December 7th, 2012

London

It's Friday in Varanasi!

Varanasi is one of the seven holiest cities in Hinduism, the oldest continually-occupied city in the world, and a tourist magnet for Indians and backpackers alike. Over a million tourists a year come to the city on the Ganges, to bathe in the river at dawn, watch the evening aarti ceremony with synchronized fire-waving and chanting, and fend off the endless touts who would like you to take a boat ride, buy a sari, eat in their restaurant, or do a hashish deal. I say ‘no’ a lot here, and have practiced my looking-into-the-distance, past-everyone-close-and-trying-to-sell-me-something stare.

With twisty lanes in the Old Town area and plenty of hotels and cafes, Varanasi, like Amsterdam, Barcelona, and New Orleans, has fine-tuned the art of separating tourists from their money as charmingly and efficiently as possible. That said, I’m enjoying easy access to eggs and toast, wifi, and people who speak plenty of English of the doing-business variety. I’m having a couple of sick days (just a cold, nothing country-specific) and shamelessly eating at the same pizzeria and coffee & handicraft shop with every other whitey carrying the same guide book. And I’ll admit it, I’m snobbish enough to look with a critical eye at the unshaven, grubby hippies in their baggy Nepalese pants and mismatched scarves, despite being fully aware that to the Indian eye, I am no doubt committing equally gross fashion sins.


REJECTED!
I sent in a crossword puzzle to the Orange County Register and got a “no thanks but please send more” the very next day. So pleased they work fast! Crossword puzzles are something I love doing and creating, and I’m glad to have lost my submission virginity in this genre. End goal is of course The New York Times, but I’ll work my way up.

What’s interesting to me about the crossword market is how extremely precise it is—my puzzle was rejected because my theme, adding endings to the names of sports teams, wasn’t narrow enough. The editor suggested that they all be the same sport (I had one football, one basketball, one baseball for variety) and add the exact same letters to make the added-on phrases. So variety not the spice of life here.


BLOCKED!
No scores this week, just a paralyzing inability to get an article for the Times of India finished. I’m remembering to write every morning before I get up and I’m using a word tracker to make sure I’m doing at least 1000 words a day, but I’m having a hard time hunkering down and completing work. See Link of the Week for more on this.


OPPORTUNITY OF THE WEEK
I’m really enjoying reading The Review Review. This website assesses literary magazines of all types, online and paper, and reviews their content and presentation. I think most of us have heard of the biggies like The New Yorker and The Paris Review, but this site gets into the realms of “Places That Might Actually Accept Work From Newbies” and has some solid advice. I particularly like their round-ups of magazines by topic, like Yummy! Lit Mags Seeking Food And Drink Writing and Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Audio Lit Mags (that one written by my former classmate Nadine Kenney).


ME ME ME ME ME: THIS WEEK’S SUBMISSION(S)
The Surge to the Beyond the Pale essay contest, which was seeking short nonfiction about transgression. A crossword to the Orange County Register. A pitch for a radio story for this week’s theme “Dancing” on Definitely Not The Opera. A “House Tour” of my friend Don’s apartment in Patna, India to Apartment Therapy.

Why?
It feels better to have more things out at once, and a variety of things. However, I worry that my focus is a little scattered. Trying to decide if that’s maybe the point of this six-month writing focus, to try things and see what I like, or if I should be hunkering down to work harder at one thing.

How?
Email submissions all. And I paid—Paid! I fucking hate paying to submit!—to the Beyond the Pale contest, but I felt my essay was right for it, the prize is large, I know the sponsoring magazine is legit, and they extended the deadline which makes me think there will be a smaller number of entries.

What?
See above.

And then I hit 'Send'. WHICH IS LIKE TAKING YOUR CAR APART AFTER ONE CLASS AT THE VO-TECH, SQUINTING AT A GARAGEFUL OF GREASY PARTS SPREAD OUT ON NEWSPAPER AND THINKING YES I'M SURE ONE OF THESE IS THE ALTERNATOR AND I WILL TUNE THAT BABY UP.


LINK OF THE WEEK
Dear Sugar is a pretty amazing writer all the time, but she is especially amazing in this column, Write Like a Motherfucker.

“Writing is hard for every last one of us...Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Um, wow. I think I need to read this every day for a few days and internalize this excellent advice.


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Something is paralyzing me from forward motion on bigger projects: is it fear, loathing, arrogance or laziness? Vote in the comments!