Beautiful Sentences: David Gilbert

I knew it was heading toward a dark place, but the way he twists the reader into being an accomplice, like you’re the voice in Edgar Mead’s head, that was pretty cool, like the reader affects what’s being read, kind of a Schrödinger’s cat-and-mouse game.

David Gilbert, & Sons.


2017 in rejections (and acceptances)

I’ve upped my submissions a bit from last year, but still below last year. Once again, I fell short of my goal of 200 rejections, but came closer than last year with 160 vs 144. I did manage to set a couple records with my highest ever acceptance rate (4.2%, up from last year’s previous record 3.3%) and highest ever personal response rate (36% up from the previous record of 27%). This year’s publications were “Bartholomew L. Bartholomew” in Masque & Spectacle,  “An Outsider” in Dear America: Reflections on Race and “In Extremis” in Valparaiso Fiction Review.


Query rejections were again mostly form although I did get one full request which ended up with no further communication. My first novel is officially trunked.

Poetry has been grim this year with, despite a much higher submission rate, no acceptances and only a handful of personal rejections.


Beautiful Sentences: Ron Hansen

Mariette gazes around the oratory. Each nun stares at the prioress in common. Each stares at her separately.

Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy.


2017 in Reading

My favorite reads of the year, in alphabetical order by title. I read some damned good shit this year with one re-read in the list (Run)

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by Georges Perec

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler 

Cake Time by Siel Ju

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey 

Fountain of Age: Stories by Nancy Kress

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist’s Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector by Jessica Hische  

Lies of the Saints by Erin McGraw 

Night to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier 

Run by Ann Patchett 

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Sex, Class & Culture by Lillian S. Robinson 

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski 

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti 

My diversity report for the year: Women authors 50.8% (up from 48%) last year). Non-white authors were 16.3% of my reading (essentially flat from last year’s 16.4%). I chose a book different from what I might have read ordinarily to hit my diversity target 24% of the time, down slightly from last year’s 25%. Between my being careful about what gets into my to-read lists/piles and perhaps improved diversity coming from my filters, this is a continued good sign. My Dead White Men number meanwhile somehow continues to climb, up to 20.1% from 14.4% which goes to show that diversity doesn’t necessarily entail the death of the Canon. Non-US authors were 39.8% of my reading essentially flat from last year’s 39.9%. Translations were up at 14.1% compared to last year’s 10%. Books in Spanish were down to 1.3% from 3.8% courtesy of not taking a Spanish class this year and the fact that I’ve still not finished the long-ass but magnificent 2666. 

The authors I’ve met number was up a fair amount at 7.2% vs 2.5% last year to which I attribute a few friends having new books out this year. Re-reads were down to 2.8% from 5.4% (my Salinger re-read project having come to an end), authors new to me were down to 68% from 71.8% last year. Fiction and Poetry were both up slightly at 56.1% and 2.6% respectively, compared to last year’s 47.5% and 1.3%. One new stat this year: books read as research for my novel accounted for 22.7% of my reading this year. I expect that will be down next year as my research winds down, but it is up from last year’s 20% which would be higher had I started work on the novel earlier in the year.

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Beautiful Sentences: David Gilbert

Adolescence seems to open a small hole in which the rest of our lives drain.

David Gilbert, & Sons.


Beautiful Sentences: Beth Ann Fennelly

I want to paint in a foreign language.

Beth Ann Fennelly, “Berthe Morisot: Retrospective”


Beautiful Sentences: David Gilbert

He seemed a veteran of—I don’t know, adolescence, I suppose, which like all wars is particular to the combatant.

David Gilbert, & Sons.


Beautiful Sentences: Kevin Sampsell

Those teen years are when the scars happen. The scars you have to tend to the rest of your life, hoping they heal or fade away.
Kevin Sampsell, “I’m Jumping Off the Bridge”

Beautiful Sentences: David Gilbert

She had reasonable good looks, like many a reasonable girl at Exeter, the product themselves of reasonable mothers, always with dark hair never cut too short and surprisingly bad teeth—if not crooked, then yellow; if not yellow, then with large gums—and with naturally UV-protected skin, glasses almost mandatory but stylishly framed (their most overt fashion choice), bodies solid but never fat, athletic from those reasonable genes that had survived past feminine hardship and now chased field hockey balls instead of wayward sheep, this type of reasonableness not necessarily smart but often very focused, and not guaranteed plain Janes because there was plenty of sex appeal and humor in that reason, a sharpness that stood in contrast to the groundless swell around them. so that these girls, these women with their chunky jaws and dirt-brown eyes and honest opinions of themselves, held the secret of their own common sense, which, if discovered, would shock you blind. These women often work in publishing.

David Gilbert, & Sons.


“An Outsider”: The Story Behind the Story

This is another story which has been kicking around for a while before it finally was published, Back in the ‘90s, I submitted this to Story, received a hand-written rejection letter and didn’t realize that was a sign I was onto something and didn’t do anything more with the piece for years.

This story has gone through more rounds of revision than anything else I’ve written (other than my ill-fated and now-trunked  novel). For a while it began with a dodgeball game, the count of players in which I was never able to get right despite my best efforts. Then one workshop participant pointed out that the story really began a bit later and that “I don’t know how the story about the witch began” would make for an awesome opening line.

I was on the verge of putting this story aside one more time when the call for Dear America came in my e-mail and I decided I’d toss this one out to see if maybe with such a specialized call it might find an audience and it finally did.

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