Sunday, May 14, 2017

Being a Good Literary Citizen - Part One - Motivations

"Being a Good Literary Citizen" is a favorite subject of mine, because I am a collaborator-type who enjoys finding ways for everyone to win.  I truly believe in the positive power of community, and I am both excited and humbled to be a part something as awesome as fiction and poetry writing (and writers.)  I've heard the topic of good literary citizenship come up a lot recently, and thought I'd post a few ramblings here about the subject.

I'm going to start with an anecdote of something that happened to me.  A writer on twitter asked for help with a research topic.  It was right up my alley as a planetary scientist, so I sent them an email with a bunch of ideas.  This person never responded back to me.  A few years later I'm reading an anthology, and I find a story from this writer with ideas right out of my email.

I do not think this writer acted as a good literary citizen.  Because I never received a response, or even a "hey, that story got published," I feel like I'm nothing more to this person than a resource to be tapped.  They got what they wanted from me and then forgot about me.  I do not feel like a fellow writer and colleague.  I'm certainly not in the mood to read any more of this person's work, and have stopped following them on social media.

Whenever something like this happens to me, or I hear about something similar happening to another writer, I rededicate myself to being a good literary citizen.  I want to be the sort of person who makes authentic contact with people, who gives thanks and credit, and who looks for ways to be a part of something bigger.  I want to be an empathetic, kind, inclusive and caring person who owns up to mistakes and who is always striving to learn and improve.  It goes beyond being a citizen, really, and becomes a sharing of person-hood.

Next post - I'm going to do a practical list of suggestions and ideas for being a good literary citizen.  If you have some thoughts of your own, write them here, and I'll include them in the list!

Image Credit: Hearthands  Public Domain Wikimedia commons

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Most Marvelous Muse

This year's Muse and the Marketplace conference, hosted by Boston's Grub Street, has come to an end.  I am tired but happy, and currently shuffling through my notes to see what might be fun and useful to post here on the blog.  I went to several great sessions and had a most encouraging interview with an agent.  Even though I was pretty much solo for the event, I got to hang out with some new friends, and met a lot of interesting people.  I'm following a lot of them on Twitter now, and it's a lot of fun to get more like-minded writers into my feed.

As for pluses for Muse, there are lots.  Most of the sessions I went to were presented by engaging and knowledgeable speakers.  I enjoyed the fact that there were few panels. (You know my thoughts on panels as I've posted about them before.)  All of these speakers were well prepared, and most had handouts so you didn't have to be taking notes like wild the whole time.  I was unable to attend the social events because of personal conflicts, but it looked like there were many of them, and they seemed quite popular given how attendees spoke about them afterwards.  The agent/editor portion of the event was organized and run well.

My gripes are pretty minor, generally speaking.  One is that some of the rooms were long and skinny, meaning that it was hard to get seated and easy to get lost in the back.  And, well, this conference isn't cheap, since it includes a hot buffet breakfast for two days, as well as other offerings.  In addition, there wasn't much for people interested specifically in speculative fiction, nor were there any poetry-related sessions that I spotted.  But no conference can be all things to all people. (As for genre, I'm hoping to hit Capclave later in the year.)

I think it is a very good conference for writers overall, if one can afford the price tag.  And I'd certainly recommend it over other, larger, writer's conferences that are all panels.  This conference gave me more of a feeling of community than others I've been to, and I'm hoping to go back again whenever my schedule permits.   

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Emerging From the Slush - AWP Panel

There's a lot of stories in that stack.
How do you make your story stand out?
Another panel I attended at AWP this year was the "Emerging From the Slush - How to get your short story published" panel.  The theme was looking at "Robert's Rules" - the ten ways to get you and your story noticed.  They handed out a bunch of neat-o bookmarks with all the critical information on it, so it was easy to get the main ideas at a glance, and know who was there.  Panelists were Robert Kerbeck (moderator), Michael Lemberger, Sujata Shekar, and Zach Powers.  (As before, the room was jammed to capacity, and I could not see the panel table, so I could always be certain who was talking when.  I have names when I'm pretty sure who was talking) 

In any case, I thought I'd share the list here and some of my notes.  There is nothing earth-shattering here, and I can't say I agree with all of the suggestions, but it is nice to have all the ideas in one place.
  1. Find a Good Home
    Michael - Your work is not you.  Your work may be rejected, but that does not mean you are rejected.  Aim high, start at the top of your list, then move down it.  Send to the places that your favorite writers are being published, and don't take it personally when you are rejected.  Person speaking? - Don't forget your home town journals, which are good places to publish and to connect.
  2. KISS Theory
    Robert - "Keep It a Short Story" (2500-4000 words ideally).  Sujata - Experiment with different page lengths with the same story.  It builds skills.  Shorter stories are easier to fit into most mags.
  3. Non-Fiction, Baby
    Michael - Non fiction gets published.  Journalism, critical essays, memoir, slice of life - all good to consider.  Build a corpus of work around a theme that is not all fiction.  This is a great step into publishing.  Book reviews are useful and help build connections.
  4. Get Personal
    Zach - Be personal in your communications whenever possible.  For example, "You published an author I like," "I'm a subscriber," "I received a personal rejection and you said submit again," or "We met at AWP and you said to give us a try."  Find a tidbit that sets your cover letter apart.  Just one or two sentences, and then the bio.
  5. Be Strategic, Not Indiscriminate
    Zach - Submit a lot, but be discriminating.  Get to know some journals very well.  Study them.  Meet people from them.  Know where to submit.  Tier your favorites.  Michael - Know yourself and know your work.  Be yourself - you will get the readers you are supposed to have.  It's ok to pick some journals out of your comfort zone for submissions. 
  6. Let Rejection Be Your Guide
    Sujata - This is not some kind of personal rating.  For myself, I apply to only one or two contests a year.  I like themed issues where they request new work, and new authors.  I don't happen to submit places that don't take simultaneous submissions.
  7. Two for the Price of One
    Person speaking? - When you get an acceptance, send thanks.  Also, you can suggest that a brand new story is also ready to go if they are interested.  Michael - Can you pull together stories with a thematic link?
  8. Go on Vacation
    Robert - Go to Writer's conferences, retreats, workshops, and meetings to meet people, develop relationships, and advance your career.  Try Tin House, Bread Loaf, Iowa Writer's Festival, Vermont.  Sujata - Workshops, Festivals, and Retreats are very useful if you do not have a traditional writer's background.  Apply for the scholarships.  "Voices of our Nation."
  9. Be a Volunteer
    Sujata - Read the slush for a journal, you become a good reader and editor.  It depersonalizes the process and you see your own submissions in a new light.  You learn the myriad of reasons why things are rejected.  You learn what is out there so you can write something else.  Zach - Help run a reading series, organize events, etc.  Michael - Be happy for others. 
  10. Editors Don't Bite
    Editors are people.  Get to know them.  Network, establish relationships, but don't monopolize their time.  Just talk and be sociable.
Image Credit - Stack of papers.  CC 2.0 Wikimedia Commons