Our Writerly Roundup blog series features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life that we don’t want you to miss.
Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year, Kim Liao (@the_kimlet), LitHub
In this immensely relatable piece, Liao turns the familiar submissions formula on its head: instead of aiming for acceptances from sought-after literary journals, fellowships, and the like, go easier on that fragile writer’s ego and shoot for as many rejections as you can. If you actually seek out rejections, some well-deserved acceptances will inevitably punctuate the steady stream of “no’s.”
Perhaps aiming for rejection, a far more attainable goal, would take some of the sting out of this ego-bruising exercise—which so often feels like an exercise in futility.
Liao also reminds us that submitting and publishing are ancillary to the real work of writing, itself: “The caveat to this is that submissions are not required to be a writer. …really, I am happiest when I am writing, not when I am being read.”
I would be curious to hear what our readers think of this reframing: is it merely semantics? Or would “aiming for rejections” actually work a shift on your process and courage? Feel free to weigh in in the comments!
Dealing in uncertainty, the essay may be the perfect form for our time, Colin Dickey (@colindickey), Los Angeles Times
Dickey explores John D’Agata’s premise that, in a post-Google era, where we are inundated with information but often uncertain of its truth, the nonfiction essay serves as “a means of navigating a world where it’s increasingly difficult to sort fact and fiction.” The successful essayists of our time—Eula Biss, Leslie Jamison, Maggie Nelson, for example—use this form to call into question what we know to be true, to unsettle, to raise doubt.
The essay (or the essay-affect) at its best interrogates these questions of truth and verification, bringing the reader directly into the process of evaluating fact and fiction, and providing the reader with some kind of navigation for our current state in which truthfulness is such a fraught concept.
Dickey concludes with a brief review of D’Agata’s latest project, The Making of the American Essay, an anthology that—like the country in its namesake, like the essay itself—is authentically imperfect, “a messy laboratory, one that fails as often as it succeeds, composed of far more questions than answers.”
Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid, Rufi Thorpe (@RufiThorpe), Vela
In this widely-shared piece, Thorpe ruminates on the perennial question of how a mother, tethered as she is to home, husband, children, carves out space for her creative life.
I am tethered by many things: the baby’s nursing schedule, the three-year-old’s attention span. To read an adult book is out of the question. To sit quietly for a moment with no one touching me is out of the question. To poop alone is out of the question. Showering is something I have to ask my husband for time to do each night.
She reviews the recent think pieces on the subject and then adds her own gloss:
For me, the problem then, is not in some platonic incompatibility between art and motherhood, a conflict between the mundane and the celestial, the safe and the unsettling. The conflict is between the selfishness of the artist and the selflessness of a mother.
Where Thorpe lands may feel familiar, but it is a position worth reiterating:
To make the most of oneself is not to forsake one’s identity as a woman or as a mother. It is not to become an art monster if the monster in question is nothing but a drunk asshole. But it is also not to bend entirely, to flap hinge open to your children and your husband and the underwear that may be nestled behind a door, and give up the terrible, wonderful, furtive dream that is the self. To come second entirely, to be only mother, maid, cook, wife, is also not to make the most of oneself. One must learn how and when not to bend.
How to Write a Novel in the Dark, Siobhan Adcock (@siobhanster), The Daily Beast
In perhaps a case study of the above, Siobhan Adcock endearingly relays her experience of writing a novel in the small NYC apartment she shares with her husband and daughter. Without a room of her own, Adcock still ekes out space for herself and her writing. She passes along these words of encouragement to any woman with a mission and a supportive partner:
I hope you will live in a home that’s 750 square feet. You’ll make it, don’t worry. People have done more, lots more, with less, lots less. And you’ll never be alone. Not even when you are together.
The MFA as Calling Card Round-Up, (@brevitymag), Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog
There has been some lively and worthwhile debate over on Brevity’s blog about the value and benefit of an MFA in the literary world. The magazine recently rounded up all related posts for our reading pleasure, and they can be found here.
HippoCamp 2016 Recap, (@hippocampusmag), Hippocampus Magazine
I was fortunate enough to attend the second annual Hippocampus Magazine creative nonfiction conference in Lancaster, PA earlier this month, where writers gathered for a weekend of workshops, panels, breakout sessions, camaraderie and more. There was a stellar lineup of speakers and an intimate, supportive feel to the weekend as a whole. I leave you with a link to the recap page on Hippocampus’ site, which is updated regularly to reflect attendee blog posts, photo and video footage, and other coverage of the weekend’s events.
Have you read a compelling article about craft or the creative life that you think should appear in the next Writerly Roundup? Please send links to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com—we’d love to hear your input!