Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Try, Try Again

In 2001, Ellen Datlow bought my story "Cucumber Gravy" for the late, lamented Scifiction e-mag. I describe this story as "C.S. Lewis meets the Coen Brothers in the Nevada desert." I've always been very fond of it, so when the good folks at Tachyon started going through my short fiction to figure out what to put in The Fate of Mice, I hoped they'd choose CG.

They didn't. They weren't fond of the story, which features a slightly challenging central character, and they didn't think the tale fit the marketing label of "literary fantasy," which is what they were going for with my book. (Me, I'd have been fine with a marketing label of "versatile," but, you know, just try finding that section at Borders.) They're very good editors, and the collection hangs together beautifully -- largely because of their selections and ordering -- so when they said CG wouldn't be a good fit, I acquiesced, trusting them to know what they were doing.

I was a little sad, though.

A while ago, John Joseph Adams at Lightspeed sent out a request for reprints. I mentioned CG, but he said that while he loved the story, he didn't think he could use it, partly because it's too long. But a few days ago, he e-mailed me to ask if he could reprint it. Naturally, I said yes. It will be posted in January, along with a short "Author Spotlight" interview with me about the story. I'll post the link here when I have it.

I'm really glad that story will get some more readers. It's always nice when a piece that seems to have been consigned to oblivion gets to come back that way.

As many of you know, I've been publishing the occasional medical poem (and still hope to turn the ED sonnets into a chapbook; that will be one of my sabbatical projects if I get the sabbatical). Quite a while ago now, I wrote a new sonnet about an ED experience and sent it off to The Bellevue Literary Review, which is more or less the New Yorker of the medical humanities, and where I've now been rejected several times. (Getting published there is one of my new life goals.) They rejected this poem, too. Disappointed, if not terribly surprised, I sent the poem off to Pulse, another place I'd really like to be published sometime.

They rejected it. I got that note the same week -- possibly the same day -- as a lovely, warm rejection note from Sheila Williams at Asimov's, who couldn't use a long story I'd sent her.

As I constantly tell my students, writers have to learn to handle rejection, but I hadn't gotten quite that much of it in a while. I was feeling a teensy bit flattened (although Sheila's friendly note helped lessen the sting).

But it's not like this has never happened to me before, so I came up with a new longterm goal for the story, and yesterday I sat down to study the sonnet again. On a whim, I submitted it to the Annals of Internal Medicine, a major medical journal which happens to publish some poetry along with refereed scientific articles. I didn't think I had a chance of getting in, but why not try?

Like many journals these days, Annals uses a computerized manuscript tracking system. Yesterday I submitted the poem and got an e-mail acknowledgment. This morning I got another e-mail, congratulating me on having my manuscript submitted. Blinking, I reread the thing. Surely it was a computer glitch? Surely there'd been no time for anyone there even to read the poem?

But at lunchtime today, I got an official acceptance e-mail from one of the editors, talking glowingly and in great detail about the poem. Needless to say, I was flattered and delighted.

So it's been a good week, writing-wise: not just because of the publications, but because I've been reminded how important it is to persevere.


  1. Anonymous10:22 AM

    Yay, hooray, a new Palwick poem!

    Thanks for the good news, Susan - and all best wishes finding good homes for the other pieces you've been working on as well.

    Can't wait to read you in print,


  2. Dianne3:29 PM

    Congratulations, Susan!


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