Inhuman Swill : Publishing

What is the sound of one hand clapping?
What is the sound of a tree falling in a forest?
What is the sound of a story without a reader?
What is the sound of tears on my typewriter keys?


No, this post is not about my marriage, which marks its 12th happy anniversary this year. This post is actually about writers and sensitivity.

Imagine yourself at the wedding of a close friend. You're there alone, having failed again to find a date to yet another big occasion. And it's not as if you didn't try hard. The frustrating thing is that things were looking really good with ol' what's-his-name for a while there. He seemed really interested, he did. You thought there was a good chance he might even be the one. But that was before he started acting all weird and distant, and stopped calling, or even returning your emails and texts.

So here you are alone at the wedding, again.

Oh, you're not alone alone. Most all your friends are here, and they're all happy to see you, but the thing is, they're mostly all married themselves. Everyone's nice enough to you, but you can sense a certain distance developing. It's nothing personal, you know that. It's just that for married people it seems somehow easier to relate to other married people. There are new concerns, new problems, new joys that come along with marriage, and that sets you apart from their world.

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The Chicago Writers Conference is Chicago's only homegrown mainstream literary conference focusing on practical business advice for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. The brainchild of Mare Swallow, it will feature such editors, agents, and authors as Chuck Sambuchino, Christine Sneed, Robert K. Elder, and Jennifer Mattson.

But it can only happen with support! The CWC is in the final eight days of its Kickstarter campaign and still needs to raise over $4000 for equipment rental, web development, speakers' travel expenses. There are lots of great incentives remaining for various donation levels, including art, signed books, and query letter or story manuscript critiques from Chuck Sambuchino and, ahem, yours truly.

But here, let Mare tell you more about the conference, and why you should support it:

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Chicago is getting its own down-home writers conference! The Chicago Writers Conference will take place September 14-16 at Tribune Tower in beautiful downtown Chicago. Speakers and presenters include Chuck Sambuchino, Robert K. Elder, and Cinnamon Cooper, while special readings will be staged by both Essay Fiesta and Tuesday Funk.

But the Chicago Writers Conference can only happen with your help! I'd explain why the conference deserves your support, but there's already a compelling plea from organizer Mare Swallow, Write Club founder Ian Belknap, and yours truly up on Kickstarter. Check us out:

So please kick in a few shekels and help support the Chicago Writers Conference. Several great incentives are still available, including a story critique (up to 10,000 words) from me for a mere $175 pledge. (The custom poem is already gone. Sorry!) Please help, and we'll looking forward to seeing you at Tribune Tower in September!

Frey-ing fish in a barrel

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After reading last week's New York Magazine feature article "James Frey's Fiction Factory," I was tempted to post another jeremiad against the author who proves himself time and again the slimiest, most brazenly unapologetic charlatan to disgrace our industry in the past decade.

Fortunately, doing so would be redundant, since I can just send you to John Scalzi's two excellent posts analyzing Frey's latest hijinks:

  • The Man in the Frey Flannel Suit
  • An Open Letter to MFA Writing Programs (and Their Students)

    All I will add is that you should never sign a contract with a man who claims there's no difference between fact and fiction.


  • Since we're only, let's see, a decade into the 21st century now, I figured it was probably past time to revisit my essay on "Proper Manuscript Format." I've revised it a couple of times in the past, but with all the changes in submission standards over the past decade a major overhaul was in order.

    Some hardliners may be upset with me for ceding some ground, but I haven't changed the way I format a manuscript. I do acknowledge other valid schools of thought, though.

    I've written a fuller explanation of the revisions over at my formatting blog. I hope you'll check out the updated formatting guide itself and let me know what you think. Does it go too far? Not far enough? Or do you agree?


    Dear correspondent who just forwarded me the same email he sent two days ago:

    I understand that you are impatient for a response. However, I receive more email about format questions than I can deal with quickly, and just because I haven't responded immediately does not mean I am ignoring your questions. I will get to yours after I've answered earlier messages.

    In the meantime, please refrain from getting so impatient that you repeatedly forward the same message to me. If you can't wait more than two days for a response from me, how on earth are you going to deal with the slow wait for a response from a publisher?

    Love,
    The Formatting Grump


    Does anyone write back-cover copy like this anymore?

    SUSPENSE ON A RAMPAGE

          The moment the Interpol agent and his lovely assistants landed in Holland they were in Dutch.
          He was after a drug ring. Who was after him?
          First someone killed his contact.
          Then he ran up against a lethal room clerk.
          Then a bunch of cute Olde Worlde hay dancers went for him with pitchforks.
          Then he got mixed up with some macabre puppet makers.
          It was a Netherlands nightmare—and no waking up.

    PUPPET ON A CHAIN

    I mean, how could you not pay 95 cents for this book with a come-on like that? The Interpol agent doesn't even need a name! Uncut excitement, baby.


    I'm a little startled every year to see how many people I know well show up on the Hugo ballot. Congratulations to you all, Charlie, Paolo, Cory, Toby, and everyone else!

    But I want to give an extra huge shout-out to John Klima, whose excellent Electric Velocipede receives its first nomination this year, for Best Fanzine. It may seem odd that one of the increasingly fine and acclaimed short-fiction venues of this decade is recognized in the fanzine category, but that only speaks to the outsized mark it's been making on the field relative to its subscription base.

    John's been a great champion of my short fiction over the years. I'm proud to have had stories in a good quarter of EV's issues, not to mention having had a chapbook published by his Spilt Milk Press. With a couple of World Fantasy Award nominations and now a Hugo nomination to his credit, I'm glad to see so many other people championing John's work.

    And this news comes a week after John and Shai welcomed their second child, Easton Cade, to the family. It's a big week at the Klima household. Congratulations!

    (Fre)eBooks

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