What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

Why Age Matters

There’s a number of small presses and publishers looking for younger poets and writers.  It’s always disappointing to me, infused with experience and wisdom, to see an age limit on a submission form of a literary journal or publisher.

age-woman-aging-benefit-cosmetics-ecards-someecards.pngI know that America, and much of the world these days, has no respect for age; however, there was once this school of thought that there was some value in life experience.

Publishers want to discover the bright new star or hang on to someone who has a long and bright future ahead of them.

Instead of what, I assume, they mistakenly believe will be a one hit wonder leading to a quick and timely death.

That is why age matters to them.

HOWEVER – age does not matter. Many great poets and writers were “discovered” well after their 29th birthday: Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Janet Fitch, Billy Collins, among many, many more! Cute-Funny-Baby-Laughing-Picture.jpg

You are not too old to learn the craft, you’re not too old to start writing, you’re not too old to submit, you’re not too old to publish.

When vexed by the youth, I remember that I can read a mapbook, I can light a fire, I know how to address a letter for post. If all technology were lost, I’d be able to survive.

My Family Can’t Find Out!

woman-in-shadow-1280x853-1024x682Many posts in writers’ groups and questions in writerly gathering surrounds the fear of family or friends finding out what they are writing.

Surprisingly, some of these are fiction writers. Although many are memoirists, poets, fiction writers and essayists are also concerned with offending someone they know.

My response to this is: They’ll probably never recognize themselves! The truth is many people see themselves far differently than others do.

Furthermore, studies show that we remember events differently; to be more accurate, we remember different details of the same events, and our memories are not as reliable as we’d like to think.

Legally, in memoir, if names are changed, there is little a person can do if they do recognize themselves. One attorney told me: They’re welcome to write their own version of the events.

Fear stock-fearshould never hold a writer back. A small change in details or location can allow for some question if someone does think the story might include them.

Even if you think you’ll never publish it – write it. You’ll feel better!

 

Fear of …?

istock_000012625357xsmall1There’s a theory that we don’t fear failure, we fear success.

A researcher gave graduating students an impromptu essay prompt: “After finding out Joe/Jane aced their medical exams for graduation, he/she …..”

It’s reported that the vast majority of students set up a scenario in which Joe or Jane went out and partied, got in some sort of trouble, an accident, arrested, or in some cases just gave up and “decided to do something else with their lives.”

The researchers decided this was not an indication of the fear of failure, because they’d set up a scenario in which the person(Joe/Jane) had already succeeded, yet the students then wrecked the plan. Therefore, they surmised it a fear of success.fear

This possible fear of success comes from anxiety, which is rampant in society today. People stay where they are comfortable, where they are familiar, and their habits serve them. Moving on to the next level, success, will bring about different challenges, and the fear of the unknown wins out.

It occurs to me that this happens to writers. People write, and write, and write, but then don’t submit. Is it really the rejection they fear? or is it the success?  Think of all the anxiety that comes with the next level of publishing. You’ll be expected to do well, to do it again. And, what else might change?

What do you think? What do you fear?

images

 

Rejections – how not to punch someone!

Screen-Shot-2018-01-29-at-11.09.19-AM-1024x678.png

Rejections are the worst…..

or they used to be.

Once, a long while ago, I received a letter (snail mail) from a publisher. I let it lay on the table, unable to take what I thought would be yet another rejection.

When I did finally open it – I was quite pleasantly surprised by an acceptance!

And then…. a little annoyed with myself…. I needed to sign the contract and return it and I’d almost missed the deadline.  That taught me – open immediately.

These days, most of these things are done through email or digital submissions. So, now, on a regular basis, we get rejected by just opening our email.

However, rejection, in all forms, tells us something.  We are doing our jobs!  That job is writing and submitting.

All editors have their own values. It may not mean that our work is bad, but that it did not fit the needs of the publisher or the values of the editor.

Rejections are nothing to be ashamed about, not to be feared, and not to be avoided. We should rush in with open arms.

I read the rejection, see if there is any valuable information. I’ve received some very nice rejections with some editors telling me to resubmit or offering advice.

If I have a piece which gets rejected too often, I go back and take another look at it before I send it out again. But it will go out again. And I will keep submitting.

Don’t let rejections get you down, don’t let it stop you. Publishers can not take everything they receive, but one day they will say yes to you – if you’ve actually submitted something!