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Thread: What in the world is getting published these days?

  1. #1
    Registered User 108 fountains's Avatar
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    What in the world is getting published these days?

    I’m curious to know what luck people here have had in trying to get their writing published. I’ve written 27 short stories and had one published (in the Birmingham Arts Journal). But that was more than three years ago, and I’ve been unsuccessful since then. I read a lot of literary journals (Missouri Review, Nimrod Journal, Boulevard, Bellingham Review, Virginia Review, Narrative Magazine, Ploughshares, Crazy Horse, New Letters, Nimrod, Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, and more), and my stuff is as good as, if not better than, much of what gets published there. (Yeah, yeah, I know – we all think that.)

    What bugs me is that so much of the stuff I see that does get published is, in my opinion, pretty awful. Ninety-five percent of the short stories I see are all about dysfunctional families – the main characters are either alcoholic fathers, drug-addicted mothers, suicidal daughters, sons unable to cope with their homosexuality, or some combination of the above. There is rarely a discernable plot; most of the action takes place in the mind of whichever of the above is the protagonist of the story, feeling sorry for themselves and for the misery they inflict on other family members. Humor is non-existent in published stories – it appears to me that the more depressing and funereal a story is, the more likely it is to be published.

    And the writing itself that I see in published stories is not that great. Half of the stories begin with pronouns – “he,” “she,” “they” – it’s not until the third or fourth paragraph that the reader figures out who the characters are. The settings are far too often academic, with the main character either a college professor or a student. Aren’t good writers supposed to go out and experience life outside of their classrooms? The writing styles, perhaps in an attempt to be contemporary, are much too informal, even sloppy, in my opinion. Did I mention that the concept of plot seems to be completely lacking? Most of the time, when I finish a story, my reaction is “Huh?”

    At the back of these literary magazines usually can be found a three- or four-line biography of the author. It appears that they all have MFAs in Creative writing or some related field. Well, if this is the way writing is being taught these days, I prefer to go back to the days of Hardy and Dickens, O.Henry, Austen, Steinbeck and Cather.

    Well, that’s it. I’d be curious to hear if any of you feel the same or if I have just become a bitter, ranting old man.
    A just conception of life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of passing through it.
    Thomas Hardy

  2. #2
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Interesting post my friend.

    I must confess to an element of; dotage inspired arrogance, regards efforts, (albeit unsuccessful), to either; publish anything myself, or to even change my reading habits.

    I’m lost in the classics, and perhaps the only new book I might be even tempted to buy, would be a latest work by John Le Carre.

    Like yourself, I’m not turned on by plots involving; transgender, metrosexual, alien, vertically challenged milkmen transformed into well-endowed vampires stalking mafia double agents in Vatican catacombs.

    Rather I go back and take refuge, for example in Greek mythology where capricious mythical gods on Mount Olympus interact with mere mortals of a certain heroic aptitude. Much more of a story, in terms of; imagination, the interplay of the spiritual and human, and extolling lessons in basic values.

    If you feel unjustifiably thwarted in attempts to publish, please feel free to adopt the milkman theme above. Another publishing winner is writing about sex, arguably one of the most difficult things for a writer. For one is torn in finding the right balance between basic rutting, or taking Jane Austin down roads hitherto inviolate.

    Trust that might be of some interest.

    Best regards.

    M.

  3. #3
    Registered User 108 fountains's Avatar
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    Glad to hear I'm not alone in my feelings, Manichaean. I've actually considered writing an imitation or parody of the types of stories I've seen getting published in these literary magazines just to see if I'd have any better luck publishing something like that than I do with the stories I've written seriously.

    Maybe we are just a couple of old guys who've outlived their literary usefulness, but you have one fan at least. I prefer reading any of your posts here to any of the stuff I've seen in literary magazines these past five years.
    A just conception of life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of passing through it.
    Thomas Hardy

  4. #4
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Flattery will get you everything!!!

    Good idea to do a parody on some of the crap out there. The main thing is to relax with your writing and enjoy it yourself. Disraeli used to say that "If I want to read a good book, I write one." Same sort of approach also from Oscar Wilde.

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