When I began to seriously focus on submitting my writing to literary journals, I was schooled on the concept that it takes about one hundred rejections to get an acceptance.
Since submitting to one hundred journals takes a lot of research work, I began working with a really awesome service that helps me target submissions and keep track of rejections. Over the past several years, I have found that the one hundred rejection rule is pretty much true.
What this means is that I now get A LOT of rejections. In those first years most submissions were done by regular mail so I’d often have a mailbox crammed with rejection notices.
Now most submissions are done electronically and it is my email inbox that is filled to overflowing with rejection slips. They tend to come in waves. None for a while then six or eight at a time. Rejections usually show up when I’m having a really crappy day.
Receiving a pile of rejections just makes everything SO much better.
When I started getting that many rejection notices, it hurt at first. Each one was a tiny “ouch” and made me sad. Who could reject my perfect little carefully crafted babies?
Over time, I became immune to the sheer volume of no-thank-yous. The skin hardens a bit, the outlook toughens and now I just shrug and say “okay” and move on.
It’s what makes those occasional acceptances that much more sweet. A barrage of no and then a glowing, shiny, joyful yes.
Since I have had the good fortune to receive quite a few acceptances, my submission service has been trying to up my game a little bit.
By up my game, I mean in addition to the regular submissions to a lot of fine magazines that no one has heard of, they have been adding a few more well-known and highly regarded journals to my submission list.
I’m not quite up to the point of hitting up the New Yorker for publication, but names on the list recently include McSweeney’s, Harvard Review, Zoetrope and The Paris Review.
I always giggle just a little when I hit “submit” on those queries. That’s because the odds of my work seeing the light of such highly regarded and high circulation magazines is pretty slim. That said, you don’t hit a home run if you don’t swing at a few pitches. So I swing away.
The Good Man has a different view on the rejection process. He is always happy to see the rejections in the mailbox. His firm belief is that if they are saying no then at least they considered my work, if even for a moment.
He especially loves the so-called “good” rejections. The slips that have a personal note from the editor, or say something like “while we were unable to use this particular story, we’d like to see more work from you.”
Those good rejections are a tiny bit of bread to a starving writer. Those few words are enough to keep me working hard to get to yes.
Anyhow, all of this was on my mind as this morning I sorted through a stack of mail and opened a couple rejection slips. I can recognize them right away because when I do paper submissions, I include a self addressed stamped envelope.
When my own envelope returns to me, it’s almost always a no. Almost. I did get an acceptance one time in my SASE. I’d neglected to open it for almost two weeks and couldn’t believe it when I did open it. That was a nice surprise.
Anyhow, this morning’s envelope had a postmark from New York and inside resided the tiniest sliver of paper. What I estimate to be about one-eighth of a sheet of paper.
It’s from The Paris Review. A highly revered title.
They were able to spare just a tiny sliver of paper to tell me no way, Josephina.
And for a moment, I’d like to think about some low to no paid intern reading my story, considering it and then thoughtfully sending this slip.
I’m sure they LOVED my work, it just didn’t fit the themes on their literary calendar. Right?
I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write I don’t know what to write.
Oh, I know, I’ll try my old trick of using a random word generator.
Okay here goes. *click*
The word is: carnival.
Ooh a juicy word. Yes. Okay. Great. Here we go.
Heeeere we go.
My mind is like a carnival?
Nah. It’s like a carnival that’s left town. Quiet. Dead. Bits of trash floating around.
That was almost lyrical and then it wasn’t.
So goes the ongoing wrestling match with my demons. Well, not demons. That’s an unfair characterization. My Muse is not a demon and my demons are not Muses.
Both are an essential part of the creative process.
In seeking advice from my mentors for my utter Jornada del Muerto** of creativity, I was reminded of the old advice: Just start writing. Anything. Just write.
And so I am. Writing. Something and nothing. I know if I can keep writing something and nothing it soon becomes a something about something and the wind fills my sails and I glide along that literary ocean, making progress. (metaphor much?)
