Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Morning Reading: George Saunders

George Saunders recounts the day ten years ago when Quarterly West accepted a story.


There is maybe nothing harder or more thankless than being an aspiring writer, unless it is being an aspiring writer who is having trouble holding down the job at which he or she has to thanklessly toil in order to preserve those precious hours during which he or she is eking out the stories that no one in the world seems to like or even read. Because then one returns home from the job where one is steadily sinking down the chain of command only to find a huge pile of letters containing one's stories accompanied by little index cards saying things like, "Though the timeless literary merit of your work is uncontested, we are sending it back to you, along with this little card, on which each of our editors has scrupulously avoided leaving any trace of his or her identity, lest you should try to contact us again," or "We are most grateful to have had the chance to peruse your latest submissions and we cringe before you in our inability to accommodate you with our extremely limited space, which is not to imply that you are worthless or anything, it is just that you are not worth all that much to us, at present. But gosh, keep writing!"

So it was for me about ten years ago the day before, I had been chewed out by my boss for "using corporate resources to generate your literary thingies" when I took a call from someone our secretary identified on a Post-It as being from "Courterly West," and the message was, "we'd like to talk about publishing your priest, Downtrappen Murray?"

Many would have been confused by this message, but I was used to this secretary, who would soon leave us for a stint in the county jail for check fraud, who left messages like "Some dude? A real ass? Said Kodak is either pissed at you or really glad, I was on my way to lunch, did not really get his deal." But in this case I could read between the lines, or at least I hoped I could: someone from Quarterly West wanted to publish my piece, "Downtrodden Mary's Failed Campaign of Terror."

To read the rest (and you really, really should), click here.


1 comment:

Robbi said...

Thanks for that. It's always good to know one isn't alone in being ignored by countless little magazines for large chunks of her life.

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