Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Literary Magazines and Land's End

An agent I met with at SCWC told me that what I wrote wasn’t a novel. Later, in my cover letter I called my submission a short story collection. And that’s what it is. For years, I have used the misnomer, novel, when talking about Land’s End, but no more.

It’s like a big Duh! for me. Of course, Land’s End isn’t a novel. It is a series of vignettes—short stories—that are linked by place not characters. I think some of us toss around the vernacular so loosely because those are the words our non-writing friends and relatives understand. “I am a novelist,” I told our new neighbors last week at a cocktail party. “What do you write?” “Oh, one novel is about blah blah, and then there is another novel about characters who rent successive weeks at a beach condo in Rhode Island.” See. Easy to fall into the novel language.

Though the agent really liked the excerpt I showed her (no suggestions for change), she said it is nearly impossible for her to sell a short story collection. Oh, yeah, if you’re Robert Olen Butler (Had a Good Time, a series of short stories inspired by the messages on old post cards—a great read!), she could sell it to a publisher. But for us mortal folk, we need to establish our creds. She suggested two avenues for me to pursue.

Smaller presses might take a chance on a newbie writer of a short story collection. And she suggested one to try. She also suggested that I publish some of the collection in literary magazines to establish external validation. Then, if I am successful with either or both of those routes, I should contact her for representation.

I was walking on air. Easy peasy, right? I practically have an agent in hand.

Well, do you know how daunting is the task of sending off to literary magazines? As luck would have it, that same day at the conference, Midge Raymond presented a session on literary magazine submissions and gave us many resources for identifying the right venues for our work. Wonderful session!

Still, when I searched the sites (listed at the end of this blog) I was astounded at the sheer number of opportunities. Nor is it as easy as clicking on one and sending off my stuff. No. Each has very different submission guidelines of course (as do book publishers), but they also have different dates when they accept submissions.

I am creating my data base for those literary magazines that accept the kind of work I do with headings like: address, max number of words, submission dates, editor’s name, date submitted, response date and action, and so on. I

It is going to take me longer to create the data base than it took to write some of the stories. Join me in the fun! Look up these sites if you write short stories, too. Literary journals and magazines list courtesy of Midge Raymond: LitLine-- www.litline.org/links/journals.html; O. Henry Magazine-- www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/ohenry/0900/litmags.html; New Pages—newpages.com

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