Monday, February 07, 2005

Identity Theory says No

I left the Burroughs post to sit atop Extreme Unction today, as I wanted those who missed it over the weekend to share its glory. That sentiment made me guilty of the sin of Pride, thereby bringing to three, the number of Deadly Sins I engaged in today, the others being Lust and Gluttony.

However, time moves on, the picture changes, and here I am again, reflecting on more rejection notices from the editors of literary websites. My Cat Flea Titus certainly seems to have struggled to find anything more than a sympathetic hearing. I feel like those times when you repeat a supposedly funny story a few times to various folks on a night out (usually at the insistence of somone larger and more drunk), and with each rendition you become less and less convinced of the worth of what you are saying.

Anyway, here is today's rejection notice, along with my reply.


Dear Jason,

Thanks so much for submitting to identity theory. Your piece seems to cross genres between fiction and nonfiction (maybe even poetry too), and as such, it's a perfect fit for neither section of the site.

Personally, I find your idea -- and the background of your idea -- more compelling than the lyrical treatment you give it -- meaning I would transform it into a strong personal essay. But that's just one editor's opinion.

I hope you find the right publication for your work, and please keep us in mind in the future.

Best wishes,

Jane Friedman
identity theory fiction editor



Jane,

thank you for your helpful comments regarding my piece.

i am left perturbed by your drawing a line between fiction and non-fiction. it would preclude A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and any number of writers who work in a visibly autobiographical way, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, etc from your simple definition of fiction. to see what your definition of fiction may include, i read the opening story in the fiction section of this issue - it concerns a farm someone made up and a dog called Ralph that lives on the farm someone made up. it may be fiction, but, my question for you would be - is it anything else?

i have stood many times outside The Bleeding Horse in Dublin, and read the plaque in the pavement commemorating the appearance of that pub in Ulysses. there is one example of the full flowering of the relationship between art and life.

i won't be able to "keep you in mind for the future" unless your editorial policy changes, as my use of the evidence of my senses as the base material for my art is not going to change.

i hope you accept this message in the right spirit. editors criticise writers, sometimes a writer must be availed of criticising an editor's comments.

best wishes,

Jason Kennedy

10 Comments:

Blogger Spyder said...

You're totally spot on with your reply! Cheers!

8:40 PM  
Blogger Claypot said...

How depressing. Do keep plugging away. I'm not sure I could stand all that rejection. What is it but the whim of some editor who's probably having a bad day anyway? Stories abound of all sorts of classic works being rejected countless times. Have you thought about publishing-on-demand? There's a website called Lulu -www.lulu.com - which is worth a look.

11:16 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Clay,

thanks for the link, i have had a quick read over it, and will follow up when i am wide awake again.

i am not discouraged with the rejection messages. it doesn't hurt like the rejection encountered while dating during 2004. at least you can take up a right of reply and it doesn't send me to bed crying. i am lucky and have a couple of professional writers as friends and am going down the route of finding an agent rather than worry about editors.

however! stay tuned everyone, because tonight i identified a whole host of literary markets, and i am going to write some Purely For The Editor pieces, bits of dire genre fiction etc, over the coming weeks, and see if any of those get picked up.

11:32 PM  
Blogger mike said...

It's interesting that she's more concerned with keeping her "fiction/nonfiction" division than in bending it to fit good work.

Note, too, that she didn't so much tell you what was 'wrong' with the story as what she'd do instead. Not quite something I'd want from an editor.

12:41 AM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

i did receive a reply back from this editor, apologising.

Jason,

My apologies for not being clear in my meaning. It wasn't my intention to criticize the source of your material; I can't imagine any successful writer who doesn't use his/her own senses and experience as
a basis for any type of work.

Your piece is not easily categorized, which can be a strength or a weakness. In my editorial role, I simply look for strong elements of a traditional fiction story.

Best,
Jane

I was tempted to write back and suggest retitling the Fiction section - "It's like modernism never happened"
but I thought better of it, folks.

12:29 PM  
Blogger anan said...

i need a longer read of your work. Something that's at least three-coffees and two loo-breaks long. Got anything on you at the moment?

2:42 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

As a preface, I must say that I've never published anything of consequence; thus any words that follow likely come straight from my arse. But anyhow, I would think that some works are more publishable than others, irrespective of literary quality, simply on the basis of what a particular editor (or the preponderance of editors in a given segment of the publishing industry) view as their 'target.' In any case, I believe that with perseverance you will find a home for My Cat Flea Titus, but more importantly your writing talent will ultimately allow you to find many more outlets for a variety of literary output. Best of luck!

11:54 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Thanks, Ian.

i agree with what you say. i figured i had little to lose in some verbal sparring with an editor presiding over some narrow vision of literature that skips most of what i happen to find interesting about writing.

i did in fact receive a message from an editor today who is happy to publish some of my stories (and has read my exchange with Identity Theory), so the truth of what you say is satisfied by such a turn of events.

Thanks again.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

OK, so ... you published something? Was it My Cat Flea Titus? Since you're trying to publish it I imagine it's not posted anywhere, but I'd love to read it.

Having published a few short stories and poems, I understand the pain of rejection. After years of doing the "right thing" by attempting high art with my work, I have sold out, and am now writing a work that is 100% commercial.

I may use my blog as a forum to publish some of my other work (now and then I post a poem), but haven't quite figured out how to post short stories so it makes sense in the blog world. These stories are far too long for the average post.

Anyway, please accept my encouragement. And I hope you are careful about which editors you decide to spar with! ;)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

It's great to hear this news of your future publishing! Congrats -- I look forward to reading the details soon.

7:35 PM  

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