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Posts in "2010" category

My Reading in 2010

Yearly Reading 2010 It's time to take stock of my reading for the year. In the sidebar on the right, you'll see a partial list of my books for the year.

I read about 75, plus about 40 journals (the journals aren't listed). It's not a particularly staggering number — any bookworm who reads consistently will likely put up higher numbers — but for me, after a childhood and college years spent speed-reading, I've worked at slowing down. To bask in the quality. To ponder. To enjoy.

Almost 30 of these books were short story collections. That's only a very small sample of the wealth of short stories published during the year, but hopefully I got a good enough taste and will share a roundup soon about my favorites.

One notable change: I've definitely found the pleasure of re-reading. I re-read 10 books. That might not seem that many, but for me, it's a much larger percentage than normal. It's comforting to find books that repay renewed attention, and they are always the ones that didn't give up all their secrets on the first round, and which still coyly resist on the second.

One of my students asked me if he should re-read books, and I told him no. Why? Because he was too young and there was so much good writing out there. In another fifteen years, I told him, then you can start re-reading. Right now? Diversify.

Literary Journal Hierarchies

"Even esteemed journals sometimes seem like they're run by squirrels, marmots, or lemurs."

— Timothy Schaffert

At the AWP panel "The Road from Journal to Book," five writers/editors talked about the fiction of literary journal hierarchies. They named Cliff Garstang's Perpetual Folly Pushcart Rankings and the Top 50 Journals by Every Writer's Resource as examples of journal hierarchies (the latter woefully dated — they have several dead journals and glaring exceptions).

The best point made during the panel was that journal editors don't think of journals along a spectrum from worse to better, but more like least favorite to most favorite. In other words, every editor has a personal hierarchy of literary journals. Therefore, attempts to make static, universal hierarchies of literary journals are doomed to fail.

This means some "good" journals might mean little to a journal editor if they know that journal's aesthetic clashes with their own. Or conversely, if a lesser known journal matches the aesthetic of their journal, it could really boost a story's chances. 

So writers should be focused less on trying to make it into the best journal they possibly can (So many writers I know always send out a new story to Atlantic Monthly, Granta, Paris Review, and Ploughshares), and more on trying to make it into journals that really matches the type of fiction they write.

Those are all great points. I agree with them wholeheartedly. But despite the antagonism of the panel to hierarchal lists of journals, I believe Perpetual Folly and the list here on BookFox and Duotrope's statistics of acceptances all serve a useful, if limited, function: they give newbie and emerging writers a chance to get acquainted with the relative status of a journal in the literary community. I don't think any of the list creators would fight to the death for a particular spot for any journal — they're just guidelines, and by triangulating between these multiple sources as well as prizes like O'Henry and BASS, beginning writers can figure out where to send. The lists just helps establish relative difficulty of acceptance — that's it.

For example, someone just left a comment on my blog that they were preparing to send stories out to the Tier 5 journals on my list. I think that's good — my list saved them from the futility of marching through all the top journals who accept a tenth of 1% of their slush piles. It gave them a list of good journals that are publishing a number of emerging authors, where they have a chance.

Ultimately, though, it is about taste. It's about the type of story editors are accepting, the type of aesthetic they're publishing. You can't rank aesthetics. You can't rank taste. So as one member of the panel said, read the journals. If you read a journal like The Gettysburg Review and find the stories boring, don't send them your "exciting" story, because to them those "boring" stories are exciting. Find a journal that thrills you and send stories there.

Short Story Collections in 2010

Happy 2010, everyone. And get ready for a new spate of short fiction. We got some doozies forthcoming.

Here are ten upcoming short story collections I’m looking forward to this year.

Upcoming Short Story Collections  Sam Shepard, Day out of Days (January) 

Forthcoming stories  Amy Bloom, Where the God of Love Hangs Out (January) Stories linked by the motif of love.

New short story collections  T.C. Boyle, Wild Child (January) Boyle’s one of our best. A master of the short story.

2010 short stories Richard Bausch, Something is Out There (February) Love the cover art.

Upcoming collections Thomas Lynch, Apparition & Late Fictions (February) Haven’t read my review copy yet. Publisher’s Weekly panned it, but Kirkus praised it. Only five stories, but looking forward to the novella.

Upcoming 2010 books Brad Watson, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (March) 

Forthcoming books Tiphanie Yanique, How to Escape from a Leper Colony (March) Been looking for more fiction from Yanique ever since I read the title story, which won the Boston Review 2005 prize.

New 2010 stories Ron Rash, Burning Bright (March) Burning Bright review from I Read A Short Story Today. Title story first published in Ecotone, which has developed quite a nice reputation in its brief but distinguished life.

Short Stories Robin Black, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (March)

Boys and girls like you and me  Aryn Kyle, Boys and Girls Like You and Me (April) Contrary to the title, this one’s all about women and girls.