Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Antioch Review

Returning home from Maine this past weekend I received notice that The Antioch Review has selected "Under the Suns of a Million Everests" for publication in the Winter 2012 issue. I’m excited and immensely grateful to Editor Robert Fogarty for this honor. Talk about great company: over its seventy year history the Antioch Review has published Joyce Carol Oates, William Trevor, T. C. Boyle, Raymond Carver, Gordon Lish, David Means, Ben Percy and Ha Jin, just to name a few.
This also got me thinking about statistics, specifically my orphan statistics. It seems like you need to all but give up on a story before someone will finally take it. Initially I got reamed on this story when I workshopped it with a new group in Berkeley (a once and only workshop occasion--they dismissed me after that first meeting as “not a good fit”)--perhaps with cause, I don't remember--and it’s also kind of a funny vindication and a lesson to anyone who is in a similar situation: you don’t need to believe all the negative criticism you hear from strangers. Rather, take most of it lightly, because you may actually be onto something in your work. As I am reminded almost daily, you do have to trust your gut.
For awhile I’ve changed my strategy with the orphans, since in some cases I’d sent them out to over seventy markets. When have you reached saturation is always a question, though when very good (I’d call them top tier) journals give you a citation, it always seems like the story will eventually find a home. You think, justifiably so, that this can’t just be a fluke. A writer friend told me he just gets rejections, revises and sends out again, without thinking--for years. It takes years, in reality, but I’ve been cultivating patience for a long time, and it’s all part of deciding that this biz will make you or break you.
When these citations come back, it’s time to take seriously their advice and tighten up the story as necessary. I’d only sent this story out at the beginning of the year because I hadn’t sent it out in over a year, and in about three years, it had been to only 30 or so markets. Very slim numbers (ten a year?), however, it received a positive note once from StoryQuarterly which has stared at me every day since as I tacked it above my workspace. And, as I was reviewing some workshop notes on the story, one of my readers (Tim) had remarked that it was his favorite story of mine. I trust this groups’ opinions, singularly and collectively, so I decided to give it another chance, and on a lark sent it to Antioch Review. Voila.
As I mentioned here, it takes me an average of 35 markets to place a story (this is not counting the fluke stories that get sent out seventy plus times), and now this one is no exception. I think I liked the story so much that I somehow expected it to place sooner, perhaps, and sent it to fewer, more select markets.

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