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Sleepless in Atlanta

So, it goes like this. For her birthday, I ordered Spooky an iPod Nano (candy-apple red, 4 gigs), and, of course, it had to be shipped from frelling China, because, you know, globalization and disreputable American and Chinese labour practices and shit. FedEx (you know FedEx, once known as Federal Express in those distant, trilobite-haunted days before humans spoke mostly in acronyms, abbreviations, leet, txtspk, & etc.), which usually makes deliveries here in the afternoon, showed up at dawn thirty on Friday and left nothing behind but a notice saying they'd tried to deliver the iPod...at 8:45 in the gorram morning! They would try again today, said the thoughtful, kindly note hung upon our doorknob. Last night, Spooky checked the FedEx website and saw that delivery was scheduled for today, sometime before 10:30 a.m. So, she slept in the living room, and I slept alone in the bedroom, and neither of us slept well. And here it is 11:50 a.m. and no sign of FedEx. Which surprises me not one whit nor jog. Next time I want an Apple device, I will do what I have always done and brave the heat/cold and traffic and press of bodies and go to the frelling Apple Store. This morning, Monsieur Insomnia is delighted, and I could pinch the heads off kittens. An Ambien and two kava hardly did more than give me fever dreams and leave me drugged upon finally giving up and abandoning the bed. Oh, and Hubero, you didn't help, either.

But, whatever.

There is a matter I have not discussed in quite some time, but I fear it's time to speak of it again. The last two or three months, I have been getting — rather suddenly and out of the blue, it seems — a lot of requests to read and blurb (or just read and critique) the work of unpublished writers. And here's the deal, and I hope I do not come across as a grouchy old cunt, but I do not, as a rule, do either of these things. In very rare instances, if asked by a publisher, I will read an unpublished manuscript, and if I like what I read, I might offer a quote. I think I do this maybe once a year. There are a number of reasons. For one thing, it's work. And it's work that no one's paying me for. And I have enough of that all on my own. There are, I would point out, far more successful authors than I who charge reading fees in these situations, fees that are paid with no guarantee of a blurb. I have never felt they were out of line asking for these fees, because, like I said, it is work. Another reason I'm not so keen on reading unpublished manuscripts is that it is possible for copyright issues to arise. It has happened to me once, and I know of other authors who have experienced far worse examples of this than have I. In short, an author is asked to read an unpublished story. She agrees. Years later, the author writes something with a passing similarity to said story — because it all goes into the hopper, everything that is seen and read and experienced, and fuck knows, later on, what you got from where — and the unpublished author, whose story is still unpublished, cries plagiarism. Yes, this really happens. These two reasons are cause enough for me to be wary of reading unpublished manuscripts.

At any rate, I have already agreed to read one unpublished manuscript this year, a book of poetry, which I will be writing an introduction for, and I ask politely and without ill-will that further requests from authors cease now, please. At this point, such requests will go unanswered (as answering them is also work for which I am not being paid). I do not know what has led to this recent spate of requests, but it is time for them to end. Thank you. My advice to first-time authors is the same as it has always been — get an agent, and if your writing is not yet good enough to get you an agent, become a better writer and then get an agent; avoid self-publishing, because later on, if you have hopes of becoming a published author, it almost always looks bad on your resumé (an unfamiliar name is more valuable to NYC than a dubious reputation); be sure that you're ready before you begin trying to publish, and this will probably mean waiting until you're in your thirties (I was 31 when I sold my first novel), because good writing is born from life experience as much as talent and hard work (and pointing to notable exceptions does not weaken this argument — assume you are not an exception); finally, when you do submit a manuscript to an editor or agent, follow their guidelines, and for the love of Spock, check and double- and triple-check for grammar and spelling. That's it. All my useful advice to young writers. If you still want more, there are lots of writing workshops and seminars out there happy to take your money to tell you more. And don't write me to say I'm mean, because I already know that, and I will only ignore your email.

12:14 p.m., and still no FedEx.

Move over, platypus. Your hogging the chair...

Postscript (3:44 p.m. EST): FedEx delivered the parcel at 2:20 p.m. And so it goes...


( 1 comment — Have your say! )
Jul. 2nd, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
'I could pinch the heads off kittens.'

Or you could join a lesbian gang.

C'mon, it'd be worth it just for the free pink Glock.
( 1 comment — Have your say! )

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