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50 Thoughts Upon Receipt of Another Rejection Email

Grant Maierhofer

the persistence of crows

  1. I began submitting my novel, The Persistence of Crows, when it was a 120,000-word manuscript including incessant details about the main character, Henry Alfi’s, life. It has now been pared down exactly 50% and is a 60,000-word manuscript and if most lit agents/publishers are any indicator, it’s still rotten.
  2. In that time I’ve had Mononucleosis twice (is that supposed to be able to happen?) Bedbugs once, and roughly seven separate sexual partners of varying degrees of seriousness.
  3. I wrote the book hoping to emulate someone like John Fante or even J.D. Salinger although the earnestness of the prose has left significantly with those extra 60,000 words. Now I don’t think I hope to emulate anybody.
  4. Several people within the story’s framework that ‘exist’ in real life as well—more or less—have since writing it changed their lives considerably and got married/moved away/received emails from me stating simply ‘I HATE YOU.’
  5. I have no idea whether or not I still care about the story at all, but I keep submitting it. What the hell is wrong with me?
  6. I wrote the book in my father’s basement when I was nineteen years old. I think that’s part of it. (see 7, 8, and 9)
  7. When you create something so steeped in both personal experiences and that nostalgic Salingerian tone it feels like as an author you’re doomed to submit it forever or until you’ve written something eons better.
  8. I’ve written something better and because of its tenuous grasp on reality/outright flagrant sexual perversion I’m holding off on submitting it until all bets are off.
  9. Perhaps I continue to be dragged along rock bottom by editors and agents willing to briefly hold discourse regarding the work while not technically being willing to ‘take a risk’ on it.
  10. I wrote the book on a Brother GX-6750 typewriter and it came to roughly 160 typewritten pages. I then transcribed it in its entirety (adding where I saw fit) onto an Acer netbook and found an editor for the book. She agreed to work on it pro bono at first and we could figure out financials later. I think in the end I gave her $300 or so for notes throughout the entire book with corrections and an overall analysis both physically and via several telephone conversations. She mailed me the book with her revisions after a month or so and when I received it I set it on the floor in a cedar closet in my basement and urinated all over it, opening pages to thoroughly everything because I felt so frightened to be ‘too influenced’ by someone else’s insights regarding my book. I could still read everything she wrote, and took much of it into consideration, but I vowed the moment I received the manuscript in the mail that anybody wanting to read the book as it then was would have to do so risking the smell of my piss on their hands for several hours. Of all the things regarding The Persistence of Crows I think I regret this least.
  11. While reading the book over again I listened to a great deal of early Patti Smith and The Velvet Underground and this likely affected the characters a great deal. I think about this sort of thing often; even going so far as to try and listen to a particular artist or composer while writing certain things for some desired effect.
  12. From the writing of that first draft to now I think I’ve read some 150 books that have likely directly impacted any decisions within the novel to such a degree that I’d have a hell of a time trying to mull through it once more to completion.
  13. I wonder about the editorial process of many writers. This has taken several complete rewrites, and a final mulling over where I was simply hacking away passages with a maniacal grin one night listening to Mozart.
  14. I think of Zachary German in that ‘Shitty Youth’ documentary saying “I think it sucks,” regarding his first book and I feel slightly consoled.
  15. I wrote one book before this that rounded out to about 49,000 words and was about a kid in high school whose father dies, etc.
  16. Will Self said that every first literary effort is an act of parricide. In this regard, he was absolutely correct.
  17. A great deal of films have influenced the writing of this second book. One in particular—Jaws—has had the oddest effect, I’d argue. What I mean by that is that a primary character in Jaws, Quint, is played by an actor named Robert Shaw, who actually wrote several novels in his lifetime and they aren’t half bad. While I was rewriting the passages in the novel that discuss this film and Roy Scheider’s acting I realized I wanted to read them and before doing so I’d already decided they’d be an influence on me.
  18. I wonder about that. Is it alright to decide something’s going to influence you before you pick it up? I’m not quite sure. It seems fraught with bad-fucking-vibes and I don’t think I like it very much.
