Guest Post: Embracing Failure: The Requirements of Growth

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Baby writers are never all the same. It is just the broad strokes–no sense of marketplaces or paths or realistic goals—that give new writers that patina of predictable and homogeneous. What a baby writer has to offer is, by definition, unique and as yet unrealized.

In my twenties, I spent years on journal writing, along with attempts at poetry and fiction that were all imagination—my imagination—but definitely lacked discipline and craft. I wrote boxes worth of notebook prose and MS Word documents that fizzled out long before I figured out how the hell I could make those mental images, feelings, ideas work on the page. 

Bravery or stupidity? I’m not sure, but for this essay, I decided to actually open some of those earliest documents. Dear Lord. A few were more than enough: recent memories parading as short stories, a partial novel liberally sprinkled with clichéd phrases. It’s not that the writing is bad, though it certainly doesn’t feel like the dance my fingers perform across my current keyboard, the really glaring issue is that my writing back then lacked the experience and confidence to burrow into my fleshy predictions, the creepy, augmented bodies, the rough sensuality and the anger, and, yes, the humor and the pain. Skimming a few stories, I remember the settings and characters I imagined far more than I ever expressed them on the page. Yeah, I most definitely failed.

And then after the gap of a few years and a newborn child, in my early thirties, I tried again. In a nod to bravery or extreme stupidity, this afternoon I dug through some of these files as well. But…but…there was a leap somewhere between my twenties and my thirties that I cannot quite pinpoint. I find my writing from this second period has a much deeper sense of “me.”

I still have fond feelings when I think of the vampiric Christmas tree that a couple of rather creepy characters maintained in the basement of a 1950s split-level. The tree and its guardians(?) acolytes (?) were part of a dark fantasy family saga that included the German art scene from La Belle Epoch through to the Expressionists of the 1920s, along with at least a dozen characters based on actual artists, writers, editors, and gallery owners. 

At around 80,000 words, that novel never moved past incomplete, but my failure stuttered in a different way from earlier attempts. It was almost five years of this baby writer’s work. And despite the historic Berlin photography books, the biographies and old travel guides, despite all that research and so, so many written words, I failed yet again—definitely and spectacularly. This time my stumble involved a years-long explosion of words. All that effort and I could not bring the whole damn project to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Thinking about my failures this afternoon as I write this essay, I have realized a different truth. It took away the wrong lesson from that experience. Allowing myself to judge my Storyman novel and decide that longer works were not within my purview—that, in fact, I was incapable of weaving the various elements of a longer story together—that was the real crime. 

Over those four or five years, I hijacked one of my strongest skills, obsession. I organized my research into categories and summary sheets. From a story perspective, I unwound my imagination’s tangle using spreadsheets, outlines, and whatever the hell else I could think of until I had a stable framework I could work from. 

Failure? Really?

For fucks sake. I did not give up when it got hard. I figured out a new tack to get me across the gap. Sure, the goal was not reached. The novel never came to light, but the way I managed that “failure” deepened my writing practice in a way that only hard-won experience can provide. All those spreadsheets and research notes? Turns out, they are exactly how I continue to manage all fiction writing: short and long. But it is not just the craft skills. Remembering the characters that make up the novel, Achim, Melanie, Theo, along with the Storyman’s contentious (imagined) painting, I feel a dreamy sort of satisfaction. Whatever I did or did not deliver, I clearly scratched a very deep itch. 

But lingering with the same story forever was never my game, which is part of the reason the story got so out of hand, I kept adding “more” and then “even more than that.” At some point, I looked at the unwieldy mess and decided to charge ahead and play with short fiction, a form I’ve always adored reading. As it turned out short fiction is a very different creative discipline and one that both suits my swirling imagination and my urge to experiment with structure. It is my sort of creative fun. In my forties, I have published dozens of short stories, and in 2018, seven years after my first published story, my debut collection UNCOMMON MIRACLES was released.

 But I like to try things. I like to play. It was not my love of short fiction that kept me from attempting another longer work after that first novel “failed.” It was that F word, failure, the weight I gave it, the way it made me flinch. My first longer work, a one-hundred-and-forty-page theological horror novella called THE RAMPANT was just released by Aqueduct Press. But it almost didn’t make it into the light of day. I wrote my initial incomplete draft more than five years ago and then set it aside rather than taking the most difficult of steps: slowly exhaling and continuing to try. 

