Filed under writing

Writerly resolutions, January status

A note on how my writerly resolutions for 2019 are going. On the novel front, I’m not doing so great. Only 1,664 words net gained on the novel. I should be doing over 4,000 words per month to meet my goal (well now, it’s more like 4,400).

Short stories are both a bit ahead of the game and behind it courtesy of the long story which has been blocking my writing process like a colonic obstruction. That said, I’ve finished a revision of the long story to a somewhat shorter version (9,000-some-odd words instead of 10,000-some-odd-words) and now am working on the longer version in which I’m letting the narrative’s tendency towards digression flow free. Then I have to somehow decide which version I’ll try to foist upon the world (I’m leaning towards trying to publish the longer version first and if that fails to gain any traction to return to the shorter version). Meanwhile I have two stories which I’d been working on last year finished and revised enough to workshop with my writing group so with any luck I’ll be ahead of the game by this time next month.

Beautiful Sentences: Annie Dillard

Now feelings lasted so long they left stains.

Annie Dillard, An American Childhood.

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“Kiddush”: The Story Behind the Story

Kiddush” is the opening NewImagechapter of my novel in progress, We, the Rescued. The novel, in an Oulipo-esque fashion, takes its structure from the Passover Haggadah and in a sort of an ontogeny-recapitulates-philogeny fashion, the chapter takes its structure from the first prayer of the Passover Seder, the Kiddush, or blessing over wine. I took the nesting structure one step further in some of the earliest drafts of the story and recapitulated the creation story of Genesis 1 in the opening section of the story (I’ve taken the excised bit and have been shopping that around as a bit of flash with no success as of this writing). This is the only chapter of the planned novel that interacts directly with the text of the Haggadah, using the words of the Kiddush to give form and in many cases to allow the text to make ironic commentary on the prayer.

The structure of the story with the primary narrative in present tense and shifts into past tense for flashbacks is inspired by reading Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Fiesta del Chivo, which does similar things with time. I found the way that it caused the past and present to be intermingled to be a great inspiration towards what I could do with the form.

I’ve received early feedback on this story from writer friends including Jonathan Eig, Katherine Sanger, Justin Sikes, Steve Nelson and Maria Feldman.

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Beautiful Sentences: Taylor Koekkoek

The way she looked was something I felt in my guts.

Taylor Koekkoek, “The Wedding Party.” 

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Beautiful Sentences: Annie Dillard

After all, I was the intelligentsia around these parts, single handedly. The intelligentsium.

Annie Dillard, An American Childhood.

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Beautiful Sentences: J. Courtney Sullivan

They were surprised that the nuns did not proselytize or try to get them to see the light. They just listened. Some only came once or twice. But the ones who returned again and again began to realize on their own that the conversations were about God, even if He was never mentioned. God through the lens of their own lives.

J. Courtney Sullivan, Saints for All Occasions.

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Writerly resolutions for 2019

This will be the year that I finally get a full draft written of We, The Rescued. I currently have 25,000 words written, so it shouldn’t be beyond reason to write another 50K or so.

Also, I want to clear out my backlog of half-finished stories and story ideas. My goal is to get a story a month into submittable shape that isn’t something that I’ve taken to a full draft and previously submitted. Hopefully the long story (which hasn’t decided if it wants to be a novella or just a long short) won’t act as a big logjam towards this goal.

I intend to check in here once a month to reflect on progress towards the goal.

2018 in rejections (and acceptances)

After a few years of trying, I’ve finally hit my goal of 200 rejections (and then some). This meant that I got a lot more submissions out. The year started strong with a short story acceptance each month from January through April (plus a poem accepted somewhere in there), but then things went quiet for most of the summer before I got a couple more acceptances in the fall.

Graph of fiction acceptances and rejections

My positive response rate dropped somewhat, from 36% to 27% and my acceptance rate also declined from 4.2% to 3.6%.

My poetry numbers confirm that I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to writing poetry and I exist as living proof that a blind monkey throwing darts is bound to hit the target once in a while.

Graph of poetry acceptances and rejections

For those craving numbers, my acceptance rate for 2017 was 0.4% (up from 0% last year!) and my positive response rate was 8.2% up from 3.4% last year, although both numbers are down from 2016 which remains the acme of my poetry career.

Beautiful Sentences: Nnedi Okorafor

She got that plant to do the opposite of die.

Nnedi Okorafor, “Tumaki.” 

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Beautiful Sentences: J. Courtney Sullivan

Live long enough, and life teaches you that God is not your lucky rabbit foot.

J. Courtney Sullivan, Saints for All Occasions.

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