« Sojourn to Naperville | Main | SCBA or Bust! »



Oh, Gina, how I wish I'd been part of this conversation. I have many, many, many similar thoughts on the topic, and in the end, I'm glad "Geoff" stuck in your craw. When you're back, let's have coffee because I'm sure I'll have even more to add then!


Writing a book, good or bad, is hard. Getting an agent, even a smallish crappy agent, is hard. The people—I’m not saying you---we most often hear admonishing others on ‘selling out’ are rarely in the position to sell out in the first place. I kind of find it hard to believe you’re telling GF and KN not to sell out? It’d be a cool trick to sell out with a story collection. But regardless, the question you seem to be asking yourself isn’t whether or not you’re willing to ‘sell out’. It is whether or not the book is done and is as good (whatever voodoo that means) as you can make it. And if you’re asking, then it’s probably not done, is it? I have no idea, but I’ve yet to meet a writer who is completely and utterly happy with their book, even after it’s in print. Why do literary fiction writers treat ‘plot’ like some warty step-sister. Writing a good and genuine plots are a nightmare---there’s a reason why we don’t see many well plotted stories in grad school. Maybe if literary writers at least pretended to be interested in plot, literary fiction wouldn’t be sinking into the same ghetto as poetry—not a diss on poetry, just the observation that it’s not read by people outside the mfa/academia. But it’s amazing and admirable that OV and others make is possible for books with less than the perfect tits (sort-of your analogy) to find readers. But OV, does not remotely ‘fly in the face’ of revising or getting published in NY. OV and other inspiring journals, are an integral part of the publishing process. It is, for better or worse, one of those hoops. How many of OV’s writers have gone on to publish NY books? Is that really something you’re ashamed of? Getting published in OV or NY are both amazing and hard-earned things—but is it purely coincidental that one tends to happen before the other? In writing there are a thousand variations on ‘perfect’, even in the NY publishing world. To revise or not to revise? Revise the fuck out of it. Revising has nothing to do with whoring your vision. Revising makes your vision bulletproof, makes it a perfect and inevitable thing. Be one of those rare and inspiring creatures who succeed on both fronts. Plus, it’ll be easier on your kids at the playground.


Stick to your ideals, Gina...if you're pleased with the book the way it is, then absolutely do not revise it for some editor who might not end up accepting your revised version anyway--or accepts it but then gets distracted by the Next Big Thing and ignores your book completely. If you revise when you don't want to revise, then you would indeed be "whoring your vision."

Erik France

Hey Gina,

Good luck! I'm a librarian and actively go after titles I want to read. Managed to acquire your two books online, bypassing the usual channels (Amazon, b & n -- I hate Ingram, for what that's worth). Good news is, Amazon has added a corporate acct. line, so many more people can purchase books for libraries, etc., with a purchase order. I usually go for Follett b/c they have a technical service that I find helpful.

I used to work for Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill and learned a lot of pragmatic things about publishing. I'm not a big fan of literary pedigrees, and prefer people independent of meat grinder programs (though I do have a Ph.D. and perhaps am being a little coy here). I also like plot, but take in and enjoy a wide range of visions and voices. I truly hope the internet shakes up the whole shabang. Looking forward to reading the books, with a post on each via my blog to follow.


Shannon Cain

Greetings, Gina et al, from a long-ago OV author (issue #37).

I love my agent, too. I even love that she chose to work with me based on my story collection but told me up front she wouldn't represent the collection, at least for a few years. Not because she doesn't adore the stories, or because she doesn't think she can sell the book, but because she's taking a long-view approach to my career.

Bookbuyers at B&N and the other scaries base their ordering decisions on first book sales figures, so to come out with a story collection as one's first book is tantamount to killing the second book before it even hits the shelves.

I'm appalled by this state of affairs and yet I love that my agent pays attention to it. I'm appalled that she and I are essentially complicit in this system, for now at least. The Plan is to see if we win the New Yorker/Atlantic/Harper's lottery with a few individual stories, and if that stroke of luck befalls us, we'll try to sell the collection. If not, we'll go the indie route. Whereupon I can feel pure again.

Which would make me glad, given that independent publishing is my profession, too: I direct Kore Press, a nonprofit indie that publishes literature by women. (korepress.org.)

In the meantime, I've been sent off to my writing shack (a converted Tuff Shed in my backyard) to write a novel. Where I should be right now, come to think of it. I'm at your blog instead, because I can't get my head around this novel. More pointedly, I can't get my head around: a) whether I'm a novelist at all (I miss writing short stories SO MUCH); and b) to what extent the goddamn market (or my perceptions thereof) are driving my artistic process, even now, in the tender first draft phase.

Plus, I don't have a novel dying to get out of me. I've been directed to write one. My agent, my lovely agent, is not the originator of this command -- she's only the messenger. The Market tells her/me I must produce a novel.

Screw the Market, is the easy response. Especially coming from people like us, we devotees of indie publishing. If I say Screw the Market, though, will I ever find out if I can write a novel? Will I abandon these first crappy pages (which may, who knows, contain snippets of brillance) because short stories are so much easier for me? Is it possible that the Market and its evil editors have something to teach me about readers and about novels, and even (gasp) about craft? The only way to find out is to push through. To have the experience, to find out for myself that it sucks on a level I'd never imagined, or that it doesn't really suck that bad. Each of us needs to find her own way through this muck.

Erik France

Wow. I finished Falling Backwards and My Sister's Continent and really liked them both -- but am blown away by your novel. Many kudos! It's riveting from beginning to end, and inspired me to brush up on the Dora case afterward. I'd started to feel that literary novels have been flagging, so am really heartened by yours. It's one of maybe five new ones I've read in the last two years that really have import to me.


Air Jordan shoes

Things are encounterable, yet unseekable.when i first pay my attention to here i know it deserves my time to read it. Good day ,for my sincere wishes.

Cheap Jordans

In many cases, my most important resolutions come paired with the opposite resolutions, and yet both are important to my happiness.

Jordans shoes

Active listening is a very effective first response when the other person is angry, hurt or expressing difficult feelings toward you, especially in relationships that are important to you!

The comments to this entry are closed.