Why did I finally pick up that partial draft of The Rampant and try again? Why did I allow myself to fail one, two, who the hell knows how many more times without tossing the project? Part of me thinks I finally had the necessary skills, but most of me knows that is not the answer. Somewhere along the way, I finally found the confidence to fail and keep going, fail, and ask for help, fail, and battle with myself until I fought through to the other side. On my best days, I learned to embrace failure. On my worst days, I continued to turn away from failure. But there’s a secret I uncovered somewhere along this writer’s journey; a secret some people find much easier to learn than I did: every day does not have to be the best day. Best days are like happy days, or sunny summer afternoons, you only need enough of them to keep picking yourself up, along with the work you are attempting, and step forward once again.

 

Synopsis: It’s ten years since the hordes of old-world Sumerian gods arrived in Southern Indiana to kick off the end of the world, but things have not gone to plan. A principal player decided not to show. Now humanity is stuck in a seemingly never-ending apocalypse. Sixteen-year-old Emelia Bareilles and Gillian Halkey are determined to force a change, even though it means traveling into the lands of the dead.

Publishers Weekly described the work as “Equal parts playful and heartbreaking, this apocalyptic novella offers one-of-a-kind answers about the end of the world. Gillian Halkey and Emelia Bareilles, both 16, have spent most of their lives enduring the nightmare of the never-ending rapture. It’s been a decade since the ancient Sumerian gods descended on Indiana, promising that the chosen people would ascend to Nibiru, but the terrifying entity called the Rampant—the last of the Evil Messengers heralding the destruction of civilization—seems to have missed the memo. Until he shows up, the rapture can’t happen. Meanwhile, bored gods are eating people. It’s up to Emelia and Gillian to descend to the Netherworld, using Gillian’s prophetic dreams as guidance, in hopes of liberating the Rampant so the judging can begin and the suffering can end. Mixing a coming-of-age and a second coming, the story is unmatched in its idiosyncrasy. Day conveys genuine empathy for the two young women, who are still learning about themselves (including a sweet crush of Gillian’s), while never relinquishing the archaic fear instilled by the presence of ancient gods and the televangelists who have smoothly pivoted into running the Sumerian Revivalist Church. This clever and surprisingly fun take on the rapture is the perfect theological horror story.”

Available on Amazon.

Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day’s dark fantasy novella THE RAMPANT was released this September by Aqueduct Press. She is also the author of the collection UNCOMMON MIRACLES released by PS Publishing in 2018. Her numerous short stories can be found in publications such as Black Static,The Dark & Podcastle. Wearing another, related hat, Julie is co-editor of the charity anthology Weird Dream Society due to be released May 5th, 2020. Proceeds from the anthology will go to RAICES.

Julie lives in a small town in New England with her family and a menagerie of variously sized animals. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program and a M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. You can find her at @thisjulieday or on her blog stillwingingit.com. Café writing and long baths with paper books are also a thing.  

Taking Submissions: Clockhouse

Deadline: December 15th, 2019
Payment: Contributor’s Copy

Dare. Risk. Dream. Share. Ruminate.

Clockhouse accepts works of poetry, fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, and dramatic works for stage or screen. We encourage submissions from both established and emerging writers. (Current students of Goddard College are ineligible to submit to Clockhouse, but we look forward to reading your work after you graduate.)

All submissions must:

  • Be original, unpublished work written by the author.
  • Follow the industry-standard formatting guidelines appropriate for the genre as well as the applicable guidelines below:
    • Fiction: Short stories and self-contained novel excerpts in a literary style. Genre fiction will be considered only if it sustains literary merit (Up to 5,000 words)
      Poetry: All poetry in traditional and experimental styles including prose poetry (Up to 250 lines of poetry, total. Only one poem per submission. Poets may submit up to three times per reading period.)
      Memoir and Creative Nonfiction: All memoir and creative nonfiction in traditional and experimental literary styles. No academic or scientific essays (Up to 5,000 words)
      Dramatic Work for Stage or Screen: Short dramatic works in traditional and experimental styles, either a standalone piece or an excerpt from a one-act or full length play or screenplay (Up to 15 pages)
  • Include a short bio of approximately 100 words or less.
  • Include a brief artist statement: a few sentences about your work as an artist (i.e., not a “pitch” for this submission, but rather a statement about what you’re interested in writing about now, what drives your writing, or how your writing is reflecting or influencing the world at large, etc.).
  • Be submitted only through our online submission manager (see link at bottom of page). No email submissions will be accepted.

Submissions that do not follow these guidelines will be discarded unread.

The submission period for the Volume Eight 2020 will begin on August 15, 2019 and remain open through 11:59 on December 15, 2019.

