Novelist, Poet, Short Story Writer?

First, the good news (because Fridays should always start with good news): My flash fiction piece “Zebra Skin” has just been accepted for publication with Fiction Southeast! I couldn’t be happier about this–both because I happen to especially love this story and because I’ve been hankering for a spot in Fiction Southeast for…forever? Definitely ever since I learned that Aimee Bender was among their ranks.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes (or, if you’re a veggie like me, the cabbage and potatoes):

This past May, I hired on the tremendous Seattle-based editor Tara Weaver to help me tackle the monster novel that I’ve been working on for a few years now, (working title) The Fire Eaters. Not only was Weaver basically incredible (professional, kind, straightforward, sincere, creative, timely, and many other equally wondrous things), but she also helped something crucial finally click into place for me: I am not a novelist. I am a short story writer.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ll never write a novel — I’ve already written several rather dreadful ones, in fact — but it does mean that, at least for now, short story writing is where my heart lies. It’s where I boogie. And it’s all thanks to Weaver asking me a deceptively simple question: Katie, did you enjoy writing this novel?

I had no idea of how to respond. Of course! I wanted to say. Of course I enjoyed it–I love my job, don’t I? This is what I do!

And yet there was that little voice in my head: But did you, Katie? Did you actually enjoy writing this novel?

I ask, she told me, because it was clear to me as a reader when you stopped enjoying the writing of this book. In your short stories, though, there’s never a moment where I feel as though you stopped enjoying the process or the project.

It took a while for me to really know what to do with this information. I’m a writer. Of course I write short stories–I have no skill for poetry, and how else would I build up a resume to finally write and sell a novel one day? (Right?)

But then I had to ask myself: Well, would it be so bad if you were a short story writer instead of a novelist?

Novels sell. Short stories don’t. –This is the mantra I grew up hearing, reading, encountering again and again. But on the other hand, it’s not like my novels are anything worth selling at this point, unlike my short fiction.

So, next question: Well, what kinds of books do you most enjoy reading?

Short story collections. Hands down. Always. Whenever I have an author recommended to me, I always seek out their short fiction first and, if I can’t find any, more often than not, I’ll usually ignore the recommendation and move on to someone else.

This is a habit that I know not many readers share with me, but it’s one that’s served me well time and again. If you don’t have a short story for me, there’s little chance that I’m going to trust you with the amount of time that a novel demands of its consumers. Also, short stories are those blissful dives into the moment, into the now, whereas novels so often seek to drag me into the past with flashbacks, backstory, stock characters, and on and on. Or, as Katey Schultz so beautifully says in her article “What is Flash Fiction?“:

In an era of bombardment … we’re hungry for precise details and a widening of the moment. We’re anxious for an excuse to hold time and look closely.

–And this is an urgent, pivotal job of the short story, of flash fiction, of prose poetry.

Of course, this isn’t to say that short stories are somehow better than novels, but simply that they are different (albeit closely related) artforms, and thus demand different skills and serve different purposes.

So why this hesitation on my part? Why all this pressure to write a novel when they aren’t even my preferred go-to as a reader?

Well, here’s one reason–as Amber Sparks so tragically points out in her articleLet Us Now Praise Famous Short Story Writers (And Demand They Write a Novel“:

Most people really don’t like short stories. And that includes lots of critics, who often seem to regard short story collections as a warm-up for the real thing.

“The real thing” — aye, there’s the rub. In today’s world, short stories are still often looked down on as somehow lesser, somehow not as professional, not as artistic, not as meaningful, not as powerful, not as important as the grand Novel. And I played right into their hands by letting this slop infect my perspective.

I know I also often fall into a similar trap when discussing my writing career in general. As a full-time creative writer, I’m often made to feel badly about my career. As if writing was nothing more than glorified unemployment. When people learn that I’m a writer, their follow-up questions usually tend toward these paths:

But do you also edit? Are you planning to be a teacher? What’s your day job? Have you ever considered self-publishing?

To dodge these kinds of well-meant yet soul-chewing questions, I often simply avoid telling people I’m a writer at all. –But this cannot be the answer. We writers must stand up for ourselves. We cannot allow the misconceptions of others to define who we are or what our work-lives mean, just like I must also now proudly stand up for the short story as an artform that’s every bit as vital and meaningful as the novel.

As Kara Cochran says in her (tremendous!) article “A ‘Real’ Job: The Legitimacy of Creative Writing“:

Unfortunately, writers often perpetuate the stereotypes they fight against. … We often fail (or refuse) to define what it is that we do …. Maybe we feel guilty for our gifts, for having the means to pursue something for love over money, for having found something that makes us happy. …

The problem is this: all of this is self-perpetuating. Because convention tells us to accompany writing with a ‘real job,’ writers struggle to make writing a real job.

C’mon, fellow writers, let’s make this a real job.

I’m a short story writer. I love what I do and I’m proud of it. Whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, poet, a triple threat–own it. Love what you do and be proud of it. Own it–for art’s sake!

