STUBBORN

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I suspect some not entirely desirable character traits must be genetic. They persist, despite one’s own good sense and determination to bring some moderation to their expression.  Being stubborn is one of mine.  I can’t trace it back very far, being the only child of immigrants.  But my mother was no pushover on any number of issues I would have preferred she be more compromising about when I was growing up. And if anyone said anything with which my father disagreed, don’t think he was willing to discuss it.  I can hear him now:  “I’ve got news for you, mister.”

[Then I married a man as stubborn as I was.  (Two such men, actually, but I only had children with the second one, so it’s him of whom I speak.) Our older son got it in spades. During his adolescence, our dinner table was often where rock met hard place while his father and brother rolled their eyes — me being the rock, he the hard place.  Although his children are still both under ten, I understand that even now neither of them is a piece of cake to persuade. But, like many old people, I digress….]

Getting old does soften you, though.  As your energy level drops, so does the number of things that seem worth taking a stand about.  You begin picking your battles. Why get all worked up about A or B or C and shorten your lifespan?  Which brings me to the real subject of this piece:  a world many of you have probably never heard of unless you’re an American or Canadian aspiring or established writer — the world of the “literary review.” Most, although not all, literary reviews are associated with universities or colleges, appear two or three times a year, can usually be found only in university or college libraries, and offer their select readers poems, short fiction, “literary” non-fiction, and sometimes reviews and/or art work.  They pay little or nothing, but they do offer the writer appearing in their pages publication credits that may open the door to the next publication credit. They are therefore deluged with thousands of unsolicited submissions, otherwise known (but only unofficially) as “the slush pile.”

When young, I always thought I was going to grow up to be a writer.  I grew up to be many things, and wear many hats, but “writer” wasn’t one of them, mostly because I also always seemed to need to be making pesky money. Then I retired from practicing law (the last of my serial paid professions) and had time and a new iMac desktop, and began to write short pieces of non-fiction, and guess where I sent them.  I would send them out two or three at a time, usually by snail mail because that’s what was then required, wait patiently to be rejected, and (because I was stubborn) try again.  And again. And again. This was between 2008 and 2012. Eventually, I had a file drawer full of form rejection slips, or printouts of email form rejections, and only one acceptance — from an online magazine of the arts for women over sixty.  So with the wisdom of age I stopped being stubborn about being printed in a literary review and began to blog instead.

An acquaintance with some experience of literary reviews has observed that each one is like a private club. You need to be a member or to know someone in order to be fished out of the slush pile and read by an editor. So when I met someone else who knew such a someone at one such prestigious literary review and the first someone offered to put in a word for me, I sighed and polished up a new piece to the first someone’s liking. Then the first someone put in his word, and the second someone (at the review) emailed the first someone that they’d be on the lookout for my new piece. And a month (instead of three months) later, I received an anonymous form rejection — not even from the second someone — by email.

The wisdom of age goes just so far. Then the old genes kick in again. The first someone’s second someone didn’t want it, didn’t think it was “right” for his prestigious little review that most people who aren’t writers have never heard of?  Well, I was going to show him! Borrowing a phrase from one of the dingbats seeking the Republican nomination (I forget which), I was going to “carpet-bomb” the literary review world with my piece!

And so, dear blog readers, I have just spent nearly all of the past four days compiling a list of sixty-seven literary reviews and then looking up each one on the internet. That was in order to determine whether they were still up and running (two or three had ceased to exist); whether they accepted electronic submissions (f**k mailing paper copies with cover letters and stamped self-addressed envelopes); whether they print non-fiction; whether they are reading in January and/February (some stopped in December, others won’t begin till April 1, or June 1); whether they accept simultaneous submissions or require you to wait around the five or six months while they consider what you’ve sent before submitting it somewhere else. When I had done all that, there were twenty-four functioning reviews remaining on my list with electronic submission portals still open (plus the one for women over sixty, which I’m saving for later). Some charged $3, but what the hell.  For each, I had to create and record a password, upload the piece, write something in the “comments” section of the submission form, and record what I’d done in a small notebook, so I would have a record of where I’d sent the piece in the extremely unlikely event I get a bite and have to notify all the others that I’m withdrawing the submission.

I know this is nuts, and nothing will come of it, and I shouldn’t have wasted the four days, but I loved the expression “carpet bomb” (as long as the “bombing” is harmless), and I don’t like being pushed around. If I get twenty-four rejections, at least no one can say I didn’t try. It’s not often a person with “old old” on the horizon gets to be so satisfyingly stubborn.  It feels really really good!

 

 

 

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27 thoughts on “STUBBORN

  1. Good for you being stubborn. It is no good fighting to change into something one is not. As for writing and getting recognition or literary reviews. I don’t know much about it. The highlight of my career has been, apart from making some money, getting 40 of my pieces published, and paid for, by our national broadcaster the ABC.
    Many publishers and editors do not accept new witers on the block. (or old ones) Many go broke and vanish forever.
    Self publishing is all the go and with Amazon, some scrape by and receive a timid ‘like’ or so. Those writers are called ‘indies’.
    The pleasure has to be in putting down the words. I reckon you enjoy that, don’t you, Nina?

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    • Writing is a mixed pleasure, Gerard. The most pleasurable part for me is having written and approving of what one wrote. (Not always the case). And of course, every writer wants to be read. Blogging is extremely gratifying in that respect. I shouldn’t comment on self-publishing. Some people are extremely successful at it. To me, a product of the mid-twentieth century, it still feels like a default position. However, it may be a position I shall back into eventually.

