Thursday, February 03, 2005

No! To The New Yorker and Other Hoity-Toity Magazines

Just read a hilarious account by Jennifer Weiner, an author who all but turned backflips to get published in The New Yorker, only to be told after moving heaven and earth to get a contact, that she is geographically incorrect in her choice of residence. (Authors, take note: "Talk of the Town" appears to refer only to NYC. If you don't live there, forget breaking in that way. )

I'm at that stage of submitting prose and poetry where I've deemed readable, but not connected enough to be publishable. I regularly get personal notes with lavish editorial suggestions. This level of attention would seem to suggest that I will be imminently accepted at, say, The Atlantic. But the imminence is always receding. I finally figured out that I'm sort of being toyed with, while they wait for Joyce Carol Oates' story or Billy Collins' poem to come in.

That said, I can't really whine this morning. Not when I have an essay forthcoming in a wonderful book: Italy, A Love Story. Editor Camille Cusumano, who did a similar anthology for Seal Press (France, A Love Story), has created a new collection of essays about Italy, my favorite place in the whole world (except Hawaii, which isn't really in this world).

I'm very excited, as I poured myself into this piece, writing from the heart and without that little voice that says at every word, "But is it publishable?" Of course I prize craft, but I needed to cut loose. Happily, cutting loose on this piece worked for everyone. It feels wonderful to have put so much into a piece of writing and have it well received. Better than getting into The New Yorker.

All writers know that glow, when you've done a really honest piece of work, and it gets an enthusiastic reception wherever it has landed. I think such an experience is deeply instructive of how to write better, unless your writing goal is to surpass Stephen King in sales. For me, better is the goal, not just well-published. My father, the mad rocket scientist, has a saying: "Better is the enemy of good." That works for engineering a rocket, maybe. It doesn't work for creative writing. My creative writer's paraphrase of Dad's Law of Better: "Better is your friend; publishable is your enemy."

Monday, January 31, 2005

That is the Question

To blog or not to blog: does it limber up the creative psyche or simply exhaust it? Is it a tool of endless self-promotion or a dialogue in an increasing community?

I've learned as much about the poetic process in reading a week of blogs as from reading an astute book on craft. Often I'm learning from poets I know, which keeps it interesting.

I also have learned a few more things about communications. I'm in the business, and have seen a lot of printed materials, so learning something new from online writing is surprising. But a blog is a unique format, if only visually. It's not a web page, not a diary page, not a flyer or mailer or print ad. Links within the text branch off into new topics, and back or not. It's a new literary animal. How often does that happen?

Is it journalism? Many blog entries best the columns in my local paper for appeal and interest. Many blogs slip into the bog of mindless navel-gazing. Perhaps even those of accomplished bloggers who have colds, are under stress or preoccupied with something personal and fail to remember the rest of us. The audience.

It's a stroll through an improv, dancing to inner music, an untitled poem, a handheld video of a riot in progress. It's the day's taste, a pond's mirror disrupted by a face. O beautiful for spacious lines, it's free, and that's why.