But until that happens, I am thirsty and hungry and yearn for pretty words and meaty thoughts and the satiation I can only feel after feasting on a good turn of phrase.
Until then I wander the Jornada del Muerto of my mind. Am I off the trail? Am I still headed west? Will there be water soon?
I make the journey to find the story that flows from the word carnival. I’ll carry it around in my virtual backpack until I figure out where it goes. Somehow. Somewhere.
My carnival awaits.
The copyright on this amazing photo belongs to Laurent Chehere who is a profoundly creative artist.
**With a nod to fellow New Mexicans. For the non New Mexicans, the Jornada del Muerto is a really long stretch of fairly bleak desert in New Mexico that contains no sources of water. It was not such a nice place for Conquistadors and settlers back in the day. Many legendary tales are told of travelers suffering the journey.
This one goes out to all of us who found ourselves attending New Mexico State University back in 1989. Maybe it was 1990. Memory is funny.
This one is for the Ag College kids. I’m about to drop a memory on you. Come along with me.
I can’t really recall what time of year it was, but it was sunny. That much I recall. Then again, it’s sunny in Las Cruces an awful lot.
The band Foster & Lloyd were on the radio. Remember them? Back then we were all listening to Foster & Lloyd. A lot. And Dwight Yoakam. And the Mavericks. And more.
So along came the news that Foster & Lloyd were opening for a Los Lobos show at the Pan Am Center. Yeah, I wanted to go to that show real bad. Alas I was a broke college kid and couldn’t afford tickets. I heard the ads on KGRT over and over and pined, but knew it wasn’t meant to be.
So instead I popped my Faster and Llouder cassette tape into the boom box I carried in the car. Or maybe it was Verision of the Truth. Or maybe first one then the other. And I held my own car concerts as I rolled around Cruces.
Then something unbelievable happened. My best friend called, out of breath and excited, to tell me that Los Lobos had to cancel the show and Foster & Lloyd were going to do a free concert just outside of Corbett Center (the student union building at NMSU) in this little amphitheater area.
We gathered up all of our friends, an armful of blankets and made sure we went to that show. My best friend walked with confidence right to the front of the small stage area and staked out our place. Up close and personal. We sat, we listened, we sang, we were a bunch of kids feeling an awful lot like family on that day.
For a bunch of Ag College kids from NMSU (hands up now, “I believe in the Future of Farming…”) having a national act come out and do a show FOR FREE was, well, that was about the coolest thing in the world.
That was a best-day-ever kind of a day. Back then anyway. Sitting here today I do have to admit that my wedding day is my best day ever, hands down. But back then to this New Mexico kid wearing dusty beat up goatskin ropers, that sunny Las Cruces day was really the best day ever.
My best friend and I slip into the Wayback Machine an awful lot when we get together, and that free concert is one we land on quite a bit. What I wouldn’t give to have a real Wayback Machine and dial it to back to that day. I might never come back.
Toward the end of the show, Foster & Lloyd were really swinging. We were all riding a sonic high and at one point, Mr. Radney Foster wandered out into the audience and put a hand out to my best friend’s little sister. He plucked her from our blanket and spun her around a little bit with the music.
My best friend and I were both elated and jealous as hell. In fact in the now twenty-five years hence, I know for sure that my best friend has never really gotten over it. Neither have I, if I am honest.
My best friend’s little sister was and is a beauty. Gorgeous and sweet and funny as hell. She is pure awesome and I love her madly, so of course I can’t be upset with her. Just jealous, I guess.
When we were in college, Little Sister was in high school and she’d find her way to Las Cruces and we’d take her out with us. When a cowboy would start to get a little too interested in her, my best friend would wander by and whisper “Um, just thought you should know…she’s sixteen.” That usually put an end to things.
So we were used to her getting a lot of the attention. On that day after Mr. Radney Foster twirled her under the bright New Mexico sky we laughed and hugged her and loved every second of that show.