Responses to submissions

Please expect to wait up to four months for a reply. After that time, if you have not yet received a reply, please check on the status of your submission by sending an e-mail to [email protected] Indicate the title of your piece, the genre, and the original date of submission.

Upon acceptance

By accepting any offer of publication by Clockhouse, the author will grant the magazine first serial rights. Upon publication, rights to the work revert back to the author. The author retains all other rights to the work. Any subsequent publication will note that the work was first published in Clockhouse. Payment for publication in Clockhouse is one contributor’s copy in which the work appears. As appropriate, we may also choose to nominate published work for awards or other recognition.

Questions?

Planning to submit and have questions about Clockhouse?  Please send them to [email protected]  Submissions themselves are not accepted at this address.

Via: Clockhouse.

Taking Submissions: Colp: Black & Grey

Deadline: January 11th 2020
Payment: AU$5.00

Current theme: BLACK & GREY

All of us here at GST like tattoos; we have many. There is something about the process, the pain, the permanency that appeals to us (and many others I’m sure).

For this collection, we would like your stories to do with tattoos or tattooing. Does your main character have them? Are they a tattooist? Is there something about a particular tattoo that is so unusual, special or strange that it just must be written about?

Colp is for everyone and therefore we are willing to read stories that fall into any genre. So, no matter whether your story is a horror, adventure, romance, sci-fi or historical fiction piece, please send it on through. Be original. We also encourage new and unpublished writers to take the leap and get in touch.

Please ensure that you read through the general guidelines below and format your submission accordingly. If you have any specific questions please contact us using the form on the home page or via the listed social media accounts.

To help make sure that your submission gets to the correct place, please include the following in the subject line of your email: Colp – B&G – Story Title.

  • Word count: 1000 – 2500 words
  • DeadlineJanuary 11 2020
  • Payment:  AU$5.00

Via: Gypsum Sound Tales.

Taking Submissions: Great Weather For Media

Deadline: January 15th, 2020
Payment: $10 and a contributor’s copy

unpredictable, fearless, glistening, innovative… GREAT

great weather for MEDIA seeks poetry, flash fiction, short stories, dramatic monologues, and creative nonfiction for our annual print anthology.

  • Submissions are open from October 15th through January 15th every year. Need a reminder? Sign up to our monthly newsletter.
  • Our focus is on the edgy, fearless, and experimental but we do not have a set theme for our anthologies. We highly recommend reading one of our previous collections to get a feel for the type of work we are interested in. Our latest anthology is Birds Fall Silent in the Mechanical Sea. We are based in New York City and welcome submissions from both national and international writers.
  • 1-4 poems of any length. If you are submitting more than one poem, include them all in a single documentDo not submit multiple poems in separate files. Single-spaced please, or how it should appear on the printed page. Start each poem on a new page.
  • 1 prose/creative nonfiction piece, 2 if under 500 words. Maximum word count: 2,500.
  • Multiple submissions (in the same genre) are not accepted and will not be read. Please wait until you receive a response from us before submitting again.
  • Simultaneous submissions are fine – just notify us with your good news immediately. If you wish to withdraw individual pieces from consideration, click on the title of your submission in Submittable, click on Active, and add a note listing the title(s) to be withdrawn. If you wish to withdraw your entire submission, please use the Withdraw button.
  • Please don’t send revisions. You can always add a note to your submissions if there is something you need to let us know about.
  • Payment: One contributor copy, plus $10 for writers based in USA. To help towards shipping costs, international writers receive one copy.
  • We aim to respond in 1-4 months. If you have not heard from us after five months, please email [email protected]
  • Copyright: great weather for MEDIA holds first serial rights for material that we publish. The copyright automatically reverts to the author upon publication. All work may be permanently archived online. We ask that great weather for MEDIA be acknowledged in any subsequent publication of the work.
  • We look forward to reading your work!
  • Finally, please take a look at our books. Small presses love readers and all support is much appreciated!

Via: Great Weather For Media’s Submittable.

Taking Submissions: Electric Spec February Issue 2020

Deadline: January 15th, 2019
Payment: $20 per story

Please don’t query us about your story submission. We don’t have the manpower to answer such queries. An editor will email you back as soon as possible with the decision about your story. This can take a few days, or, up to three months. We make every effort to get back to authors in a timely manner but we get a lot of submissions so sometimes it’s not possible.

A note on our editorial policy: before publication we may edit the story for length or readability. However, we always remain true to the spirit of the story.

