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Better question: When you yourself were getting the early rejections how did you stay optimistic and keep sending the same stories out?.... I didn't mean to imply something snarky or cynical by asking about Cavemen in the Hedges --for some reason I thought that was your first published story. Thanks!
Dan, I didn't stay optimistic. I felt forlorn and stupid and embarrassed and unloved. But I also thought the people at the magazines that rejected me were stupid and unlovable and embarrassing, so I sent stories out again in order to spite them and/or to prove that I didn't care what they thought. If publishing stories--or anything in my life--required optimism, then I would be screwed.
Though I think what you're really asking is how you can stay optimistic and persevere when you send your own stories out...and I'm not being very helpful. I have a weird affinity for rejection, failure, and being overlooked--I'm crushed by it but there's also a little voice inside me that says, Oh goody. I like to think this is a girl thing, since girls are often subtly punished when they succeed, but it's probably a me thing. But, given this, I might not be the best person to ask about rejection.
A couple recent questions have popped up about publication. How many rejections did Cavemen in the Hedges get before acceptance. Zero? Two? Fifteen?
My agent shopped that around for me, which is nice because I don't have to see the rejections and I only hear vague comments like, "The New Yorker passed." So I'm not really sure how many rejections it got--probably about four.
In your opinion, what type of person makes middle of the night prank phone calls? Thanks.
Boys between the ages of 9 and 13, 11 year-old girls, drunks of all ages.
On the subject of music, do you know if Donald Fagen or Walter Becker have read your story "Chirst Their Lord"?
Well, I had to send them each a check to use the lyrics to "Hey Nineteen," and though they each have companies, I made the checks out in their names anyway because it was more fun. But I really, really, really, really doubt they read the story.
Your stories kind of remind me of Liz Phair's songs- the ones from "Exile in Guyville" and "Whip Smart", not the newer albums. Do you listen to music when you write?
I like Liz Phair from that era, but I'm almost sure she put that Ph in her name because she thought it was cool...and I'm not sure I approve of messing with the spellings. No, Adrian, I don't listen to music when I work because I find it too distracting. I'm even annoyed by birds and insects. Though sometimes in the winter when it gets dark really early, I play smooth jazz very softly in the next room because it makes me feel less like I'm the last person left on earth.
Help me Stacey! I have to teach a poem or short-short about oppression for this fancy charter school job I'm trying to get. Something I can cover in an hour with a bunch of seventh graders. Any suggestions?
Okay, let me think about it. There's always "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. 7th graders would like that, though since the fall of communism it may have lost its edge. I'll see if I can think of some others.
More: "Gimple the Fool" by Isaac Bashevis Singer, one of my favorite stories, but it might be too long if you have to read it in class. I can think of a lot of things but I don't think you want 7th graders reading In the Penal Colony, etc. You might try calling around to used bookstores or even going to thrift stores where they sometimes have old literature anthologies for grade school kids. Mine was called Adventures in Appreciation, as I recall. That might be a good source if you want to flip through a lot of short, age-appropriate material.
Have you ever been driving on the freeway, and you come up behind one of those giant recreational vehicles and you see that folding aluminum chair bungeed to the ladder on the back of the RV? Why do you suppose that is? I mean, have they run out of space inside the giant RV? Is it packed so full of stuff that they don't have room for a lawn chair? Or, could it some kind of "indicator"-- something that tells other empty-nester nomads that they are swingers or something?
Yes they are swingers, and yes, I have swung with them.
Do you think that it's crucial to have an MFA in order to get your writing published? I'm sure it can't hurt to have one, but I know several MFA grads who seem no closer to publication than non-MFA-ers. Your thoughts, please? (And, if you have time, what made you decide to get yours?)
As far as I know, an MFA won't help you get your writing published. It can help you get a job teaching writing and that's about it. It's not a very useful degree. The arts are not very practical or promising. Most people (including me) get an MFA as a sort of desperate time-wasting detour between their mid-twenties and late twenties--or even the terror of thirty. Some people also want a little time to practice and think about writing, and to hang out with other people who are doing the same thing to see if you're better than they are. Theoretically, you could even find a good teacher.
...and Ken. What about Ken?
Ken lacks opposable thumbs. Otherwise he would be lord of us all.
Stacey, I was just reading Kelly Link's short story, "Magic For Beginners," and saw that she had included the same bit of Hello Kitty trivia that you did in "My Date With Satan"-- that the little minx has no mouth. Even weirder--both are amazingly good stories and both are the title stories of their respective collections. What do you think-- cosmic coincidence, great minds think alike, or did she rip you off?
There's actually a fair amount of interest in Hello Kitty's mouthlessness (as a quick Google search reveals); this seems to be exactly the kind of disturbing detail that could capture the imagination of a number of writers. Many people (or at least that Freud person) believe that any metaphor involving a missing body part is particularly powerful. She has no mouth! Perhaps it was cut off! Of the pussy cat! Really, when you think about it, it's a kind of mirror of the castration complex, and who can resist that? I think we can expect to see even more literary references to H. Kitty's mouth-lack in the future.
An even more intriguing case is Barbie, who has no vagina.