Woodlawn Miscellany

The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart

Posts tagged writing process

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My Arrested Development Essay: Behind the Scenes

This past week, I was pleased to announce that an essay I’d written appeared on one of my favorite sites, The Bygone Bureau. All they do there is publish really smart, enjoyable nonfiction, so the fact that they thought my piece was BB material, had me thrilled. Since you can check the piece out at the site, I just thought I’d take this space to add two quick notes that might help flesh out what you see in the final product.

1. While my essay is about the strange power Arrested Development had in my wife’s and my lives, I think most couples have — or should have — something like that, a talisman that serves as a gentle us-against-the-world reminder. For some, that role is most likely filled by children. For us, at that point in our lives, it was a TV show. 

2. I come to realize one of the reasons why BB publishes such great writing is they’re very good editors. I was working with Kevin Nguyen, who gave my piece a thorough going-over. One of the main points he raised was that the framing device I’d used to start and finish the piece wasn’t working. Fortunately, he was able to see the merits of the piece despite the shaky intro, which is something not a lot of editors would be able to do. So a big thanks to Kevin for helping make the piece a lot better than it was when it started out.

Anyway, if you haven’t yet read it, I hope you’ll check it out. I’m quite proud of it and pleased to see it’s found such a good home at The Bygone Bureau.

Filed under Arrested Development Bygone Bureau Nonfiction How Arrested Development Saved My Relationship Kevin Nguyen Writing Essay Writing writing process

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Worst Rejection Letter Ever

It’s indulgent and unseemly for writers to talk about rejection — perhaps even bad luck in some circles. Listening to someone prattle on about it is like watching someone give a wedding toast where they only talk about themselves. And the fact is, 99.9% of the time, rejection is totally boring.

But every once in a while, a rejection letter comes along that’s noteworthy. Here’s one I got last month (with identifying information redacted):

Dear Giano,
Thanks for letting me read W******. Lately, I’ve been submitting a lot of work myself and have found that personalized and flattering rejection notes tend to be paradoxically more discouraging and invite the sort of neurotic over-analysis that is generally not in any way healthy or productive, and so I hope you’ll accept this 100% neutral and non-encouraging (but also non-discouraging!) note as an indication that we will not be running your submission in B*****, but this choice of mine doesn’t reflect negatively on you as a person or as a writer, and is instead the result of a totally fucked up and subjective system which we all, for some reason, agree to perpetuate. Thanks for thinking of us.
It’s clearly a form letter, as are most rejections. And yet, it’s clear the editor put a lot of thought and effort into crafting it.
Since receiving it, I’ve been trying to decide if this is a genuine effort on the part of the editor to avoid the anodyne one-liner that most lit magazines spit out. If so, it somehow manages to be both annoying in its studied neutrality and oddly condescending. 
The other possibility I’ve begun to kick around is that this is a calculated effort to mess with me. Not me in particular, but any writer who happens to be unlucky enough to submit to this publication. How else to explain the editor’s reminder that this “choice of mine doesn’t reflect negatively on you as a person”? I didn’t think it reflected negatively on me as a person until you said it didn’t. It’s like whenever someone says “No offense but” or “With all due respect,” you can be sure you probably don’t want to hear what follows.
Plus, there has to be some kind of literary distinction for a line like: “I hope you’ll accept this 100% neutral and non-encouraging (but also not discouraging!) note as an indication that we will not be running your submission.” Maybe the Most-Self-Obvious-Sentence Award. Or perhaps Distinguished-Merit-in-the-Field-of-Saying-Something-Simple-with-as-Many-Words-as-Possible. 
I’ve been submitting my writing for nearly twenty years. For the first ten years, I never even knew what it was like to get an acceptance letter. By this point in my travels, I’m immune to the formulaic rejections that usually entail one line, “Thanks, but no thanks and good luck.” There’s a certain numbing comfort in that type of anonymous rejection. Maybe that’s why this one really stuck in my craw.
Rejection is hard. It sucks. And all writers know the taste of it. In the end, it’s best if it’s administered like the proverbial bandaid - removed quickly and soon forgotten. If you can’t take it, you probably shouldn’t be writing.

Filed under Writing Writing Process Rejection Rejection Letters Writers Literary Magazines Literary Journals

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Newsflash: A Spot of Good News

I just got word that the audio short story I recorded for WordPlaySound has been accepted for publication next month. Actually, I’m not sure if publication is the proper term for a recording… Maybe I should say my audio short story drops next month. Anyway, the upshot is that people will be subjected my superfluously enunciated podcast diction and my nascent audio mixing skills. Should make for an interesting listen.

Filed under Audio Literary Journal Fiction short stories writing writing process

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A Novel Soundtrack (Pt. 2): The Last Good Halloween

Like any list, there’s always stuff you end up leaving out. In fact, just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post I realized I hadn’t included any Cloud Cult, which, if you know me, is a huge oversight. Regardless, I’m going to stick with the list I originally came up with. So..

Here’s Part 2 of my novel soundtrack. 

9. 5 Years Time, Noah and the Whale

10. Last Stop: This Town, Eels

11. There Will Be No Divorce, The Mountain Goats

12. Weighty Ghost, Wintersleep

13. Birdhouse in Your Soul, They Might Be Giants

14. Welcome Home, Radical Face

15. Mighty Little Man, Steve Burns

16. P.S. You Rock My World, Eels

Filed under Novel Soundtrack Novel fiction writing writing process music Noah and the Whale Eels The Mountain Goats Wintersleep They Might Be Giants Radical Face Steve Burns Cloud Cult The Last Good Halloween

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A Novel Soundtrack (Pt. 1): The Last Good Halloween

As my manuscript wends its way through the twists and turns of the publication process, I’ve been toying with something I’ve always wanted to do: create a novel soundtrack. It’s one of those projects that starts small and should realistically take an hour at most, but then I got completely geeked-up over it and it’s ended up consuming way more time than is reasonable.

I was attempting to come up with a set of songs that’re thematically or tonally tied to the story (duh), but I also wanted to get a mix of somewhat obvious choices with somewhat more obscure ones.

Here’s the first half of what I’ve come up with:

1. Unsatisfied, The Replacements

2. This Year, The Mountain Goats

3. I Hear Noises, Tegan & Sara

4. Young Adult Friction, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

5. Afraid of Everyone, The National

6. Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues, Eels

7. The Recognition Scene, The Mountain Goats

8. Mi Fido Di Te, Jovanotti

(Part 2 will be coming shortly.)

Filed under Fiction Manuscript Music Novel Novel Soundtrack Publishing Soundtrack Writing Young Adult Fiction writing process The Replacements The Mountain Goats Tegan & Sara The Pains of Being Pure at Heart The National Eels Jovanotti The Last Good Halloween

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