Riding the Roller Coaster

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It’s officially month 17 of the two-year tour. I have just driven 4 hours to Boise, flown into the Eastern Standard Time Zone in Michigan to teach flash fiction for 1 ½ days. Sunday I will fly back, drive back, and fall into bed. Monday I begin my new role at Fishtrap as Union County Writer-in-Residence, which lasts 6 weeks. Mid-June I drive across the Rockies and back to Interlochen Center for the Arts, where I’ll teach part time for great pay (and free food and free housing) and write the rest of the time (with free concerts every night of the week).
This month will be very telling. While I’ve already heard back from several places, there are still more applications pending and spring is always the opening of the floodgates in the literary world. Many lit mags open for submissions, so writers feverishly send out new work during open submission periods. The other direction, many universities know their next year’s budget and can begin accepting (and rejecting) applicants, creating or cutting positions, etc. Many of the positions I have applied for—for emerging writers just like me—are receiving anywhere from 150-500 applications for one fellowship. As for the professorships I’ve applied for, they’re all a long shot for me but I applied so long as there wasn’t a stated requirement for a first book.
Seventeen months on the road. Seventeen. One entire book completely written and edited. Five literary prizes (1 “big,”, 4 “small”). Eleven short stories published with 7 more on the way. And already, the results are coming in:
No from the Emory fellowship. No from the Emerson fellowship. No from the Wisconsin-Madison fellowship. No for professorships from University of Maine, Northern Michigan University, Florida State University, and Eastern Kentucky’s low-res MFA program.
With journals and contests, it’s no from Third Coast. Shortlisted in the top 24 of 1100 stories but, ultimately, no from the Fish Publishing International One-Page Fiction Prize (that would have been £1,000).
No on the war manuscript from Algonquin Press. A personal rejection letter saying the writing is strong but it’s not for their audience, therefore—no from Coffee House Press.
However: Yes from the Sitka Island Institute! I learn that I am accepted as 1 of 4 annual Resident Fellows for a fully-funded month-long residency in Sitka, Alaska for January 2012.
Likewise, yes from Generations Literary Journal, which will publish my creative nonfiction essay titled “What’s in a Name?”
I’m still waiting on dozens more. Off the top of my head: Electric Literature, Crazyhorse, Southeast Review, Black Warrior Review, Bellevue Review, Illinois College Claridge Writer-in-Residence, Penn State Altoona Writer-in-Residence, UPenn & ArtsEdge Residency, University of Kentucky-Louisville Visiting Scholar, Fine Arts Work Center, The Helene Wurlizter Foundation, and, no doubt, more…
I think last year I found my way to the top of the bottom. Now I’m writing from the bottom of the middle. I’ve upped the ante but perhaps haven’t quite earned some of the stakes yet. For a while now, I might hear even more no’s than ever before. For a while; hopefully not for good.
Showing 2 comments
  • Jan Priddy, Oregon

    Are you certain you're writing from the top of the bottom? Perhaps from the bottom of the top?

  • Uncle Marky

    agreed Jan, gotta take the half-full perspective K-T

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