Issues are published at the end of February, May, August, and November. We reserve the right to shift publication date slightly, as necessary.

We have reading periods for each issue, though we never close to submissions.

February closes January 15

May closes April 15

August closes July 15

November closes October 15

Please do not submit the same story more than once, and please submit only one story at a time.

We consider any story between 250 and 7000 words with speculative fiction elements. We prefer science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre, but we’re willing to push the limits of traditional forms of these genres.

We do not consider poetry, stories with over-the-top sex or violence, serials, novels, fan fiction, or non-fiction. We don’t accept multiple submissions; in other words, only submit one story at a time and wait for a response before submitting another. We accept simultaneous submissions as long as you let us know up front and tell us as soon as it’s accepted elsewhere. We do not publish reprints, including anything that has appeared on a website.

We pay $20 for each story we publish. We buy first-printing world exclusive rights for four months. Payment will be made shortly after publication using PayPal. We encourage our authors to establish a PayPal account if they don’t already have one.

We prefer to read submissions in traditional manuscript format. This means indented paragraphs instead of left justification, and Courier or Times New Roman font in 12 pt, double-spaced. Also, please include the title, your name, address, and word length on the first page of your story.

To submit your story to Electric Spec, e-mail it as an attachment in Rich Text Format (RTF) to submissions at electricspec (dot) com. Use the following subject line: SUBMISSION:Story Title by Author’s Name (Word Count). In the body of the e-mail, include writing credits, if any, and the word count of the story. With the proliferation of viruses on the Internet, we do not open attachments unaccompanied by a cover letter.

Because we are a quarterly magazine, it may take us up to three and a half months to make a final decision, but we will let you know if your story is being held for voting. Please note we do not send out messages upon receipt of stories.

If you want to withdraw a story from consideration, please e-mail us at submissions at electricspec (dot) com and include the word WITHDRAW in the subject line. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail us at our submissions address and include the word QUERY in the subject line.


Why Submit to Electric Spec?

At Electric Spec, we encourage authors to do their market research before submitting work. Electric Spec stands out from other markets because:

  • We pay for stories and artwork.
  • We don’t have slush readers. At least one of our editors looks at every story that comes in.
  • We’ve been around for over eleven years – and we’ve never missed an issue, deadline, or author payment.
  • We actually edit the stories we publish. Our experienced editors work with authors to make their stories the best they can possibly be. Many magazines out there don’t do that – and it shows.
  • While we do not acknowledge story receipt, we have a quick turn-around time regarding publication. We do not hold any stories longer than 135 days without contact. If you haven’t received an email with a ‘reject,’ ‘accept,’ or ‘hold-for-voting’ message something may have gone awry ==> you should resubmit.
  • We love authors because we’re authors, too. All of the editors are published speculative fiction authors.

Art Submission Guidelines

We are currently accepting art submissions for our issues.

Please do not submit the same artwork more than once.

Please submit artwork separately from stories.

We will consider any picture with a speculative fiction element for issue cover art. Look at previous covers to ascertain our tastes. We prefer energetic pieces that narrow the boundary between realism and fantastical, both in genre and style. Consider that our readers come to Electric Spec for stories; we want to see story portrayed by your imagery. Art may be re-sized to fit standard browsers; we will not crop or alter the piece without your permission.

No over-the-top sex or violence, or fan fiction characters or settings, please. Though we appreciate the form, we don’t use caricature or graphic novel style art for our covers.

We pay $20 for each piece of artwork we publish. We buy first-printing world exclusive rights for four months and non-exclusive rights thereafter. Please note this means we want art that has not been published elsewhere. Payment will be made shortly after publication using PayPal.

To submit your art to Electric Spec, e-mail it as an attachment to submissions at electricspec (dot) com. Use the following subject line: ART SUBMISSION: Title by Artist’s Name. We prefer standard electronic formats such as jpeg or gif files.

Unless you receive a note indicating otherwise, your work may be considered for any future issue. We have, rarely, commissioned original artwork for the cover; if we ask, please be honest about how fast you can work. We operate under tight deadlines for publication.

We respond to most submissions within a month. We do not send messages upon receipt of submisisons. Because we are a quarterly magazine, it may take us up to three months. For art work sometimes we consider submissions after the three months has passed, i.e. we consider art work for more than one issue. If we do not reject a piece, it is still under consideration. Of course, in the meantime, if you place it elsewhere, please let us know.

If you have questions or comments, please e-mail us at submissions at electricspec (dot) com.

Via: Electric Spec.

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