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Writerly resolutions: March status

Another month has come Graph of progress on the novel in Marchand gone and I continue to make decent progress on the novel. I have yet to miss a day’s work so far this year. I’ve finished the rewrite and revision of chapter 25 and done a lot of writing on chapter 26. I’m pretty sure that this chapter is going to be the longest in the book, I’m guessing around 10,000 words. This month’s graph of the progress ends up looking a lot like a skinny apatosaurus. 

I’ve also gotten into a big pile of late research. I stumbled on Nelson Peery’s memoir, Black Fire, by a bit of serendipity and that’s led to a whole host of background research on African-American soldiers during World War II. 

Short story work? It progresses, but the story that I’d hoped to have ready to workshop back at the end of January is still not finished although I can see the end of the current draft looming. Right now it’s 7,766 words long and the current draft may hit 9,000 words but I think that this should be a story at most half that length. The rewrite process is going to be a lot of cutting. Meanwhile, I’ll need to dig something up to workshop next week.

Still no acceptances on the stuff that’s been sent out this year. I have gotten at least one tiered rejection from a journal that had previously only ever sent form rejections, so I feel confident that that piece in particular will see an acceptance before the end of this round of submissions.

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Writerly resolutions: February status

2021 continues to be a good year for writing. Graph of progress on the novel.: It shows the first draft of chapter 25 finished and the rewrite of the vhapter almost done.It was even a good year for physical fitness for a while with my hitting my move goal every day until we had an extended cold spell this month which broke my streak. 

On the novel, I finished a first draft of chapter 25 and am almost finished with the rewrite of that chapter. I’m perhaps not progressing at my ideal pace, but I’m reasonably happy with the rate of my work. I’ve realized that chapter 26 is likely to be very long, most likely longer than any other chapter in the novel so last month’s estimate of finishing the first draft of the novel in February or March was definitely optimistic.

I’ve been making solid progress on the story that I want to workshop with my writing group, but right now it’s still twenty pages of hot mess that needs a lot of rewriting before it can go up for workshop. Since my deadline is Thursday, I think I’m going to end up pulling a revision story forward for this month’s workshop. That said, this current story, which has been kicking my ass for some ridiculous amount of time (the oldest draft has a creation date of December 2009), is finally coming together and I think I finally know what it’s about.

Rejections continue to slide in, a mix of form and tiered rejections. One of my 2019 submissions is still lingering at the bottom of my Submittable.

Writerly resolutions: January status

2021 has gotten off to Graph of progress on the novel for January 2021. a decent enough start. I’ve worked on the novel daily without fail—the first part of the month was spent digesting comments on two excerpts that I workshopped with my writing group, then I returned to the chapter I’d left dangling in November, managed to finish a first draft, a rewrite and a revision before starting on chapter 25. I also have a clear view of where the last three chapters after this one will go so I should be able to finish the first draft of the novel in the next month or so.

Short story work has progressed a bit more slowly than I would like. I’m making good progress on the story I’d hoped to workshop in February, but I don’t think I’ll have it ready to submit for the February meeting so I’ll have to pull out one of the stories that I’ve finished but need some revision work for the current meeting and submit that instead. It would have been my May workshop piece so it’s just a matter of reshuffling.

I’ve returned to submitting and gotten two rejections on novel excerpts already (one form, one tiered) alongside a long-delayed tiered rejection on some poems I submitted in 2019.

It looks like the Nelson Algren Literary Prize is endangered

The first clue was when my submission to the 2020 version of the contest disappeared from Tribune Tower Chicago Illinois 9181667444 cropped ubmittable without notice. The administrators of the prize tend to be not so great about closing out submissions on Submittable, so I didn’t pay much attention to it (in past years I’d had some marked “completed” a few “decline” and some were just left hanging until I marked then “withdrawn”).

It wasn’t until the end of the year that it occurred to me that my Google news alert on “nelson algren literary prize” had never come up with an announcement of the winner. Digging a bit deeper and I found this:

The Nelson Algren Literary Award contest has been suspended for 2020-21 as we review the program.

Coming at the same time as buyouts in the Chicago Tribune newsroom with architecture critic Blair Kamin and music critic Howard Reich being two of the latest high-profile departures.

There seems to be an overall gutting of the newspaper by the current owners. Starting with the selling of the storied Tribune Tower and continual cuts. The death of the Algren Prize, assuming that this warning sign is indeed a herald of such a thing, is a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme of the despoliation of a once-great newspaper, but it marks the end of one of the richest short story prizes in the United States and a launching pad for a number of great writers. 

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Writerly resolutions for 2021

Last year, I wrote:

2019 was a disappointing year on many fronts, so I figure 2020 can’t help but be better.

Ah, the naïveté of 2019.

My goals for the year:

  1. Work on We, The Rescued daily until I’ve got it ready to pass on to other eyes to look at (which means finishing the first draft, doing the rewrite draft and then a revision draft after that).
  2. Workshop a new piece of fiction monthly now that I’ve got a writing group to keep me motivated.

