This Website Maps Your Literary Tastes and Tendencies

Books, culture, maps, writing

Literature Map says:

What else do readers of [any other famous author] read? The closer two writers are, the more likely someone will like both of them. Click on any name to travel along.

Did it map you right?  Tell us in the comments.

PANK’s Sense of Humor, The Missouri Review’s Argument For Online Submission Fees

culture, writing
The Missouri Review

Image via Wikipedia

Sundry notes of the literary type ahead.

I got a rejection letter from PANK today.  Fine.  The address it came from?  Hilarious!

Dinty W. Moore, the intrepid editor behind Brevity, shared a link to this piece from The Missouri Review today via Twitter.  From “Why Literary Journals Charge Online  Submission Fees” :

One of the things worth recognizing is that the cost of submitting to a magazine is a fixed prospective cost: a cost that will be incurred and cannot be recovered. Submissions have never really been free. It’s simply that the cost (paper, envelopes, postage, etc.) has been paid to the post office, not the magazine. It didn’t go to the magazines. And I’m not saying that it should have. Freed up from (some) of the costs of submitting to literary magazines, has there been an increase in subscriptions? Has there been an increase in financial support of literary journals from writers?

No. Not at all.


In fact, submissions increase significantly. This varies from magazine to magazine, but the increase in submissions is somewhere between twenty to thirty-five percent.

My comment:

The increase in submissions has more do with more people trying to be writers, getting MFAs, having to submit to more journals because of more competition, being unable to pay fees at every journal that charges them, or, if able to pay those fees, certainly not subscribing to more journals. It also just so happens that the streamlining of online submissions came at a great time: the world economy has been in the gutter for close to four years. I’m glad to be rid of the cost of paper and postage, but I’m not plunking those extra dollars down for more journal subscriptions. Yes, we keep hearing about how writers don’t have a lot of extra money, but that’s because, well, we (and you) don’t.

The fact that writers no longer pay the costs of postage to submit doesn’t mean that those phantom dollars are now a revenue stream to be captured.  That money’s already going to other things, like paying student loans.

How All Literary Rejection Letters Should Start

culture, writing





This lets you know right away that the rest of the email is not about your Pushcart nomination.

After the obligatory “Dear Author/Writer/Word Processing Chimpanzee,” the very first word of the first sentence should be “unfortunately.” This saves writers from having to scan the rest of the text for the word. It also means that if the writer’s e-mail service shows body text previews, the writer doesn’t even have to open the email to know s/he’s been slush-piled. I still recommend reading the actual rejections just in case there are specific comments or requests for more work.

This message has been brought to you by the editors of a review somewhere in the formerly industrial midwest. Remembering which story I sent them four months ago is pretty tough, and it looks like they forgot the title, too.

Since many of you visit this blog looking for bits and pieces about the MFA process and the nuts and bolts of trying to get pieces published, I thought I’d share the secret hierarchy of rejection letters.

1: The standard form letter like the one seen here.  Not very gratifying, but don’t take it personally.  You’re busy, they’re busy, and that’s just how it goes.  That said, don’t submit to a market that doesn’t allow simultaneous subs, or, if you do, submit other places anyway. In my opinion, markets have no right to tell you not to submit elsewhere, especially in the current climate.
2: The form letter with your name and the title of your piece.  Pretty standard practice.  I think I get more rejections with this level of personalization than without.
3: The personalized rejection letter with a personal note telling you how much they liked your story, even though it’s not for them, and encouraging you to send them more. In the super-competitive and completely subjective literary world, this can feel almost as good as an acceptance when you’re moving along this spectrum.  When you’re at this point with a specific piece or a specific market, you know that the editors really looked hard at your piece, thought about it, and saw enough promise (or whatever they look for) to personally encourage you as a writer.  No one owes you that, so when you get it, it’s a good thing.  Follow up with a thank you.

No, I’m not really upset with the formerly industrial midwestern review for rocking the old #1 on me.  It comes with the territory, and if you can’t handle something like that, you’re going to need to toughen up if you want your stories told, and if you’re going to write the kinds of stories people will want to share. And remember: this entire process is based on subjective responses to art.  You will fail often, especially in the beginning.  The important thing is to keep trying and, if you must fail, to keep failing better.


Stevenson on Whitman, Nietzsche on Dante and The Family Circus


Flavorwire has a list of the 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults in History up today.

Two of the first three don’t feel like insults at all:

Wouldn’t you love to be called a “large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon” by RLS?  I for sure would.

Nietzsche’s aphorism about Dante is hysterical even if you think he’s wrong. It’s also brilliant.  And now, aren’t you thinking about how awesome it would be to write poetry on tombs?  I for sure am.  With the transcendent, absurd, holy, trippy joy through which I assume hyenas experience the world?  Yes, please!

Speaking of Nietzsche, have you experienced Nietzsche Family Circus?  It takes a random Family Circus panel and pairs it with a random Nietzsche quote.   When you get results like the one below, you start to question if the whole thing isn’t rigged:

And then you keep clicking, only to watch Billy whispering into Jeffy’s ear that eventually the abyss will stare back into him (this while they’re watching their mother, Thel, playing with baby PJ) or telling Thel that God is dead. Dolly’s “why” for living is a pair of giant sunglasses.  Jeffy levels some pretty hard charges against the Keane regime, and then this, which cracks me up:

It turns out that Family Circus + Nietzsche = Calvin and Hobbes.

Electric Juxtapostion: “I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone” and “City of Electric Light” by Richard Brautigan and Chad VanGaalen

art, music, writing

I came across Brautigan’s story on Flickr. It made me think right away of Chad VanGaalen’s beautiful song.  Begging your pardon as I channel my inner teaching assistant: What do you make of this juxtaposition? Different crafts and media, both discovered and shared on the internet, both hewn here in bits of data and binary code.  Are these pieces complimentary or contrary? Which one speaks to you more? Is one enriched by its presentation with the other?  Are both? I should point out that the video was made by a fan.  The scan of Brautigan’s story was, too.


New at Huffington: Barack Obama and Joseph Campbell


My newest piece for the Huffington Post is live. It’s about how the heroic narrative as proposed by Joseph Campbell maps onto President Obama’s journey up through his election.  At midterm, and facing reelection in two short years, where does the hero of the 2008 campaign go from here?  Do click on the picture to read.