Friday, January 26, 2007


In the last month several people have said: "You're not published? I can't believe you're not published." At least three comments in my last post contained that line. I nodded to myself and felt this uneasiness ride over me, this weariness.

So, why am I not currently published? Well to be honest, I have been. As a writer/editor for a now defunct weekly newspaper in Detroit, and as a movie critic/interviewer for a now defunct cable magazine.

I've also been published online in the now defunct "Zuzu's Petals", "Alternate Realities", and "Shadowfeast". Also, there's been one anthology (through "Shadowfeast") and the now defunct print magazine "Sinisteria". You notice the word that characterizes all those publications? Defunct.

Do these outlets count as being published? Especially with the last one being over two years ago? No. Not really. Not in my book. Not really in your's.

I blame myself . I haven't been diligent about submitting my work. I haven't worked hard enough to market myself. It's only been in the last six months that my novel: "Palpable Illusion" has started to be shopped around to agents. And even now, I am putting that on hold to make some final edits to that novel (probably I'll have it done by April).

I've set a goal to submit at least one hundred times this year to paying markets, online and otherwise. If my expectations hold true, I should sell about fifteen short stories. Maybe.

It drives a person to ask: is it worth it?

I should have run for public office.


SQT said...

Hopefully it'll be worth it.

In the end I suppose it's love of the craft and storytelling that keeps you going.

I've only just begun to write again after years of doubting my abilities. It's been good for me to do the assignments you give us even though it's not for a paycheck. Just getting the little bit of reassurance you give me is huge.

So, even if you're not a bestselling author (yet), I certainly like your writing and hope you keep at it. And you are greatly appreciated by those of us who come here.

Lucas Pederson said...

I think it's worth it. Just to see your words, your very own words, published in a magazine or online or in a book, is well worth the time and effort. To know someone is interested in what you have to say. I think just seeing that would be worth it, but hey, I'm an easy sell.
With you already having been published you shouldn't have much trouble with selling your short stories, or so I've read. Each one, no matter if you consider it or not, is a publishing credit. And you've got plenty, I think, even if the mags or online mags are now defunct.
Head up little soldier..(nudge-nudge)'ll make it. :-)

Stewart Sternberg said...

Sqt, yeah..well. Charles Gramlich, Wayne Sallee, Sidney Williams, CS Harris, all strong authors. They ask themselves this question at least once a month, I would bet. But without the frustration, I ask: Is it worth it?

I like to write, I hate to submit. I love to talk about writing, but I hate to justify why I do it.

In another posting, I said that writing was a strange business. I spoke about the fact that I rarely share my work with my friends, and never with my family, except my wife. It's always strange to me that I put so much time and effort into something, so much emotional involvement, and yet...I'm not sure about the payback.

I didn't make this posting for people to tell me to "head up little soldier". No offense Lucas. I posted because I am really asking myself this question. I'm just tired.

One hundred submissions going out this year. That's the promise to myself.

jedimerc said...

I can understand some of the frustrations, and I have wondered at times if I should just hang it up (and for stretches I did... most of my marriage, aside from school papers and gaming stuff), but in recent years I have found that I suffer if I am not writing, whether it be as an author or not. The words have been there when others could not be and I cannot imagine my world without it.

Admittedly, that is a far more idealistic take on writing. Realistically, I think we just do what we can and hope market forces change to suit our styles (though who knows the whims of the market :)

miller580 said...

Marketing and advertising!!! Commercial success as a writer takes as much work as writing and some might argue it takes more. You have to submit to get published. 100 is not that hard. that is two submissions a week. TWO. In fact. I will also submit 100 times this year. With the goal of 5 publications. Anyone else up to the challenge?

Two a week. You can do it. By the way, defunct or not, cite a few of your publications in your cover letter--accreditation. (BTW don't mention defunct) the editor will either know or he won't care enough to check. Either way you don't need to mention it.

When Palpable gets published will you autograph my First edition?

miller580 said...

Also, if your interested, I created an excel spreadsheet to track my submissions. It is tabbed for each story and allows you to list publication, when maild, if accepted, and date of acceptance/rejection. It also has a comments field so that you can post extra info. For example, when I was rejected for word count (because info didn't tell me there was a thousand word max) or if I receive any personalized feedback I put it in the field so the next time I send to given journal, i can review the notes. Anyway, if your interested, let me know.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Jedi, maybe I'm just feeling my age. You know, I think I've seen growth in my writing in the last couple years. And I ask: Why couldn't I have found this stride when I was forty? Thirty? Twenty? You know the time I'm talking about. The time when we had so much energy. When we could stay up through the night, writing from one until four.

I love communicating with the likes of Avery, Christine, and younger people in general. I love their energy and enthusiasm. I think people like Avery and Christine have something I never had. They are dedicated to their art at a real level. Me? I don't think so. I always loved to write, I always enjoyed the process. Hell, I even enjoy editing and rewriting. But I was never able to take myself to the level of what I needed to do to market.

