something like: this year I will have a few more stories published, and hopefully something at one of the elite journals.

But it wasn’t that easy, and it didn’t pan out that way.

At all.

It was after lunch on the last day of 2015 that I learned via an email that my second story would be published, by the same journal as the first one, some eighteen months after learning of my first success in mid-2014. It was good news. News that seemed unlikely. Most news has been bad, after all. And so my reaction has been positive, but tempered by the experience of so much rejection over the last twelve months.

The year started off with a long essay – experimental creative non-fiction or something – and there was another piece of writing, also an entry to a competition, which was a series of connected stories, a cleverly conceived competition, in a diabolical sort of way, because many writers probably don’t have a neat series of stories ready to send, and therefore entries to the competition could be expected to be of a decent standard, sent by people serious enough to write 20,000 words on the topic, with entries by writers who just send the same story to all the competitions weeded out. My entries to these, and all competitions, of course, were unsuccessful.

Other stories were just sent to journals, in the hope they would be published. Many journals emphasise their lack of resources and limited time and commitment to something we all believe in when they basically tell you that unless you are a subscriber you will be unsuccessful. This confuses me. It isn’t difficult to imagine that running a literary magazine will not make you a profit, but is it really necessary to lay the guilt for the difficulties of the enterprise on the people who are supplying content for your magazine? Readers and writers overlap, but not all readers are also trying to hone their craft and be recognised by someone who might give them an opportunity, in order to make their way slowly toward some sort of artistic success … if they are good enough. A prestigious journal I know of requires a small payment to submit work, and I like this method more, if it really is true that only subscribers are taken seriously otherwise – for who can subscribe to multiple literary journals at the same time?

Anyway, enough of that.

These were knocked back, too. At one point I even made it quite clear that a small journal, which I liked, could have something of mine for free (when getting paid, just for the sake of the principle enshrined in the transaction, the dignity, the reward, is the whole point of the exercise) – and they still said no. A journal rejected something – flash fiction, I think, up to 500 words – because it was “underdeveloped”. How developed can a story of such smallness be? You can’t say, “Just wait for Chapter 2. It really picks up then”.

I was tempted to say something smart – as in smart-arse – but didn’t. I believe in this process. I believe that rejection and coping with that and learning something from it is very important. The people who run the competitions and edit the magazines don’t have to do what they do. They could quite easily stop. And I am grateful. Genuinely. Sometimes a few deep breaths and needed – and a few short minutes – before the desire to be rude wears off, and I will write my reply. I’ve become quite good at these, and they are sincere and thankful and it seems to work because there have been a couple of times when I have received a reply to my rejection reply, and that is an oddly successful feeling. As if, I had a little win.

There was going to be something about some of the books I’ve read in the last few months, which might have to wait until another post. Yep, at a later date, in a few days maybe.

But I have a story currently in competition, a long story in another competition, and one or two stories under consideration by journal editors. Rejections for all of these should be expected, and I am expecting it, but you never know.

Hopefully I’m getting better, and the experience of all this is making me a better person and a better writer.

Happy 2016 to my reader (and to anyone else who may have stumbled in here).

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Published in: on January 1, 2016 at 5:31 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey I’m here I’m here! Have not moved on but am as sporadic in my reading of you as you might feel posting, plus I am slack w comments. My blogs are suffering from inattention. Sorry, too, to read it’s been so tough and discouraging for you. It’s a bloody business that’s for sure. Anyway, I’m here cheering you on, the little support I can give you while deep in my own writing lockdown. Persistence and patience are key. Plus a little luck talent and hard work. But keep going and I look forward to news…

    • Oh, hello! Lovely to hear from you.
      I don’t expect anyone to actually read my gibberish – mucking around about “my reader” really.
      Hope your lockdown produces good things, and I’m sure it will.
      I really appreciate the advice. Your example is a big consolation when things don’t go so well.
      Thanks Jenny.


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