 

 

 

Fresh Summer Reads

You guessed it! The latest issue of Cleaver Magazine is out in style. Issue 14 is one of my personal favorites so far with some very odd, off-the-wall pieces that leave me pumped full of energy.

Here are just a few highlights to get you warmed-up:

First, Judith Schaechter’s glass art (see featured image above for an example from this issue) is basically some of the coolest, creepiest, most painfully lovely work I’ve seen in a long, long time. Check out more of her art in “The Stigma of Beauty, The Stain of Glass.” LOVE! –Also, her essay discussing her work is just freaking awesome:

I am fairly certain that many people experience my pieces kind of like this: Judith Schaechter is an artist who makes images in stained glass of anguished women set against highly decorative backgrounds. People often see my works all at once as a group — presented in a show or reproduced in an article — but to me, each piece is vastly different and each one arose over long periods of time. But yeah, I get it: anguished women and lush, decorative backgrounds. …


BIRCH WATERS
by Meg Pendoley

(short story; emerging artist; the characters here just rock)

The three older women are buckled into the bench seat under a fleece blanket printed with howling wolves. Jess is in the driver’s seat, smoking out the window. Davi walks up next to Beth. Jess’s black hair is buzzed short and she’s got one heavy boot braced against the dashboard behind the steering wheel, her knee cocked halfway out the window. The truck is already covered in dirt, so it doesn’t really matter that she’s stamping mud all over the broken vent. Jess is wearing tan cut-off overalls and one nipple keeps nudging out. …


IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE END
by Evan Anderson

(flash fiction; love, love, love this author’s work–so glad we landed this piece!)

No one really expected the world to end like this. For one thing, it took too damn long. People want bad things to happen like a pulled-off Band-Aid rather than the slow pushing of a knife. Instead, this is how it happened …


THE WHOLE DAMN LOVELY THING
by Melissa Goode

(short story)

Hannah made a cherry pie, and it relaxed her. Only when she was carrying the pie from her house to the neighbor’s, still warm in its tin, did she think it might be inappropriate for a barbecue. She should have brought a six-pack of beer, or some cheese and crackers, because a barbecue probably did not even make it to dessert. In any case, it was too late. Amy had come to her front door to let in a couple of people and spotted Hannah walking up the drive. …


HOMMAGE À MACK SENNETT
by Kathleen Rooney

(flash fiction)

The nightgown in the painting crosses genres: detective and farce. It has a partial body—breasts—but not a face. You could say it’s peekaboo. You could say it’s diaphanous. Either way, it reminds Georgette of how her husband uses recurring motifs to create a story, or at least a semi-story, for a story full of holes is a story full of mystery, a mystery like lace. …


ANGELS HAVE CORDONED OFF SECTIONS OF MOUNT SINAI
by John Harvey

(poem; LOVE this piece!)

Say nothing of this to the doctors of Geneva,
to the folks who rock back and forth
on front porches down in Key West,
or the old woman dreaming of Palestine …

Happy Reading! Happy Writing!

Literary Magazines with Fast Response Times, Part I

*Updated 9/7/16

Here’s a short list of literary magazines who have stellar, super-fast response times to submissions:

Betwixt Magazine

Submission Period: April 1st – May 31st

Genres Accepted: Speculative Fiction

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they are dedicated to getting back to their submitters within 2 weeks.

Nightmare Magazine

Submission Period: June 1st – June 15th

Genres Accepted: Horror & Dark Fantasy

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they do promise to get back to you between 2 days to 2 weeks.

Bartleby Snopes

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions, but not multiple submissions (you must wait at least 30 days before submitting a new piece to them). They get back to their submitters between 3-7 days.

One Throne

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions (you must wait at least 30 days before submitting a new piece to them). However, they do get back to their submitters within a week.

Shimmer Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Speculative Fiction (no poetry)

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they are dedicated to getting back to their submitters within 2 weeks.

Apex Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Closed

Genres Accepted: SF&F, Horror, and Speculative (prose and poetry)

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they get back to their writers within a month.

Threepenny Review

Submission Period: Open January – June

Genres Accepted: Literary Fiction

Response Rate: They don’t accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they strive to get back to their submitters within a week.

Adroit Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Closed

Genres Accepted: Fiction & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and promise to get back to their submitters within a month.

Blue Monday Review

Submission Period: Currently Open; closes on 9/9/16

Genres Accepted: Fiction (style inspired by Kurt Vonnegut)

Response Rate: If you’re willing to pay $8 for an expedited submission (as well as some very useful, professional feedback on any submissions that aren’t accepted), they’ll get back to you within 2 weeks.

Palooka

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, & Graphic Narratives

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and they’re dedicated to get back to their submitters within 2 weeks.

Cease, Cows

Submission Period: Currently Open; closes 11/15/16

Genres Accepted: Flash Fiction

Response Rate: If you’re willing to pay $3 or $4 for an expedited submission (depending on how fast you want things expedited), they accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and will get back to their paying submitters within a week.

 

Click here for Part II of this list*

 

Happy Submitting!