December 19, 2009

I never get the chance to read as much as I’d like in December because there’s always so much going on.  This month, I clock in at two: Ghost in the Mirror and When the Ghost Screams, both by Leslie Rule.


December 8, 2009

We went up to Yankee Candle Company in South Deerfield, Mass., over Thanksgiving weekend, and the staff decks the halls with creative trees.

I love this one.  There’s a short story in here someplace.


December 6, 2009

Charles and Nathan and I were discussing some plum pudding that was in the cabinet–Charles likes plum pudding. This followed a debate over whether or not Mincemeat Pies truly are disgusting. And Charles said, “Actually, I’m also one of those weirdos that likes fruitcake.” From your lips to God’s ears.

Right now, they are standing behind me wrestling with, and swearing at, the tree.

Ahh…it’s Christmas in the Petersen Schoonover Smith household.


December 5, 2009

I’m a member of a private ListServ which discusses all things Poe, and today I just found out that a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane–which he published when he was 13 years old–set a record at auction. It sold for “$662,500 at a Christie’s auction in New York, smashing the previous record price for American literature”, according to this article.

Not bad for a dude who never gained any respect in life and, in today’s dollars, would’ve made only around $12K over his entire lifetime on his work!


December 1, 2009

Duotrope.com, an excellent internet database of markets for writers, has a Submissions tracker that allows its registrants to keep track of all their submissions in one convenient place. I’ve been using it for close to three years now, and have been pleased with the way they keep track of statistics, especially: which markets take a long time to respond, which are approachable (meaning it’s easier to get into print), which have quick response times, which are paying and non.

One of the ways they’ve been able to compile these statistics is through the use of the data submitted through the tracker. When reporting a response, a drop-down menu supplied you with a number of statuses: Pending Response, Pending Query, Acceptance, Rejection-Form, Rejection-Personal, Rewrite Request, and Withdrawal by Author. In my opinion, one was always missing:  LACK OF RESPONSE.

The last time I checked Duotrope, I was pleased to see a new category in the drop-down box: Lost/Never Responded. This is obviously important not only for keeping Duotrope’s statistics accurate, but long overdue. And here’s why.

I want to know if I’m about to send my piece of work to a place who isn’t going to bother to respond.

I’ve been submitting my work to places on a consistent basis for a decade, and I’ve had several places that were supposedly highly professional never respond–without letting the writer know up-front that they don’t plan to. The truth is, many mags and ‘zines aren’t honest about this in their guidelines.  Probably because they think that a writer doesn’t want to send his work into a black hole, and if he won’t be told if he’s rejected, he’ll likely look for a different market to send it to.

But that’s just not true. I really don’t mind at all if a magazine says “we only respond to those we accept” up front–it puts the ball in my court as to whether or not I want to submit there. If the market is a place I really want a shot at, I’ll usually go ahead and do it anyway, and keep an eye on the market’s estimated response times or give it a standard 90-day wait time and then write it off.  I imagine most writers do the same.  Contests, for example, usually don’t respond at all to your submission–most will say something like “after this date, you can see a list of the winners here.” In fact, I find that’s a given. And that’s perfectly acceptable. Contests of all kinds have been running like that since time began. Some anthologies even do this–they state right in their guidelines that during X month, a list of who’s accepted will appear. Fine. The writer has an understanding up front that he has to do the work himself if he wants to be certain he wasn’t a winner, or if his story was passed over.

But as I mentioned earlier, there are markets that don’t tell you up front they have no intention of responding to you. Their guidelines will give you an expected response time (maybe), and so you assume you’re going to hear something. So you send it in, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait. This is particularly annoying when they want to see your piece exclusively (it’s not submitted to any other place). If you at some point don’t either query or just decide that this magazine isn’t going to respond at all, you could grow old waiting for your rejection.

So I’ll say it point blank at the risk of pissing people off: it’s rude. It’s absolutely rude. If you have a magazine or an anthology and you’re accepting submissions, either respond, or put right in your guidelines that you won’t. It’s just professional courtesy.

The beauty of Duotrope.com with this new category is that now I can look at a market that may not have specified their lack of response in their guidelines and find out how many “Never Respondeds” they have. Eventually, this seemingly insignificant move might end up holding some of these places more accountable. I’d imagine most magazines don’t want too many “Never Respondeds” on their record unless, like I said, that’s their stated policy.

And as far as “Lost” is concerned: Yes. It happens. I know that. But in today’s world, things getting lost in the mail or electronically just doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Thanks, Duotrope, for helping writers everywhere make more informed decisions!

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