It is a beautiful memory. Were you there too?
A few months ago I happened to stumble across Radney Foster’s Facebook page and hit “like” so I could see what he was up to. I’d lost track of him after his Del Rio, TX 1959 album.
Then came the fateful day where he posted that he’d be playing a little venue called Freight & Salvage in mid-July. That’s not too far from where this New Mexico kid is living these days.
Well, I hopped on those tickets so fast my credit card started smokin’.
And that live show happened just a week ago, July 15.
The Good Man had never heard of no Radney Foster until I showed him a bunch of YouTube clips in the days before the show. Then he was totally onboard. We stood at the front of the line when the doors opened and found second row seats in the general admission venue.
Photo Copyright ©2015 Karen Fayeth
It was just Mr. Foster and his acoustic guitar and he put on one hell of a show. Storytelling, songs, laughter. Man alive, it was really profound. It was like seeing a really dear old friend and picking up right where we left off twenty years ago.
Photo found on @valisaschmidley Twitter stream because I was too gobsmacked to actually take a photo myself during the show.
I almost started crying when he hit the first notes of the first song. It felt so right.
And then…oh and then…
After the show, Mr. Foster came out to the front lobby to sign a few autographs and I jumped in line.
I practiced what I was going to say and when I got there, I let roll the story of that day, 1989 (or was it 1990?) in the grass outside Corbett Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Given the sheer number of shows he has performed in the last 25 years, I was surprised that he actually remembered that one day. But he did.
“Oh yeah, we were rocking that day,” he said.
“Yeah you were!” I replied.
Then I thanked him, I told him how much that free show meant to all us New Mexico college kids.
Then I reminded him about coming out into the crowd and dancing with my best friend’s little sister. About how my best friend has never quite gotten over it.
Then I held out a copy of his new CD and said “Her name is Kate and you are going to sign this for her.”
(The album is titled “Everything I Should Have Said” and it’s awesome and you should pick one up. Here is the Amazon link and here is the RadneyFoster.com link ($3 cheaper!) Go on, click one of those links. You know you wanna)
And he did sign that CD. Oh boy did he ever.
Here’s what it looks like. In case you can’t read it, it says “Kate, You get the next dance.”
Photo Copyright ©2015 Karen Fayeth
C’mon! How awesome is Radney Foster? The correct answer is amazingly awesome!
I told him that he had just created some healing twenty-five years in the making and he laughed. Then I had that “hey, let’s go grab a beer” moment and of course thought better of it. He’s just the kind of musician you feel like you know well because he writes the kind of songs that feel personal.
Then I asked him to sign a CD for The Good Man and me, and he did.
I walked out of that venue smiling from ear to ear and remembering and laughing and just at peace with the world.
And so this entire post today and all of these stories are intended to bring all of my NMSU Ag College friends along with me into that Wayback Machine.
Were you there? Do you remember? Wanna reminisce?
This post is also to thank Mr. Radney Foster for helping create another amazing memory.
Whew. Today as I wrote this I listened to The Essential Foster & Lloyd album and it was almost hard to hear. So many memories both beautiful and sad captured in all of those songs.
Well, thanks for staying a while and reading all of these words. I’m serious about you grabbing one of those new albums. Get to clicking! And if you can catch Radney Foster live? Well even better.
P.S. If you have ever wondered how a New Mexico girl could ever live in California, I suggest you obtain a copy of Mr. Foster’s new album and listen to the song “California.” (I believe it is also on YouTube) Then you will understand. According to the story, that song was inspired by a beautiful Bay Area sunset as viewed from the Oakland Hills. Saaaalute!
Recently I’ve been a little delinquent in spoiling The Good Man. Things have been crazy what with all of the international travel and working long hours and, well, life.
His birthday was last month and although we had a nice quiet celebration, I feel like I failed a bit to make the day something special.
