?

Log in

No account? Create an account

The Literary Crabbucket

« previous entry | next entry »
Oct. 28th, 2014 | 04:02 pm

There is a literary magazine I love, Five Dials. I devour their issues--each with a different theme, or focused on authors from a certain region of the world, or on a form or style. I tend to grab random friends and read chunks out loud until their eyes glaze over with what I like to think is literary joy.

A few issues ago, they did a trees-themed issue titled Why Willows Weep and Other Tales from the Forest Floor. From that issue, I think these are the most beautiful lines I've ever read in the English language:

The trees have always had some idea of what happens to them when they die. In forests they saw their neighbours toppled by wind or age and rot into earth, and their roots sent up descriptions of peat and coal in vast beds and seams. Later, when humans came along, trees saw the stockades, the carts pulled by horses, the chairs and tables set out in gardens, and quickly put two and two together. Trees growing beside rivers saw themselves in the hulls and masts of boats, and trees in orchards understood that the ladders propped against them had once been trees, and when men approached with axes to fell them, the trees recognized the handles.
(From Why The Ash Has Black Buds by William Fiennes)

On days when I want to write better, I read that paragraph over and over again, hoping it will osmose into my head and my heart and my fingers and homeopathically tinge my own work.

Five Dials puts out all their issues as pdfs, which makes them both free and delightful to print out and carry around (I get carsick if I read off a screen in a vehicle). Yesterday morning they tweeted that their new issue was out. Yay! So I started to type “Another fab issue of @…” and dig through for a good quote to make a quality tweet instead of just a ReTweet, and then I stopped. Because I remembered that I’d submitted to Five Dials last year. I tried to do it right--I read a bunch of issues for tone, chose a piece I thought fit their aesthetic and polished the heck out of it, formatted it nicely, tracked down where to send it (they are a little hard to find).

They responded the same day to my cover letter that said how much I loved the magazine, and asked if I’d be a Reader of the Week. I took a photo of myself reading Five Dials hanging from an aerial silk, and when I showed up on their blog and Twitter I happily spread it all over my social media. But my actual submission? Not a word.

I’m sure they have ninety gazillion submissions and their primary business is putting out a magazine and their staff is small and overworked. We all are. We all have more than we can do in the time we have available. We all make choices every day about how to spend our artist time (right now I'm revising this essay here instead of finishing an edit for money).

Five Dials is on Twitter. And social media is supposedly the godsend of free advertising! Getting the word out! Going viral! They (presumably) hope their readers will engage with them. And most of the time, I’m delighted to. But I've spent a year hoping for:

Not quite for us but try again
Or
This doesn't seem ready what were you thinking please never write anything ever again
Or even
Thanks no thanks
copy-pasted by an intern who is laboring in the keyboard mines in exchange for pizza.

Now they announce their new issue. Hoping (presumably) for diehard fans like me to amplify their signal, to endorse their message (who is anyone kidding? Of course a RT is an endorsement, so read what you post). They want 30 seconds of my time, for a cause I believe(d) in. Thirty seconds, multiplied by a couple of tweets a month, twelve months a year. Plus reading to friends. Plus quoting stories. Plus recycling my printed copies by shoving them into the hands of strangers in airports reading literary fiction. They want me to engage with social media.

Well media costs money, so the key word here is social. And social isn’t “free,” it costs time. The magazine, or the brand, or the celebrity, buys my time with their time. The bigger the institution, the more their time is worth proportionate to my time–compared to Five Dials' literary might, maybe my submission-prep time and my support-the-magazine time and my share-the-tweets time is worth very little, but it’s probably worth a 30-second thanks-no-thanks.

This makes me crabby.

I could just cross it off my spreadsheet and figure I'm just not important enough to get their attention, but I'm not. I'm instead assuming that they're not interested in literary citzenship, they're interested in free advertising. Which is like showing up at a party for five minutes, handing out flyers to your store opening, and bailing before the cake is cut.

I'm still learning Twitter. I'm still figuring out how to be non-obnoxious, how to actually see what I want to see in the stream. But I'm participating as much as I can with passing on work I like, RTing people who have something cool to say. I like being part of the community. And I hope I'm banking some time.




_________________________________________
whipchick spent all morning in a mall with Prada, Gucci, Bvlgari, Tory Burch and Alexander McQueen but no place to buy a book.


.

Link | Leave a comment |

Comments {17}

medleymisty

(no subject)

from: medleymisty
date: Oct. 28th, 2014 08:34 pm (UTC)
Link

The few literary magazines I've submitted to now regularly show up in my spam box, advertising expensive classes and workshops.

I haven't submitted to them again.

*hugs*

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 28th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
Link

I know, right? Half the time I wonder if the "contest" is actually a combination fundraiser and mailing-list generator.

I had someone contact me about retreats where they were charging $4000 for a 3-day weekend. Nice work if you can get it :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

ejfrostuk

(no subject)

from: ejfrostuk
date: Oct. 28th, 2014 08:37 pm (UTC)
Link

You are justifiably crabby. And justifiably voting with your tweets (or lack thereof).

This is the best line I've read all year:

"On days when I want to write better, I read that paragraph over and over again, hoping it will osmose into my head and my heart and my fingers and homeopathically tinge my own work."

