Monday, September 04, 2006

There's an elephant in my living room.

I went to the AJC Decatur Book Festival as promised, and actually, have more to report than I realized, so I'm going to update every so often this week - just too much to write in one blog sitting.

I thought I'd start with meeting John Warner of McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He's a very nice guy, which as I said before, I sorta figured based on my experience with my 0-4 record in submitting there. (I'm not the worst; apparently one person has an 0-247 record, or some such incredible number). I will now be prepared to be horribly crushed though, in the event of future rejections, since I possess the keys to sure-fire comedic writing in the McSweeney's tradition.

The major epiphany was that I haven't been sending the right kind of material - big surprise, huh (!) - but now I know for sure what it is I need to send, that is if I wish to be published there. That is, when and if I ever write it.

Key word: Conceptual humor! In essence, start with the premise, the what-if, the zany situation and let the story tell itself from there. With a good premise, why even George Bush could seem funny because the concept does the work!

Another thing he pointed out, like an elephant in the living room, is that even the title will explain that concept, the conceit, right out of the box. Take a look at the pieces published at McSweeney's, and you'll find it's true. And of course, there are the FAQs containing a built-in straight-man, in the form of the question, and Open Letters where conflict and tension are inherent in the combinations of unlikely suspects you throw together.

Check out some recent titles:




What a huge lesson in really studying individual markets and evaluating if the piece really is right for the publication!

Anyway, I'd never analyzed the true composition of their pieces, the true nature of the situational comedy inherent on their site, and I was shocked, I say, to finally see the obvious.


I was also VERY excited that the second suggestion that John and other panel members made for subbing humor was Magazine. Even though I'm on the print side, I still feel all warm and fuzzy and family-like with the other half. Very cool!

Another online zine with which I was actually unfamiliar is The Morning News. Definitely worth some examination.


On a final note for today, I did get to start Ellen Meister's "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA" on this trip. Lisa Kudrow is a delightful reader and the characters themselves are clever and witty. In Atlanta traffic, I didn't get as far as I'd wished because I'm trying to concentrate on style as well as storyline, a difficult feat while battling maniac drivers in that city; I'm still on disk one-of-nine, but there's going to be some terrific travel time coming up!


Anonymous said...

Hi Shelly;
I've been browsing your blog and am wondering (given what I've read about what fits with what journal), what do you think about actually writing a story geared towards a specific publication? Have you ever tried it? I have for contests but never for a specific journal. I have oodles of stories that don't get submitted anywhere, because they just don't fit. I'm curious how having a specific journal in mind would change one's writing and whether or not that would be a good thing.

srr said...


It's an interesting topic for sure, and I think for me, it's ambiguous. I know that I wrote my eyeshot piece ( specifically for them, because it was in response to a photo prompt (and had to be exactly 1000 words). I also think I've written for a particular publication, although not intended. Have you ever gone in reading binges, where you can't get enough of a certain lit mag or author? I think (generally, and at least when I do), my leanings in writing take on that "flavor." (And, playing devil's advocate to myself, maybe I enjoy those particular mags or authors because it reflects my own style?)

However, except for that one piece and contests, I don't write with a specific journal in mind. I don't know if it's good or bad...I simply think we tend to read what we personally enjoy, and if we really enjoy it that much, we might owe it to ourselves, to spread creative wings and "write for" that pub - well, in fact it might even stimulate a professional attitude, as though assuming a "work-for-hire" mindset?

I may have to try it (with intent) and see!

I BET those stories have somewhere they belong. Have you looked at I'm finding it an invaluable resource, not only for searching markets but also for keeping tabs on subs.

Thanks, too, for reading! I had just made the resolution to get to blogging again!!

Would love to hear others thoughts too. (Maybe tomorrow's entry will encourage just that!)

K Cutter said...

I used duotrope for the first time the other day, and got an almost immediate acceptance for a piece I subbed to T-Zone!

srr said...

That's awesome! I'm just getting ready to get some pieces ready for subbing. I don't have enough out right now!

Then, I'm feeling chatty, so I'm doing my blog later. AND it's related to what we were talking about too, so please check back!!

And BTW - I like the clothing optional too ;)

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