The Good Man is a child of summer and it’s easy to understand why his favorite fruit is the peach. Yesterday I found a nice ripe pile of the fuzzy stuff at the grocery store and brought several home.
“Cobbler or pie?” I asked after showing him the peaches. He began muttering the question over and over to himself like a philosopher mulling over the meaning of life.
“Or a crumble?” I followed, then, “Is that too many choices?”
For several hours after he wandered around the house “cobbler or pie…or crumble? Hmm…” This is a very big decision in Good Man Land.
Finally toward the late evening hours, I surveyed the ingredients I had on hand and began consulting cookbooks in preparation for his decision.
It was then I pulled out The Book of Love (dun, dun DUUUUUN!) to begin the search for recipes.
This Very Good Book:
I think every person who likes to cook has a favorite or special cookbook that is the go-to for any circumstance, and this one is mine.
Taking a seat in a nearby chair, I opened the holy tome. I read the inscription inside the front cover. You see, this particular cookbook was a gift from my grandparents to my mother on the occasion of Christmas 1950.
My mom left it behind when she moved out and my grandmother kept updating the recipes inside. The Better Homes & Gardens magazines published recipes that the homemaker could cut out and add to the book, to keep it fresh. I love seeing my grandma’s handwriting along with the food spots and spatters in its pages.
Some of the recipes are a little odd or outdated, but I’ll tell you this, I’ve never made a recipe from this book that failed me.
As The Good Man walked by, he said in a voice a little quavery with anticipation, “I love it when you pull out that cookbook.”
Oh yeah, he knows. Good things come from that 1950’s made with yum cookbook.
Finally, after waiting for his answer and looking at recipes and thinking about my laziness factor, I decided for him. “Good news, you are getting cobbler.”
He nodded, relieved the decision had been made and ready for the delivery on my promise.
That happens tonight. Oh yes and oh yum.
Best part about making baked goods for the one I love? I get to have some too!
It began with a photo of fish.
The photo was published in the online edition of the Albuquerque Journal. I often read the Albuquerque Journal so I don’t feel so far away from home.
A glance at the file information for the photograph gives a date of June 2002. I find that so hard to believe, and yet it’s true
The photo shows three fish that got stuck when their river home dried up. A rapid New Mexico drought took all the water.
I can’t recall which New Mexico river this happened to, I probably should have kept a screen shot of the newspaper article, but even as I know that New Mexico has struggled with drought for years (and today), I was amazed and shocked by this photo.
It is difficult to believe that water could evaporate that quickly.
Here is the photo:
The image didn’t leave my head, it rattled around in there and said so many things to me. My brain worked it over and a story began to form. The feeling of trying to draw a breath but only getting New Mexico mud.
The first draft of the story “Sangre del Toro” took shape in October 2002. Wow. Thirteen years ago.
Over the years I have submitted that story off and on to contests and literary magazines. I’d dig it up, edit and polish and try again with no luck.
I believed in the story, in the character, in the image, so I kept trying. And trying. And editing and trying and so on.
I did another edit and submitted it again for another round in the publishing meat grinder this last December. I have come to understand that publishing is as much about timing as it is about quality. And that’s why I kept trying.
On February 26, I finally got a yes from a literary journal named Jet Fuel Review.
It was almost surreal to finally hear a yes in response to this story and it’s even more surreal to announce that the Spring 2015 edition of Jet Fuel is live.
You can download the entire edition here: Full Edition
Or you can read just my story here: Sangre del Toro.
Woo! Whatta rush. Very excited about this one finally seeing the light of day. It was only by searching my hard drive to find that fish photo that I realized this published piece was thirteen years in the making.
Thirteen years of believing in a kind of sad story about a little girl caught out, just like the fish.
The editors of Jet Fuel told me they thought the metaphor was a little too obvious, which is probably true. I guess they still liked it enough to publish.
And so please give it a read and support Jet Fuel. They are a great group and I am forever indebted to them for taking a chance on little Adelida.