So clearly the homeopathy is working. :)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 28th, 2014 08:57 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you :) Practice practice!

Reply | Parent | Thread

Didn't want to be

(no subject)

from: anyonesghost
date: Oct. 28th, 2014 08:49 pm (UTC)
Link

Wait a minute. You mean "social" implies a two way street? It's not just wandering through the town square belting out advertisements as loud as you can??

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Oct. 28th, 2014 08:57 pm (UTC)
Link

I'M SORRY I COULDN'T HEAR YOU BECAUSE I WAS TALKING ABOUT MY BOOK. WOULD YOU LIKE TO BUY MY BOOK?

Reply | Parent | Thread

tonithegreat

(no subject)

from: tonithegreat
date: Oct. 29th, 2014 03:08 am (UTC)
Link

This world of media is hard to navigate! I often think about it being hard to navigate in terms of the "mass media" of the internet taken as one big thing, but it seems to be true that niches are harder to navigate too, literary stuff included.

Reply | Thread

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Oct. 29th, 2014 04:42 am (UTC)
Link

copy-pasted by an intern who is laboring in the keyboard mines in exchange for pizza.
This description alone shows why you deserve attention as a writer. :D

I understand your POV completely. There is the veneer of treating you like a "valued friend" with the requests to spread the word, but when it comes to basic respect for you as a writer... they've really fallen short. I'm sorry. :(

Reply | Thread

millysdaughter

(no subject)

from: millysdaughter
date: Oct. 29th, 2014 01:53 pm (UTC)
Link

I have a finite amount of time, of talent, of financial resources to contribute to causes and projects and products. I have a personal need to feel my contribution is valued. If I do not feel valued by "your company" for my contribution, I have discovered that there really ***ARE*** an infinite number of OTHER "causes and projects and products" that would like the opportunity to show me how much they value my time/skill/money. (yes, mostly they all just want the money, but still....if they do not value it, I can spread it elsewhere. I can ALWAYS find somebody else to take my money)

Reply | Thread

kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre

(no subject)

from: bleodswean
date: Oct. 29th, 2014 01:55 pm (UTC)
Link

I feel your frustration with this kind of silence. Keenly.

Reply | Thread

drwex

(no subject)

from: drwex
date: Oct. 29th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC)
Link

I'm sorry their lack of response is making you cranky. I agree that lots of organizations use social media poorly. Along with everything else. Even venerable Carnegie Hall asked me for an email address that was supposed to be to notify me in case my event was cancelled or postponed and then proceeded to spam me with fundraising emails.

So, yeah. Two-way street and all that.

Reply | Thread

i_17bingo

(no subject)

from: i_17bingo
date: Oct. 30th, 2014 11:50 am (UTC)
Link

I've been beaten up so much this year that I think I'd welcome a non-rejection rejection. And I've received advertisements from those who have rejected me (this doesn't bother me, because their rejections have always been polite and logical).

However, giving me a non-rejection rejection and then asking me to advertise? Seriously, fuck those guys.

Reply | Thread

rayaso

(no subject)

from: rayaso
date: Oct. 30th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
Link

I loved your line about the pizza, as well as the rejection email. I will have to take a look at Five Dials (PDF! Free!). There is this whole world of literary publications that I know nothing about. If you feel like recommending a few of the Free kind, I would appreciate it. Oh, to be young, an intern, and willing to work for pizza.

Reply | Thread

Teo Says

(no subject)

from: eternal_ot
date: Oct. 30th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
Link

Why the hell is this relate-able?..Oh! well...I guess expecting a "Thanks but no thanks" is justified..and now I am crabby too..At least I have great company..;)..:D

Reply | Thread

Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Oct. 30th, 2014 08:48 pm (UTC)
Link

Good luck. Sometimes it takes over a year to get a response -- I've had one a year and a half after a submission, once.

Reply | Thread

Yelеna

(no subject)

from: kehlen_crow
date: Oct. 30th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
Link

This does leave a sour taste in your mouth, does it not?

I loved this line in particular:
until their eyes glaze over with what I like to think is literary joy :-)

Reply | Thread

A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Oct. 31st, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
Link

Your party description was pretty apt... I actually do on occasion host real parties where people actually DO that. I'd say they don't get invited back, but it's an open thing, and I haven't decided if I'm going to take them aside or what, yet.

I haven't dived into Twitter yet, so I can't really relate to that aspect of this, but I did once work for a publishing house (I was the one who sent the rejection letters on behalf of the editors), so I can understand what you must be feeling, to some degree, because it was my responsibility to respond to every submission sent. I feel like people are due that. Granted, that was 20 years ago, and maybe the world has changed more than we'd like it to in that time, but, still... the sentiment remains. That's still the world I would like to be a part of.

The saying is that no news is good news, but that's not always true, is it? No news is maddening, but, more than that, it's just rude. And I wish we hadn't fallen to that place quite so quickly.

I feel for you, here, but, at the same time, I hardly know anyone as tenacious as you, so, I'm not really worried for you. I don't think you've ever made lemonade from lemons. Fuck lemonade. Who thinks that small? I think you turn everything you touch into magic. Keep it up. Your day is coming.

Reply | Thread