I'm trying to now. We'll see. But I think these are real questions, not just doubts.

Rick,who visits this blog, is an amazing individual. Close in age to myself, he is a go-getter, self employed, fiercely brilliant. He has this brilliant plan to see himself succeed as a novelist. I am sure he will make it. He deserves it. His writing, while occasionally lacking economy, is witty, bright, and flows along at a natural pace.

Rick spends tremendous time and energy at his writing. Selling himself. I am not sure I have that energy any longer. I'm not speaking from pathos, just looking at him and others, and asking if I want to. Want.

I think part of this might be that I'm a second week into a new semester. That always means pressure. As an educator, I'm dealing with cuts, absurd requirements from No Child Left Behind that I don't think my population will ever be able to achieve, and a real sense that my career as an educator is coming to an end. At least in my current program, at least in Michigan. If not this year, then maybe next? Maybe the year after that?

So it makes me stop and think. What's next? What career change? I've gone from journalist, to social worker, to educator. Now what? When I leave the state, maybe just quietly retreat to an ordinary classroom somewhere, where kids actually seems to want to learn and work.

Or I can be a lumberjack. It's the feeling that the wheel is turning. And as the wheel turns it's time for evaluation and re evaluation.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Jim, I've got six things out right now. By the end of this weekend, I'll have seven. Two a week. But it isn't just that.

Jim, by the way, made a decision to leave advertising and try his hand at writing professionally. His first step is to return to school and try for a degree in creative writing.

Jim is currently in the process of finding his voice. I think he will probably settle in somewhere in a naturalistic vein, with elements of Irving, maybe? Keep watching his blog, I think he will see success.

SQT said...


I do understand. I come from a family that really doesn't get writing. I've never really been able to share anything I've written, whether it was as a journalist or otherwise. They always looked a little shocked that I could string two sentences together on paper. Somehow that's not a great testiment to how I present myself.

I haven't been terribly motivated in years. I think I get discouraged too. Maybe it's because things came too easily when I was younger and the lack of forward momentum I felt as I hit my 30's was a bit disheartening. And then of course motherhood kind of took over.

I'm still trying to find a way to rededicate myself to writing. I tend to like the results better than the process so it can be tough.

I think it's good you've set a goal for yourself to submit your work. I hope you get it published too. Whether you realize it or not, it's very encouraging to people like me when we see people like you succeed.

Susan Miller said...

Ahhh, an matter what the stress is what we have here is an ebb.

Anne Lamott (in that book that Miller recommended) wrote that being published...

"will not open the doors most of them (you) hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them (you) the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived."

I know I'll see Maloney and, like Miller, I want an autographed first edition. There is no doubt in my mind or anyone's that you will be published.

One must wonder why we hold overselves back....why you didn't follow through with the submitting process on so many. It's not for lack of energy, Stu. Just this site shows more energy than I can imagine.

Once the question is answered in the ebb then you will be able to get back to the flow.

Kate S said...

Stewart, I think Susan used the right word: ebb.

Ebbs can be nasty things, but just as temporary and repititious as the flows. That's the hard part to remember sometimes. The existential ebbs pull us out to sea, leaving us floundering and wondering how or if we'll ever make it to shore again. But along comes another wave that carries us up and back (if we don't allow ourselves to drown first.:)

Now, since it's late and these water metaphors are making me thirsty, I won't try to offer any words of wisdom. Just a big virtual hug of sympathy to let you know you're not alone in the doubts, questions and general malaise that comes over us sometimes.

But I will take another moment to also kick your butt--don't say your publishing credits don't count. So what if they're no longer in business; so what if it's been a while. You still DID it, which is more than a lot of people can say, and more than you could have said when you first started out. Now, I want you to go and read this post in its entirety. Go on. I'll wait. Honoring Each Other

Feel free to deliver a swift kick to my pants the next time I get in a similar funk. Oh, wait. That was just today. :)

Chuck Zaglanis said...

I read my stuff and then I look around for the mule that must have kicked me in the head before I typed it out. Luckily for me, I have you and Rick to inspire me to do better.

I think it's all well worth it, but I think sometimes we get buyers remorse when we create. Once you get that first profesional rate check and see yourself in a bookstore, I think you'll be better suited to answer your question. Right now you're only seeing the shitty part.

I also think that we should have Rick do our marketing and whatnot. I can't wait to sit at a booksigning table with you guys some day.

Danny Tagalog said...


You know that the day of publication is just around the corner. If you do spend a little more time this year marketing yourself, I'm sure it will pay off. And when the first one is published, you've probably got plenty to revise and polish up. That's perhaps one of the many advantages of age.

Speaking of which - you don't come across as old at all. Far younger than the majority of my friends in fact...

I'm sure you aren't really doubting yourself anyway....

Here's hoping the House stays open and a publishing house snaps one of your books up pronto...

Stewart Sternberg said...

Sue, it's not about being published. I don't think. I think it's a moment where life throws things at you and you ask yourself what your priorities are.

