Sally Forth

Hey, remember The Fourth of July, 2003? We don't, but found this in our archives:

Fourth of July Fourthiness.

Independence is on the march, patriots.

& Recently . . .

Kurt Cobain's Ghost with an Invitation to a Fourth of July Picnic and Fireworks by Angela Genusa

"B.L.T.": A Review by Will Layman

Ten Tiny Poems by Brian Beatty

Angry Words from a Gnome Who to This Day Continues to Think the Human Genome Project Was Actually The Human Gnome Project by David Ng

Key Party, N.Y.C., Circa Always by William K. Burnette

A Day on the Phone with Mythological Norse Firewarrior, Bringer of Storms by Aaron Belz

Polish Fact

Population Growth Rate:
0% (2003 est.)

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004   |    Fiction

Writers-on-Writing Month

Concerning My Recent Submission

by J. Daniel Janzen

Dear Editor,

I hesitate to bother you about this, since your writer’s guidelines are very clear on the point of follow-up emails, but those same guidelines also specify a two-month response time, and it’s now been five months since I first sent you the attached submission. You have others of mine that are more recent, but still getting up there, so I thought I’d start with the oldest one and work my way forward.

Another thing I was wondering about is whether you have any kind of “frequently rejected” program, like how a café will give you a free cup for every ten purchased. Maybe you could do it where every ten rejections, you actually get a substantive response, instead of just “Thanks, but I’ll pass.” That way, the writer could use that information to try to please you better the next time, instead of fumbling blindly in the dark.

“The best way to figure out what we like is to read us.” See, that sounds helpful, but it’s really quite subjective, unlike, say, “We like mystery stories where all the characters are dogs.” To my eye, the stories I’ve sent in are very similar to the ones that you accept, which can be frustrating.

For example, many of your stories are written in the form of advice columns, each time with a certain schtick that runs through every letter and/or reply. I followed this format to the letter numerous times: four to six pairings, under seven hundred words total, yet still you declined to publish such winners as “Ask My Genital Warts” and “Ask Hitler’s Proctologist”—the latter later appeared in The New Yorker’s “Shouts and Murmurs,” I’ll have you know.

You’ve run several pieces in a faux-Viacom vein, such as “We Love the 1620s” and “Baked Beans: Behind the Music,” yet you rejected my “Martha Quinn Dream Log,” which, might I add, I obtained only at considerable expense and personal risk. This time, you did grant me the courtesy of a substantive response, if that’s a fair description of “Martha who?”

Lists? Don’t get me started. You’ve run more tables than an Ikea stock boy, and you must have great cell service, because every one of them has been phoned in. See? See how funny I am? What’s your fucking problem? “Top Ten Funniest Things about Retards” not good enough for you, Mister Big Shot Editor?

Crazy celebrity make-‘em-ups? “Robert Blake Raped Me in the Prison Shower” speaks for itself. Bogus memoirs with a quirky twist? You guys are the Oral History Project of the Land of Make-Believe, but I still haven’t heard back on “Butchering My Whore Grandmother Like a Hog,” and I spent hours on the graphics for that one just so you could do something a little different on your boring-ass, black-and-white, I’m-so-perfect layout.

Humor and satire aside, my serious work has fared no better. The short fiction that won me Most Promising honors from my M.F.A. classmates has bounced off your walls like infant cannonballs, even the tender and moving “What I’m Talking About When I Talk About the Things We Used To Talk About Before I Nailed Your Sister.” I’ve told it like it is in numerous timely and insightful opinion pieces, but I guess you’d rather keep people in the dark about fluoridation, global cooling, and those mailmen who jam the catalogs down on top of your letters so everything gets all crinkled. As for criticism, I don’t know where you got the idea that people care more about that Japanese hack Murakami than an all-American writer like Robert Ludlum. It’s just embarrassing, really.

It’s pretty obvious you totally get off on it, sitting there all smug and powerful in your lavish Poughkeepsie headquarters, master of all you survey. Yes or no, live or die, be heard or be silenced, all according to your whim, the Great Man, Kingmaker, God, Sugar Daddy. But you know what, Sugar Daddy? Too much sugar can make you sick. Just remember that, sweet, sweet Daddy.

I don’t even know why I keep doing it. By my count, I’ve submitted eighty-seven pieces to your journal without a single acceptance, including nineteen that I haven’t heard back on, ten of which are past the aforementioned two-month response period. And that’s just since the beginning of the year. I’ve been shooting for a hundred, but sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth it.

But you know what? I’ll never stop writing. “I can’t go on anymore, I’ll go on anyway,” as Samuel Taylor Beckett said. The muse cannot be troubled with the exigencies of the marketplace. Our destinies are linked, yours and mine, the cobra and the mongoose, the coyote and the roadrunner, the socket and the plug. In fact, there are a couple I’m working on right now that I think you’re really going to like. I should be able to get both to you by the end of the week—I’ll stay home from work if I have to. I won’t say anything about them now—just this: Jews. Get psyched!

Keep up the good work. God Bless.

Carrot Top

J. Daniel Janzen isn't ashamed to make his living as a copywriter. There's a place in this world for well-crafted press releases and compelling brochures, and besides, a dollar per word is a hell of a lot more than he made working on The Clown's Graveyard for seven years. Dan takes out his frustrations by rejecting miscellaneous submissions to Flak Magazine, and vents any remaining spleen through the indulgence of such sites as Poor Mojo's Almanac(k), Kittenpants, Über, Haypenny, and the one you're reading.