recovering from the crap review

I just got a really terrible review on a workshop site. The reviewer gave me scores low enough to bring down my entire average, and then gave me a written critique that described what he thought I was doing (which was based on a clear misread) and then said his misread interpretation of what I’d written was “unoriginal” and  that my writing “needs work”. And it frustrated the hell out of me because it made me think that, despite all of the positive feedback I’ve received on it over the past month or so it’s been available for reading, the positive feedback I’ve received on it in other circles, and the positive feedback I’ve received from people who I respect as artists and authors, I had done something wrong.

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the week in review: #03

– Lady Gaga’s new video premiered the other night. I still don’t get her, but I don’t hate this as much as I thought I would. I appreciate elements of it but even though I understand it’s supposed to be stilted and corny (obviously it’s referencing exploitation and b-movie flicks), it’s a little too self-aware for me to believe it. Maybe that’s my problem with Gaga as a whole. She’s a little too calculating. I don’t like it when Madonna does it (see her last album), and I don’t like it when anybody else does it.

But she is younger than me and richer than me, so we know who won this round.

– I wanted to make pico de gallo last night (for my nachos, yessss), so I used a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and chilies and added about four extra tomatoes, thinking I could dilute the strength of the peppers. Boy, was I wrong. I took a bite and nearly died. So now I’ve wasted perfectly good tomatoes and don’t really know anybody who likes spicy food so I can give it away. I’ll have to ask around. For now I have it sitting in the freezer, waiting for a miracle. Or a party. Just awful.

– A friend and I got yelled at by some cranky old man in the diner parking lot this morning. Her parking job wasn’t great, and my door was admittedly close to his car. But I could get out without touching it, so I did. He flew outside to ask angrily if I’d hit his car with my door, and I told him I hadn’t. Then he told my friend that she needed to move her car in order for him to get into his car, but said it in an unnecessarily dickish way. She even told him he didn’t have to be a jerk about it. He and a woman who is presumably his wife were leaving as we came in and we watched him examine his door and give us bitchface before getting in and driving off. They’re regulars like we are, so if we see them next time and he says something, I’m letting him have it. Fuck you, old man. We’re all adults and my friend’s a veteran, so try being respectful. Also, you can’t get mad about shit that hasn’t happened! If my door never touched yours, you can’t yell at me, no matter how closely we’re parked to you. So if the real issue is that you were concerned my friend’s car was too close to yours in order for you to get into your car, there are a thousand better ways you could have handled that aside from frothing at the mouth.

Whatever. He’s probably going to die soon.

That’s about it. Fairly unremarkable. The next couple weeks are going to be pretty wacky, though; more news as it happens.

the artist’s lament

I was about to get lunch, and then I decided to sit back down and write this.

Last night– and I’ve done this about three times now– I tried giving the tracks on Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster a listen. I know a lot of people are completely fascinated by her, and I’m wondering why she leaves me cold, especially since I am an ardent defender of pop music and pop culture as valid forms of expression. You should see my disco collection!

Anyway, while I was listening, I realized why I don’t like Lady Gaga’s music. I like her imagery some of the time. But I kept finding that she would take the song somewhere and it would be absolutely brilliant, and then in the moment immediately after, it would go downhill. She’s very young, and I don’t think she’s quite learned how to edit yet. Perhaps in as little as three years, she’ll be creating music that’s really exceptional– I love a lot of her influences, since she’s very honest about what went into creating Gaga as a… construct, for lack of a better term.

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getting transgressive

I was talking to my mom the other night about improving my work.

I mentioned how discouraged I get when I read through literary magazines and see that my work wouldn’t fit in at all. I’m actually shocked at how people seem to find my work challenging, because I know there are people out there doing way edgier work. All it takes is one look at something like Locus Novus to see there’s a truly experimental movement happening.

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completely unhelpful

Since this has happened twice now, I feel like it’s fine for me to complain about it.

I’m not going to use any names but if the people involved should come across this, they’ll know I’m talking about them, and good. You should know.

I’m sick of the supposition that if a story has female characters that enjoy having sex with each other that I should somehow “pull the reader in” with lesbian smut. Listen, if you want to read girl-on-girl stories, the internet has your back. I know that my work can be quiet and subtly sexual, and I do not believe it counts as a critique for you to tell me it should be more overt. This isn’t about being able to take criticism, this is about the objectification of marginalized people, for one, and for two, if your main complaint about a story is that there isn’t more dildoing, that says something about you.

Ugh.

In other news, I submitted my story to the Kenyon Review contest, but their site bungled the transfer and my story never made it there. I got an apologetic note this afternoon. On one hand, it’s kind of a bummer; on the other, it frees up my story for submission other places. So I might actually make some moolah off of it, which is nice. Writing is the only art form where you don’t get to name your price, it seems.

kicking ass and taking names

So I just got done reading about the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest for writers under 30. The winner gets a scholarship to this writing workshop in Ohio.

