Sunday, March 29, 2009

Up to Bat

Some days I can't figure out if I'm going strong or going too long.

I have developed a list of things to do that energizes me and it has really helped to get me out of my slump that I've been feeling for the past week. The only problem is that these motivating things are all new things and doing them with a single-minded passion is leaving other things undone. Important things. Like term papers.

Or at least like the first seven pages of a term paper draft that is due on Monday.

At the encouragement of my professor I have set to work investigating journals and submitting three different pieces. Her assertion is that I should submit to a minimum of twenty journals and if they all say 'no' then, and only then, should I think about revising these three pieces. Sounds good to me!

She names this as her number, but it makes me think of an interview with Benjamin Percy I read in Poets&Writers a year or two ago. I had never heard Percy's name before -- and haven't heard it since -- but his short story "Refresh, Refresh" (originally published in the Paris Review) won the Pushcart Prize for 2006. He said that as an MFA candidate he watched his more talented peers give up after receiving a dozen rejects. Some stuck it out to about twenty. They took it as a sign that it wasn't meant to be and stuck the story in a drawer never to send it out again. Percy had over forty rejections for a single story -- he was well on his way to fifty -- when he finally got it published.

His lesson was in persistence.

I am, by no means, daunted by the thought of forty submissions for a single story. In my mind, this is just the process. It's all a matter of getting the right story to the right editor at the right time. (Assuming, of course, that it's not crap to begin with.) And even if the story is not crap, that's a lot of things that have to fall into alignment. Or, if talk of chance and alignment freak you out, think of it in terms of batting average. The really great hitters only pull scores in the .300s -- they hit less than one out of three pitches. That means they are just as likely to strike out anytime they get up to the plate. Now, I -- like anyone else -- would love to get a hit in one out of three story submissions, but we're also talking about professionals here. From here my mixed metaphor peters out, but hopefully you already get my uber-hopeful drift; basically, I'm game for whatever comes next.

Thursday I took myself off to the library to print out copies. I spent the commercial breaks during Grey's Anatomy doing the self-addressed part of SASE. I now have a little stash of them. Today I took myself off and got another stack of manila mailer envelopes as I had gone through all the ones I found after the move. I sent off manuscripts through electronic uploads and two through snail mail. Two contests, one of which is Gulf Coast.

When possible I've just been uploading documents into the nifty databases that journals keep for their submissions, but the paper and envelope side of this is giving me a proper appreciation as to just how serious I am about these submissions. More serious than I've ever been about anything I've ever submitted before.

Before it was just a passing thought. A fancy. An offhand chance at something. Now, today, this time around: I've researched; I have lists, recommendations; I have contests that I know aren't scams because I finally know the names of journals; I have materials from journals at the AWP bookfair; I have made a binder in which to track both journals and my submissions to them. This time I'm damn serious.

Highly Recommended