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Q and A

May 04, 2007; Luke G. Asks:

Hi, Stacey, I submitted a story to a small online journal and it was accepted. The problem is, days before my story is scheduled to appear, it seems that maybe the editor has abandoned post and jumped a plane to Mexico (or so a cryptic note on his blog would suggest). The worst part is, after I had given the story to said online journal, it was accepted by a print journal. I did the honorable thing and turned them down, as I had already promised the piece to the (now possibly deadbeat) small online journal. And now it's too late to go crawling back to the print journal! This was to be my first ever published story and I am terribly upset about it. Any advice/words of comfort? I really need them.

Stacey answers:

Luke, you must write the online journal and if possible CALL them and find out what's going on. Google the editor and get his phone number. The story belongs to you and you have every reason to be concerned about it! If you don't hear back after a couple of weeks, write them a note that says they're not allowed to publish it anymore. Then send it to the print journal again and explain that the first magazine folded, and confess that you like their magazine better anyway, and say how you hope they still can run it. Good luck!

May 04, 2007; expatriation? Asks:

I just saw 300 and it hurt my soul.

Stacey answers:

You have a soul?

May 03, 2007; Murple Asks:

Stacey, I am jealous of other writers, particularly other writers that I am friends with who are, like, being published. Any tips on how to keep jealousy from negatively affecting you?

Stacey answers:

Wow, these questions are so good! Murple, everyone who isn't a zen master feels like that to some degree. So as it happens, yes, I have a whole list of tips to keep jealousy from negatively affecting you:

1. Jealousy is usually accompanied by a competitive feeling, and that can be energizing and positive. "If she can do it, so can I!" a person thinks. And then that person works even harder. This is how the males of the species handle jealousy/competitiveness, and one of the reasons why they still rule the world.

2. A person can remind herself that publishing, like life, is nothing like a game of musical chairs. If a friend does well it doesn't diminish the possibility that you will do well yourself; in fact, your friend is likely to help you out down the line; she might recommend your work to a magazine or nominate you for a prize. It could take a while until she's in a position to do this, but it happens all the time.

3. It might help to think of yourself and your friends as a school of writing, a group, an aesthetic movement, where the achievements of one reflect on the whole. This, too, really happens all the time in the real world. ("That talented bunch from the Iowa Writer's Workshop!") Honestly, the more famous your friends become (and they might even become famous), the more likely you are to benefit from association. Their success is good for you, Murple!

4. And finally, the truth is, someone is going to get published/have their book made into a movie/win the National Book award--wouldn't you rather that it was your friend than some schmo? If your friends do fabulous things, then you become a person with fabulous friends. Jealousy is normal, it's not going to go away, but if you can keep it from becoming a toxic force in your life, then you can have talented, beautiful, brilliant, rich, fortunate, successful friends. That sounds even better when we note that the alternative is hanging around with people who skew to the uninspired, the boring, the bitter, etc.

May 02, 2007; Tangled up in Humbert Asks:

Stacey, how do I disentangle my voice from yours/ Lynda Barry's/ Nabokov's/ Faulkner's/ Woolf's etc. etc.? Everything I write has this stiffness which is me trying to be like the authors I really love and admire. But I think I'm done imitating now. Any advice on how to get other authors' cadences out of your head?

Stacey answers:

This may seem ass-backwards, Tangled, but I think if you can find your own true-love subject matter then your voice will follow. There's a strange temptation in this world to write about things that are uninteresting or flat. For instance, those women-by-a-lake books that other writers do so well: why can't I write one? But the truth is that I have no feelings for large bodies of water, no knack for intergenerational sagas, no skill at describing nature. I used to try to write about all kinds of things that I found boring; I did it because these subjects seemed worthy somehow, or I enjoyed the way other writers did it. It was only when I finally admitted what ideas and images preoccupied me--plagues, Mormons, Barbies, drunks, misanthropes, tarts, mullet guys--that I felt at home with my own thoughts. And once you tap into the language of your own thoughts, you may find that they're so loud and so omnipresent that other people's voices automatically recede.

Let me know if that doesn't work and I'll think of something else.

Apr 30, 2007; Heffalump Asks:

I wrote a story, my mom read it, now she's mad. What do I do?

Stacey answers:

Okay Heffalump, here's what you do: Laugh, tell her it's fiction, FICTION, then remind her of some really rotten thing she did when you were a kid. Preferably something totally inexcusable, and if there's a sexual aspect it's even better because what people are really afraid of is being embarrassed. Promise her you'll never, ever write about it. She'll think she got off easy. And don't forget Mother's Day, May 13th.

