A couple of days ago I sent an essay to a national magazine. It was an account of my time visiting friends in a small town and going with the family to a Little League game on a hot summer afternoon. I’m pretty happy with the piece, so I’ve been sending it to larger magazines, which, as a side effect, tend to pay pretty well (relatively speaking, of course). Within hours of sending the story I had a reply. “That’s not a good sign,” I thought. It didn’t seem like it was enough time for anyone to read it at all.
Well, in fact, someone did read the piece. The message was a polite note from the publisher himself, and said, in part:
Thanks for this submission. It’s a very nicely-written piece, and I enjoyed it. However, it appears to be a fictional piece (although you said it was non-fiction) and we do not publish fiction.
I was really anticipating that the trick play was going to work…nice twist.
Nice twist indeed. I’d be proud of that twist if it weren’t for the fact I didn’t make it up. In fairness, the style of the piece is, well, mine, and sometimes when I’m on a roll I can give the world a fairy-tale feeling. My favorite blog episodes are that way. Also, I must confess that I am quite flattered by the italicized “very”. It’s a bit of extra effort on his part for no other purpose than to pay me a compliment. It’s funny how much I cling to those things, these days.
And hang on a sec… was I even rejected? There’s no actual “no” in the message. Perhaps he just wanted clarification and now a check is in the mail.
The message also included a conversational question, so I used the opportunity to send a response assuring him that the piece is entirely non-fiction, but in the two days following he has not responded. I probably should have composed my response more carefully; I have (in my mind, anyway) put myself in an ambiguous position. If I can convince him it’s non-fiction, is he still interested, or does he feel that his readers will think it is fiction in any case? Maybe I can ghost-write an accompanying article with the coach of the team, diagramming the trick play.
Maybe he meant… gah! I have witnessed this phenomenon in the correspondence of other writers; I call it thinking too much. Writers have a lot of time to think, and the imagination to really spin things to preposterous conclusions. It’s our job. If only we could turn this power to the good.
Are you the ThingKing too much, or too often?
And also, what is it they say about ambiguity… It breeds like the mother of a dutchman? I cannot recall…
Maybe they could use some travel stories?
Well, Junior Baseball Magazine probably not so much.
I am starting to look at other markets that might like travel stories. Unfortunately my favorite travel episodes have almost nothing to do with the place. That worked for Hunter S. Thompson, though, at least once he was established as a journalist.
It is an odd response. Maybe this person would’ve always replied this way. Or maybe it’s a product of the post-Million Pieces world.
You could always edit out the part where the trick play results in the team spending a night in jail. Then it might be more convincing.