As with last year’s resolutions, I’ll check back in with status reports each month. Since 2021 has already started, I’d note that I’m on track with item 1, but behind with item 2.

Writerly resolutions for 2020—the post mortem

I set three goals for 2020: two related to finishing snd revising the novel and a third that largely involved doing nothing. I kind of failed at all three.

Graph of progress on the novel in 2020

I had bursts of productivity in the spring and the summer but continuing problems with my laptop knocked me out of commission for the last couple of months of the year (it’s back in for its third round of repairs right now). So I not only didn’t finish the first draft of the novel (I’m in them middle of chapter 24 of 28), but I clearly didn’t finish the rewrite and revision phase of the work either.

My third resolution was to cut way back on submissions. I did that. Nothing new went out this year. But I was going to wait until my submittable queue managed to drain to zero entries. Then 2020 came and there are still two submissions lingering (technically three, but the third is for a journal that’s folded and I haven’t withdrawn the submission out of sentimentality).

Here’s hoping 2021 will be better.

Writerly resolutions: November status

No graph this month for progress on the novel because there was no progress. I wrote not one word.

I had planned to finish some writing. Lots of writing. But during the first couple of weeks, I was trying to keep up with writing group obligations and put things off. Then, I decided that while I had the chance, I would take my MacBook Pro in to fix a problem with the touchbar (it was getting ghost touches which rendered the computer unusable unless I put the touchbar into spaces mode and didn’t actually use multiple spaces). I figured it would be a few days without the computer. They told me ten days. Not ideal, but OK. Then when I went to check on the computer on the day it was supposed to be returned the system showed that it was still at the Apple store. I called and after some transfers got my own customer service representative who’s been active through the process. Finally on 30 November, it showed as arriving at the repair facility and I got it back yesterday.

And the bad news, despite them replacing nearly every part of the computer, the touchbar problem is still there (I’m guessing they should have replaced the keyboard as well). I’m hoping that when my representative gets back in the office on Monday, we can work something out where I can get a working computer without being without my laptop for three weeks again.

In the draining the submittable queue news, I’m down to two from three with Whiskey Island officially revealed as defunct (via an e-mail from one of the faculty at the sponsoring institution). Another submission hit its first birthday this month. I’m guessing my no submissions until the submittable queue is empty resolution is going to default to no submissions in 2020. Probably for the best.

“The Namesake”: The Story Behind the Story

Usually, I post these when a story is available online or the issue can be ordered. But for whatever reason, the issue of Sandy River Review that contains this piece seems not to exist anywhere but contributor copies. If you’d like to read it, send me an email and I’ll send a PDF. The PDF version is now available here. The website barely acknowledges the existence of the issue still.

I can remember the moment in Image of library card catalogthe shower when the idea for “The Namesake” came to me. It was one of those flashes of inspiration that come rarely, but I had nearly the whole story at once, it was just a matter of writing it down.

And editing it.

And editing it.

The accepted version of the story was draft 6. It was rejected 40 times , including a very encouraging note from Conjunctions indicating that they’d have taken it if it hewed closer to the theme of the current issue, before it was accepted. Twice.

It turns out that one of the publications I sent it to on the last round of submissions who I assumed were just not going to respond (they didn’t answer when I inquired about the story status after a longer than usual wait), were going to respond so a week after the initial acceptance. A few weeks later, I got the following rejection from The New Yorker.

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Digging through my records on the story, this dates back far enough that it was among the stories that I workshopped on Critique Circle back in the day.

Writerly resolutions: October status

The biggest change in my writing life this monthGraph of progress on the novel in October—slow progress  is returning to having a critique group. Trying to balance critique group responsibilities with my own writing has been a bit of a challenge and I need to do better with this. I did manage to complete chapter 23 and make some progress on chapter 24 in fits and starts, but I’m not writing at the pace that I’d like to be. I had a sense of what I wanted to do with chapter 24 last month, but I never bothered to write any of it down and now I only have a vague notion of where I was going with that.

I did get some great feedback on a story that I’d sent out last year and had a number of near-misses without success. I now know exactly what was wrong with it—and it’s a simple matter of deleting a single section. It’s still a story that I can see generating form rejections when it goes out for a second round of submissions, but I feel confident that it will get accepted somewhere.

The submittable queue has drained a little bit more with a promised response arriving in the form of a rejection. I’m down to just three pending responses with the two youngest pending responses about to turn a year old in the next week.

Writerly resolutions: September status

September was a pretty goodGraph of progress on the novel month for progress on the novel. I finished a first draft of chapter 23 and have done most of the rewrite draft although I’ve slowed down as I need to get into the weeds on some questions of Jewish theology to write a conversation that takes place. Even better, I have a decent sense of where things will be going in chapter 24 which has often not been the case in the past.

The submittable queue, on the other hand, has been sitting at four items without any changes although I did hear back from one journal assuring me that, while they’re further behind than usual, the piece isn’t lost and will get a response. I’m increasingly suspicious that Whiskey Island Magazine may be defunct.