Apr 29, 2007; Liam from MySpace Asks:

Hey, Stacey.
I just read your response to the "Arcade Fire vs. Modest Mouse" question, and although I was a little disappointed you didn't declare your affection for Modest Mouse who are way more awesome than AF (just one man's opinion), your reference to Julie London put a question in my mind: Is "makin' whoopee" still an acceptable euphemism for sex? I mean, I know this is obviously subjective, but how do you, Stacey "The Hedgehog's Advocate" Richter think a lady would react nowadays if the gentleman pursuing her suggested to her that they ought to engage in some raucous "whoopee-makin'"? Especially if said couple are in their twenties or thirties or so? I could see some women thinking that that phrasing is cute and playfully naughty in its own antiquated way. While I could see other women thinking that that is too old-timey and weird, and getting a little creeped out by it. Is it too subjective to even conjecture about? Please give me some advice before I potentially make a fool out of myself................. again.
-Liam

Stacey answers:

Wow. Tough question, Liam. I advise that you use the phrase "making whoopee" sparingly, and only with ladies you know well. While whimsy and cuteness are charming, they're not actually sexy, and therefore they're unlikely to help you close the deal. The best scenario I can imagine is one in which you put the song on the stereo, look at the little lady, and wink. Creepy? Yes. But maybe creepy in a good way.

I strongly advise you to avoid the inverted version "whoopee making" altogether.

Apr 27, 2007; cancercausesreality Asks:

Wow! I just read your story "Christ, Their Lord" in the Tucson Weekly. You are really some good writer. You made me laugh and when you put in the part about why artists make art--"...To say all the things that have such power but sound so tame when we say them flat out: that we want love. that we're lonely...that we're afraid we're in the process of wasting our lives." Oh, man! Do I hear you! I gotta read all your stuff. Nobody is interested in mine. I just now found that out after all these years of faking myself out. Isn't that a strange way to get through life? I never met such a cool person as you in Tucson.

Stacey answers:

Thanks! That's nice to hear. To answer your question, yes, that is a strange way to get through life, but I'm sure you're not the first.

Apr 27, 2007; Waggamemnon Asks:

Arcade Fire or Modest Mouse?

Stacey answers:

Oh God, are those my only choices? I say Julie London.

Apr 25, 2007; Minny Asks:

Do we know if expectant mother is going to follow your suggestion? if not, i'm going to name my next pet, child, plant or car, WHATEVER i have to your suggestion...another real question- when I give my notice at my current job to leave for my new job (and new town) do i just say adios i'll tell you how it goes when i get there, or do i have to reveal details about my new life? i have such a conflicting pride about what i'm doing. exchanging one life for another. sorry it's such a boring question. maybe you can give me a real clever line to give them when I quit.

Stacey answers:

Hi Minny. How about you give them a weird, intense stare and say in a monotone: "I'm going to a better place." Then they'll think you're committing suicide! Later, you can send back pictures of yourself laughing and looking fabulous with celebrities (since celebrities impress everyone). If you don't know any celebrities, you can fake it at a wax museum.

Maybe Expectant Mother will write back sometime and tell us what she named her baby. I hope so.

Apr 25, 2007; Dilemmizzle Asks:

Stace-face, Should I follow the guy to Houston-freaking-TEXAS?! (I know you like the desert and all, but I am used to a fecundity of vegetation and liberalism) OR should I move to New York (cause it's the thing to do) for some kind of publishing job, even though all I want is to be canonically awesome? Which do you think is more like selling out? And if your answer leads me down a road of regret and resentment, I will, of course, blame you whole-heartedly. P.S. I can NOT get ENOUGH of My Mother the Rock Star

Stacey answers:

Great, a chance to screw up your life! I'm so happy. Go to Houston. You'll probably hate it, but if you really want to be canonically awesome you need to have the time to write, and since New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world, you'll have to spend all your time on the train because you're going to live in Queens. I don't know anyone (except editors) who really loves working in publishing anyway.

If I weren't so bossy, I would probably give you advice rather than tell you where to go. This advice would be based on how much you love the boy. Or on how much you like New York, and how much energy you have to work/ride trains/see the city/and write. Or how much you like to drive. I might also suggest you visit Houston and see what you think. I believe it's pretty green there--it's the humid, southern Texas, not the arid western part.

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