I’m working on a story right now that I was considering submitting to both this and the SmokeLong Quarterly until I saw that the contest doesn’t take simultaneous submissions. And since I have a week to submit, I guess the contest takes precedence. But then I was reading about the workshop, and I don’t know. It sounds kind of… nice. Wrap-sandwich-and-bottled-water kind of nice, you know? I was like, “Where are the booze and cigarettes?! Aren’t these writers we’re talking about?”

I’d like to find a literary scene that’s a happy medium from the one I found in college, which was mostly about doing coke and screwing nameless, faceless nighttime people, and some of the older people I’ve come across recently, who aren’t really into my slightly immature and often irreverent sense of impropriety. I’m having a difficult time coming across serious writers that are my age, which is shocking to me. I so often feel like I’m past my prime. But apparently not, because everyone else seems to be well beyond 35.

Hmm.

Whatever. I’ll find my community of fictionistas. And we’ll listen to Conway Twitty and write heart-wrenching stories about failure and be revered by hipsters posthumously. This is the goal.

buzz buzz

a snowy tree

I am exhausted.

First, I meant to post pictures I’d taken of our outrageous snowfall two weeks ago but now it’s officially old news. I’m losing it with how the days blow past me and I can’t get a moment to even sit down and document it. And why are they playing Neil Diamond again? I could go the rest of my life without hearing a song of his.

The short of it is that I’ve been writing again and it’s consumed my life. I forgot how obsessive I can get over my work and it reminds me of that last semester when I was working on Logic Problems. I couldn’t actually write anything but the story was gnawing at me, and I would just lay on the floor and eat Haagen Dazs dulche de leche until I got the shits. That was my creative cycle.

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the strain

I’ve been working exceptionally hard lately. Your heroine is hard at work on a flash fiction piece for, first of all, the first time in five years. And on top of that, it’s a style I’ve never tried before. It’s getting mixed reviews, but I feel sort of like I’m destined for that sort of career. If I could get it together, it could end up being really awesome. But I just feel so stuck. The larger theme of the piece is about my favorite thing– sexual dysfunction– so maybe I need to talk to more people with terrible love lives.

I took pictures of the outrageous snow going on out here but haven’t taken them off my camera yet.  I swear to God it snowed for 24 hours. It had to have. 22 at the very least. And it’s not as bad as it was for the mid-’90s blizzards, but it’s pretty bad out there. They’ve gone back to putting chairs in shoveled-out parking spaces. That shit is totally illegal but it has no business being illegal. If you throw out your back digging out your car from a mound of snow because the city’s too cheap and hateful to bring in plows and trucks to carry it out like they do in the suburbs, that space should have your name on it. Just how I feel.

Alright. Back to work. Life sucks and then you die.

the week in review: #02

– It snowed overnight. A lot. I really like snow while it’s falling, but once it’s on the ground, it’s just a tremendous liability. The post office isn’t even delivering mail today. I haven’t been out and don’t think I’d want to attempt it.

– I’ve been listening to the oldies a lot lately. Wait. First, I’d like to ask why music I loved in the early ’90s is suddenly considered “classic”. I try not to feel like my best years are behind me– for Christ’s sake, I’m not even 30 yet– but hearing songs from the first record I’d ever purchased on the classic stations does nothing for that line of thought.

But the oldies I’m listening to are bonafide. Brook Benton, Tommy Roe, the Grass Roots, Sam Cooke. People you could wear a bouffant around and it wouldn’t be a big deal.

– I’m forcing myself to write this because I’m not feeling too verbal at the moment. I have a lot of reading to do.

– Hanging out with other people’s children makes you realize why having your own isn’t at all an option. They’re fun to play with, but then they start whining and crying and being bossy and asking a thousand questions. It makes you want to take them to a football field and teach them what a field goal is.

Not that I’m an advocate of kicking children. They just take you there sometimes.

the hiatus

I took an unexpected vacation from keeping my public abreast of my whereabouts. I’m still working, though. I just joined two critique forums, Scribophile and Zoetrope. I originally joined thinking I could get help for my journalism but now fiction– my first love– once again leaps in front of practicality.

One of the things I miss most about college is the constant accountability. For most of my writing workshop classes, we were on a schedule, and I was due to present some sort of work fairly often. Most of it was frantically thrown together in an all-night frenzy but now that I don’t have the deadline, I haven’t been on top of working at all. I haven’t written a full story in five years. This makes me feel terrible, mainly because My Guru will write me and ask what I’ve been working on, and I never have anything to show for it.

I love receiving critiques, though. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly thick-skinned, but I am interested in hearing how my work affects people. At the very least, that allows me to gauge my audience and markets; where I’d be most accepted. I may not remember every good review, but I certainly remember every bad one and can give you the circumstances, for the most part. A lot of them are funny stories themselves, mainly about people who just don’t like what I do. And it’s fine. I’m not for everyone.

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