Data Dive: Grin and Bear It

This was my first and only piece of nonfiction.  It's been a couple years since I wrote it, and I've had a lot of time to reflect back about those events.  It was selected for an anthology of DC-based stories published annually by Politics and Prose, an awesome independent bookstore which is an establishment in this city.  I do feel this was the best home for this story and am pleased to be included in a collection with other DC writers.  They held a reading for the rollout of the anthology and I attended it with Sarah (the one mentioned in the piece.) 

If you're curious about the pandas, it really was a stupid big deal..

Becky Malinsky/Smithsonian's National Zoo

Becky Malinsky/Smithsonian's National Zoo

Pandas are so stupid.  Exception:

Number of submissions: 8.  Ratio of positive feedback to number of submissions: 25%.  Time from completing story until publication: 1 year, 4 months. I make absolutely no apologies for the pun in the title.

Data dive: Every Ghost Story is a Love Story


"Ghost Story" was the first story I wrote after an almost decade-long hiatus from writing fiction.  (Grad school, life, etc.)  Psychopomp Magazine published it this fall (it did place, but did not make the cut in Fiction Desk's Ghost Story competition.) 

The story is very much inspired by the rowhouses that line many streets in DC.  If you've never seen one, they tend to be strangely narrow but deep, and they are connected directly to neighbors (leading to delightful noise issues at times).  They typically have an English Basement (which is more half underground than actually underground) with a walk up to the "first floor."  I found these houses delightful when I first moved here, but have since decided that I never want to live in one.  Some of the rowhouses in DC date way back, which on the one hand means sometimes long and interesting histories, but on the other can also translate into creepiness.  Creaking stairways, wooden floors that "settle," old pipes that make mysterious clanging noises.  The potential for ghosts seems high...

Logan Circle rowhouses, picture by  AgnosticPreachersKid

Logan Circle rowhouses, picture by AgnosticPreachersKid

As I've lived here for a while, I've become more interested in not-necessarily-politically-related history about the city.  Below is an old picture from the National Park Service of Meridian Hill Park (mentioned in the story).  Way back when the city was first created, all the land it was eventually built on was owned by one rich dude.  Then the hill was used as a vantage point during the Civil War before it was eventually turned into the park.  The image below is a bit idyllic; when I was here a couple decades ago, the park had a reputation as a place for anonymous sex, drug dealing, and getting stabbed and stuff.  It's a bit cleaned up now (probably all of the above are true, but its nice during the daytime and kids play soccer), but there definitely isn't neatly trimmed topiary or lily pads last time I checked.   One of the things I would love to do via fiction is highlight that side of DC that is not the DC you see on TV.  On the one hand there's House of Cards and All the President's Men. But on the other, there are tons of people that you never see on your TV or in your standard "The corruption goes all the way to the top!" thriller.  My friends are teachers and medical professionals, security folks and all kinds of lawyers, IT people, chefs, and artists.  There are people who never wear suits and people who sport them every day.  And you live in this weird city where occasionally you're stuck in your car and hangry because the traffic holdup is a motorcade, where you might bump into a Supreme Court justice, or where people say "well if we get nuked we'll be first, so we won't feel it."  Anyhow, add this story to my collection of DC stories that have nothing to do with politics.



Number of submissions: 44.  Ratio of positive feedback to number of submissions: 27%.  Time from completing story until publication: about 3 years.  Lesson to be learned: if you keep getting positive feedback on a story, keep sending it out. I'm happy this one found a home. The title actually is a reference to the David Foster Wallace biography, but the story isn't about him.  (My friend came up with the inverted title, which I thought was clever, so I kept it.)

Data Dive #3: The Bleeding Room

The Bleeding Room was just published in Glimmer Train in Winter 2015, but I originally wrote it more than 10 years ago in the fall of 2002.  I submitted this story a few times nonsimultaneously in the early 2000s, stopped sending it out for 10 years, and then, on a whim, submitted it to one of Glimmer Train's Fiction Opens.  It placed second, and was published with no revisions from the original finalized text.  All of the journals I submitted it to are really well respected, but submitting to them one at a time was a silly thing to do.  Then there was a 10 year period where I literally forgot about this story and I wasn't really writing much because Iwas busy with grad school.  One day I thought to myself, you know, maybe I should get back into that writing thing.  I never expected to place in the contest, but once I did, it gave me a confidence boost that launched an incredibly productive period of writing and submitting for me.

If you look at the below graph you see something moderately interesting.  These are the acceptance rates (according to Duotrope) of all the journals I submitted the story to. These fluctuate in general right after something gets accepted and gets input into the system, and who knows what percent of submitting writers actually use Duotrope, but some data is better than none I guess.  Bottom line of the below chart: this story was rejected by several magazines that are "easier" to get into than Glimmer Train is.  You can never account for subjectivity.  I still believe in tiered submissions, but ultimately, it's somewhat arbitrary which specific journal picks up a story. 


Acceptance Rates at Submitted Journals (%)

H was a contest, but the reported rate is for general submissions

Number of submissions: 9.  Ratio of positive feedback to number of submissions: 22%.  Time from completing story until publication: 13 years.  This was my first acceptance.