So, I haven’t been around for a while and yes, I suppose there is a reason and that reason is I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Could it be the weather? Partly, it is.
In Berlin, summer is an optional season. I’ve lived here for 18 years now (holy fuck, 18 years!!) and for the first 15 little old California me complained anytime I had to so much as wear a cotton sweater in July during the day. I mean, come on Berlin, I put up with your is-this-Mordor-or-is-this-winter? for almost six months ( dark all day, but with freezing coldness, not sulphur and fire like Mordor, although many locals do start looking like Orcs come late February, albeit bundled up in scarves.) After such torture, I damn well deserve a summer.
But come 2015 I stopped my bitching, probably because I don’t actually expect a nice summer here. If I do get one, it’s nothing more than a pleasant surprise.
Unless you’ve got a hankering for torrential downpours, you’d probably agree with me that, this year, Berlin’s summer so far blows. Here’s what it delivered us a couple of weeks ago:
I actually had to go outside that day several times and each time I was completely soaked within about a half a second, umbrella, rain jacket or no.
At least this guy had fun with it:
But although the weather has had something to do with it I’m sure, my funk has had more to do with rejections, as in those ones I constantly receive for my fiction.
Look, I’m not naive. If you’re a nobody like me, I realize your chances of getting published in a literary magazine are roughly 1%, probably way less when we’re talking about some of the bigger magazines. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re no good, although of course it can. But my ego is big enough to believe I have something say, and that I can say it well. I’m in a writer’s group and it’s a pretty tough crowd, but they like my work and, when they don’t, I’m humble enough to get those editing chops in gear.
But still: rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection. It does get you down.
What’s sometimes even harder is reading what does get published. From what I’ve read, a lot of magazine publish about five different types of stories (although the mixture and predominance of one type over the other varies): breezy realism, dirty realism, evocative-language-and-startling-images-minus-and-actual-story stories, I’m-such-an-outsider-and-I-will-now-tell-you-everything-inside-my-head realism and the ironic ha-ha (other than dirty realism, these are my own descriptions, but it’s eleven at night and I’m on my second glass of wine, so hopefully you can guess what I mean because I’m not up for explaining.)
Case in point: One day, when I was doing some lit-mag research, I read four different stories in which one of the characters popped open a can of beer within the first two paragraphs. Four stories, four cans of beer, four examples of published breezy/dirty realism.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong about writing or reading about drinking beer. There’s not even anything wrong with drinking beer, although I am admittedly more of a wine person. And if a magazine seems to prefer characters named Bill and Irene who guzzle beer and irony, then I don’t submit because my work wouldn’t be a good fit.
But the problem is I don’t see much of the kind of stories I write anywhere. Does that mean less people write them or does it mean no one really wants to publish them?
Or am I just too far out of the scene? Is the whole shebang really more about connections?
It’s like I’m Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and I’m poor and out of the loop, but I can sew bitches. But then there’s the cool kids, the literary darlings, who have degrees from Stanford and Columbia, Cornell and Iowa. Maybe some of them are the rebels who say degrees from Stanford and Columbia are overrated but, kids, let’s face it: They still have them.
But here I am, Molly Ringwald, and my stories are Ducky, with his funky mod haircut and awkward jokes and creepers and…ok, the analogy has lost some steam here, but I did love that movie back in the day.
John Hughes 4-ever.
Part of me thinks, so what? It’s the writing that matters. Ok, yes. But if I don’t publish anywhere, when I finish my novel, no matter how good it is, it will likely have about a 0.00089% chance of ever being published—and I’m probably being overly optimistic with that number.
And, really, without readers, stories are no more than words on a page.
The good news is my woe-is-me, down-in-the-dump-ness hasn’t affected my actual writing. I just finished a long story I’m really happy with and I’m plugging away on my novel.
So, dear Reader, if you exist, please keep your fingers crossed for me.