As I've said before, I made a living as a writer in my first incarnation of career. Maybe it's deeper. Maybe it's do I want to do this? Or it could be that I'm in horrible physical shape, school is kicking my ass, the weather sucks, and I'm feeling a need to let something go to try and relax and refocus a bit.

Thank you Danny. But again, I don't think this is so much about publishing as it is about life.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Besides, regardless of my grumbling, I've committed to one hundred submissions..and I have two other novels in the process of being written.

Charles Gramlich said...

There's nothing wrong with online publications. They count. Your newspaper work and review work counts, although not, I'm guessing, as fiction. As for the defunct magazines, sometime I'll tell you about all the magazines I've actually killed off merely by sending them my stuff.

SQT said...

Ok, maybe it's not an ebb. It's a funk.

Although I was published as a journalist too, and made money doing it, I don't think of it the same way as I do fiction writing. Writing stories satisfies a need that the other doesn't, I don't know why.

But not everything published is Shakespeare. I have an online friend who writes for Harlequin. They work her like crazy. She has to pump out at least 4 books of "chick lit" a year, only to see the book sit on the shelf for a month before the publisher yells "next!"

She makes a living, but it's not terribly satisfying. She does it in hopes of having more freedom later, though I think she'll have to switch publishers to ever have that.

Donnetta Lee said...

Stewart: I believe I understand somewhat at least how you feel. I, too, am an educator (speech path) and only have a few years to go. The writing has been with me since childhood, "ebbing and flowing." I've been published in professional newsletters, but I want more--and am feeling old! But it just ain't too late. It can't be. I have to learn and get out there and do something before more time goes by.I'm not ready to commit as you did to the "100." Maybe before long. You have already inspired me. And, boy oh boy, can you write! Go forth and conquer!! Donnetta

Sidney said...

I wish I had something really brilliant to add, but I think above all it's true, self-doubt plagues everybody.

The most brilliant people I know or have heard tale of suffer self-doubt.

It's bogged me down more times than I care to think of, but I'm coming, I hope into a new phase of realization for myself: You can't judge your own work, you can't control how editors, the public, critics, friends or anyone else will react.

The only thing you can do is the best job you can, remember perfection is not really in our grasp and send things out.

Lori Witzel said...

Is it worth it?

I don't know. Not even for myself.

But I seem to have to scratch that itch. And I seem to be compelled to work to make my scratching more -- better, moving, infectious, engaging, whatever.

And goodness knows I need validation, and input, and support. And that all leads to submitting work, or pondering how to get it seen through traditional channels -- those channels where you won't be seen unless someone else thinks your work is worthwhile, and they could use it to keep the lights on as well.

Thanks so much for that lovely, effusive response to Leaf Duff. Given how low I feel without my routine intact (a compuer needing a new logic board will do that to ya) your response to what I saw was very uplifting, and gave me the wherewithal to stand in front of another rusty boxcar in late afternoon light.

Vwriter said...

All right, Mr. Perky. I've spent some big bucks trying to resolve this issue in your behave. Seriously.

I bought a self-interpreting Tarot deck that gives specific answers, not generalized indications. From it, I've created an Excel spreadsheet with ingenious macros (which are much bigger than mere... smaller things), which when linked to the quarter-with-the-hole-drilled-in-the-middle by a string tied to my big toe can produce amazingly accurate predictions.

So, I have the Tarot deck spread before me right at this very minute. I have asked when you will receive a letter of offer for your short stories. A technical glitch has yielded the result that no, you will not replace Oprah this year with your own talk show, but that, in actual fact, Dr. Phil is afraid of you.

I try again. Yes, it's true, you will receive a letter of acceptance for a short story- provided you keep up your current rate of submissions and also create new work based on a rethinking of your life experiences- before August. You will in fact receive two letters of acceptance. August is the latest possible date, and according to my current reading- offset by my efforts to balance the quarter on my elbow- it may be significantly earlier than that.

My neighbor is an accomplished and well-experienced tarot card reader who does not do readings on request, does not know you, and refuses to answer questions about your future, but has hinted that you may yet grow another set of molars.

Now, I have done a more intuitive spread passed down through my family and have learned that by deep thinking and consideration about the plight of the less fortunate in our society, you will abandon your earlier writing formulas that have been limited by self-questioning and doubt and fear, and create a work of great power that will shock many by its power to humanize those who because of their poverty have in fact become the Morlocks of our Eloi society. Empathy and vision will replace cynacism in your works and you will be read and admired long after you are gone.

All of the above except for the part about the molars is of course realistic.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Well Stewart,
Being published isn't all that matters; hitting pay dirt is the key. Then there's people like me--oh sure, if someone offered me a bunch of money to publish crap, I'd be all over it--but I'm simply trying to get into those small literary journals. The irony?--I don't have an MFA ("My Friends Association). Good luck shopping those novels around. You know--I'd be the first to buy it, read it, and give you hell for it.