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New Strategy Re: Literary Magazines Pt. II

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Monday, June 27, 2011

New Strategy Re: Literary Magazines Pt. II

Well, it worked.

You may recall a while back my resolve to try a new strategy to get into literary magazines.  Actually reading the damn things.  Which is harder than it sounds.  At least for me it is.  I don't like reading stuff I don't like reading (or as an ex-boss once aptly said of me, "Joe doesn't like to be told what to do."  [And, no, Joe doesn't]).  I have a very particular taste when it comes to...literature, namely, that it isn't literature, and that it's got some grit and edge to it, a little darkness and subversion. But I don't like straight-up genre; rather, I like a conflation of elements, like Americana and cowpunk over straight-up country.

If you missed that first post, here it is:

So I began working on a piece, tailor-made to adhere to these rules.  The result is a story called "Dancing: A Love Story in Five Parts" (posted below) and it implements all the mandates. It's actually pretty amazing if you go back and read that original post (and the story) just how much I was able to approximate in the piece.  Keep it vague?  Check. Magic realism?  Check.  Second person?  You bet.

I spent all last week on this story.  Well, that's not totally true.  I've been working on like five short stories at once, but "Dancing" was one of them.  And it was an interesting exercise to approach writing this way, and it proved much easier than I thought it would.

First, I used the motorcycle accident as the governing motif, but then I transplanted that to France, weaving in bits of magic realism and Hemingway-esque simplistic language, combining the intimate details of several past (and current) relationships. I also split the story into five parts, since a lot of magazines seem to favor Roman numeral subsets.

The weird part, even though I began writing this out of a challenge set forth by my writing parter/reader, Jimmy, is how much I ended up making it mine.  Yes, it was borne out of something less than genuine, but when it was done, it very much became a Joe story.  The sarcasm is there.  The darkness it there.  It proved to be what I have always suspected about writing and various genres.  That it's like Keith Richards said about lead versus rhythm guitar: it's all just guitar, man.  And writing is all just writing.  The rules change, but you--whoever "you" are--will come through.

So I finished polishing the piece on Saturday, and then I sent it off the magazines. Actually, I sent it to one, Monkeybicycle, which responded in less than 24 hours, saying that that loved it and were publishing it immediately.

So here is the result:

It's a little different.  No hookers die.  No one shoots up.  But a heart does get broken.  Hope you like it.

(Special thanks to Monkeybicycle and guest editor C. James Bye [] for putting it up!)


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