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  2. I love your stubbornness. It is indeed a difficult world to navigate and mostly feels closed to ordinary people. I’m not even trying that hard to be published but so far I have been entirely unsuccessful. Or maybe I’m just a really mediocre writer and the only value to be derived from it is my own pleasure and release …. which is why I have defaulted to the blog format, where I can “publish” and not really worry about what anyone else thinks. But good luck ! Keep us posted. And please remember that you are a published writer for us and we love what you produce.

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    • You’re certainly not a mediocre writer, Janet. You’re just not a member of any of the “clubs.” And neither am I. If either of us had a book published (not self-published), then the literary reviews might sit up and take notice. But that generally means a novel, and I don’t have a novel in me. Do you? Love your last sentence. Thank you so much for it!

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  3. Good for you, Nina! And now you can bomb them as often as you like. I’m going straight into self-publishing on Amazon, so I’ll bypass all the jumping through hoops. Since my skin hasn’t been thickened by rejection, some stubbornness may come in handy. Good luck with your new streamlined submission process.

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    • I see from your own blog, Christine, that it’s a novel you plan to publish through Amazon in April. Much good luck with this maiden endeavor. I hope you find many readers. However, self-publishing, except via blog, doesn’t work well for short pieces, except as a collection. And why pay to publish a collection of short non-fiction when one can publish it free through WordPress?

      Actually I expect nothing at all from my exercise in stubbornness. I had already given up on trying to crack the literary review market before beginning to blog. It’s just that being turned down so anonymously after having been provided an entree by someone with some connection to the editorial staff really got to me! My twenty-four simultaneous submissions was an effort to make myself feel better. (As if I were punishing the Bad Editors who rejected me! Take that, Bad Editors! So there!) And I do (feel better). I also got a blog post out of it!

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      • Apparently, short non-fiction can do well on Amazon, especially in niche information categories. Anyone with knowledge to share can whip up an eBook and publish – not always a good thing!
        Nina, I’m looking forward to hearing how your submissions fare this time around.

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  4. I stuck my toe in the submission pool last summer. As a novice, I wasn’t sure if I could do “simultaneous” submissions so I submitted to one place and waited. Recently I fell across a notice that the anthology for which I submitted was in the process of being published so my article wasn’t accepted. I heard nada. It isn’t just the rejection, it’s the absence of a rejection that annoyed me. I too will be carpet bombing when I have a piece I think worthy! Good luck to you! Most of my friends who published have gone indie. The stress is less but so are the financial rewards. Not that anyone does this for the money.

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    • I think you have to forget about manners when you enter this arena of life, Kate. You’ll just get too annoyed. You should probably also forget about waiting for responses before making more submissions. Life is too short! As for “indie” publishing, all the “indie” writers I know of have self-published novels. As I noted in another reply to a comment on this post, self-publishing a collection of short pieces, except in special instances, seems like an exercise in spending money, since those of us who write (rather than photograph) are all self-publishing collections of short pieces in our blogs anyway, for free.

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  5. I agree with others here, who’ve mentioned that your blog posts are published, and so for us, you are a published writer. And it seems to me important too, to consider the readership of those ‘reviews’ that you wish to appear in. How many people do you know, who read such reviews from front to back? In any case, my best wishes for your success.

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    • As I’ve noted in at least one reply to other readers who commented, I don’t really expect success in that venue. I gave up on the literary review world just before I began to blog. I was blowing off steam with my twenty-four simultaneous submissions. I might add, though, that literary agents do read literary reviews. When by some fluke, The Iowa Review decided to publish a memoir of mine in its Spring 2014 issue (submitted to them three years prior to publication), a literary agent wrote to say he had enjoyed reading my piece and to ask if I had a book he could see. Unfortunately, he didn’t think he could market the manuscript I sent him, but that wasn’t the point. I couldn’t have reached him were it not for the Iowa Review publication.

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  6. Good luck, Nina, with your stubborn persistence – I hope it pays off as even a single publication will justify all that dogged determination.

    My own undesired and undesirable quality-of-the-day (as I have many more than just one) is… patience. I just don’t DO patience. I’m an instant gratification girl, as my waistline bears witness, but I don’t tolerate having to wait for other people, or events, or stuff outside my control, to catch up. I’m discovering this to my cost lately – though it’s not as if this is a new one for me. Patience. Gah!

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    • I’m not sure anyone “does” patience, Julie. Patience is foisted upon us, simply by virtue of what we want not happening. There’s so much in life “outside our control,” it’s a wonder any of us find a way to make ourselves happy, or at least content, despite being buffeted about by all those uncontrollable events and other people!

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  7. I believe everyone is born with stubbornness. Some of us recognize it. I am stubborn as they come, and I am a Christian. Stubbornness has its good quality in that it become steadfastness, and tenacious when it comes to meeting goals. I lack Deuteronomy reading the Bible again. I sat down and read Numbers until I finished it today. Then I started in on Deuteronomy. When I finish it will be my 7th time to completely read the Bible. That is being tenacious, steadfast, and smiling with stubbornness.

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  8. Let me reiterate, you can smile. You are gifted with stubbornness. I believe stubborn people can get a job done right. I believe stubbornness can be a gift when motivated. And for Christians, they need to have stubborn faith.

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