  19. After writing The Persistence of Crows I wrote an increasingly more bitter and fucked up novel called Shadows to the Light that, as I said, isn’t quite ready to be discussed or read by anybody; but it’s quite reassuring to know it exists. It was the first book I wrote on a computer and hence looking at the ‘word count’ undoubtedly warped the style of writing; but all the same, I think it’ll be pretty fucking good when it’s finished.
  20. I’ve taken to doing strange things now, like sending copies of my journals to Dennis Cooper, or emailing random excerpts to Tao Lin. I don’t know why I do this.
  21. I think I do this because I’m sick of the vast, robotic pit of nausea and indecision that is the publishing world and the ‘submission process’ and at least this way I’m getting a ‘strange’ reaction rather than a mechanized one.
  22. Dennis Cooper is one of the authors I discovered after the writing of this manuscript and of course I wonder what the book would be like if this weren’t the case, wouldn’t you?
  23. I write a column for the website Delphian Inc., and I’ve published excerpts there, which makes me feel a little better, but all the same, submitting your writing is fucking bullshit.
  24. I know there are longer pieces by authors upon acceptance of their work describing the arduous days before the first ‘yes’ but fuck that. For once I think it prudent to have things told from the other side so people can realize that they 1. Aren’t alone and 2. Aren’t naïve lunatics for still retaining some hope that a ‘yes’ might be out there. Maybe the pieces by authors upon acceptance get to this to a small degree but I always find them pedantic and unsavory.
  25. “He can be pedantic. He can be pedantic.” – Costanza
  26. F. Scott Fitzgerald talks about having a pile of rejection letters three inches thick, and the book he wrote that finally was accepted—This Side of Paradise—isn’t even that fucking good in the grand scheme of things. Don’t give up, you bastards, don’t give up.
  27. Publishing is certainly changing/has changed, and for a time my book was available via Amazon’s KDP program like most aspiring writers today, but I don’t think that has to be the case. I think I’m doomed to be old-fashioned in the sense that if I’m going to self-publish I’ll have to go headlong into it and publish chapbooks handmade and ship them out myself.
  28. Rather than watch a lecture about Elizabeth Gilbert and how ‘positive thinking’ can make things a reality for you I recommend—in the miserable weeks/months/years before your work is accepted and you can eke out a living—you search for kindred miserable spirits. We all know that writers like Gilbert struggled about as much as a small fit of diarrhea to reach their level of ‘literature’ and the result was hardly on par with the works of those bastards who did it until it killed them. Pick sides early on, and choose the side filled with hunched over Russians with disgusting beards/scents and long sprawling books about anarchist cells and religious zealotry. Trust me.
  29. Q: How the fuck can I even say this shit? What the fuck have I done to prove I have the first clue regarding publishing and literature when I haven’t been fucking published?
  30. A: I think it’s rather like I’ve been thrust into the woods for three years and instead of being given praise or accolades for figuring out what the fuck berries I can eat or trees I can live beneath without being woken up by bears every morning the accolade is learning about and knowing those things themselves. I’m OK with this for the most part, but I haven’t given up hope.
  31. I’m 22 years old now. I’ve had short fiction published. I’ve put out chapbooks. And I’ve written a pissload of reviews/etc. for HTMLGIANT in a rather short amount of time. I haven’t given up hope.
  32. College is a logical diversion for a writer. I don’t see this as a bad thing. If you can devote yourself to serious hours of study and not lose too much money in the process I highly recommend this diversion. Take your time. Become a goddamn professor if you want to. It’s either that, or work some job and go the Melville route. Either way you’re probably fine, just don’t lose sight of shit and remember to occasionally stay up all night watching Pasolini movies.
  33. Cull influence from every-fucking-where. Be it film, books, wall art, floor art, biographies, pornography, cereal, TV, Philip Roth, DFW, a fucking shoestore, saying ‘Mark Ruffalo’ over and over to fall asleep and realizing you’re not the same as every other asshole. WHATEVER. Just seek out influences that matter to you and learn every fucking thing you can about them.
  34. I’ve since reread my novel many times, and I understand where it currently sits. I’m comfortable still occasionally sending it out to small presses that I admire with the hope and understanding that it might be accepted and worked with if I’m not a complete shithead about it. I like the book. I like Henry Alfi and I like the earnest dickhead I was when I wrote it. I wouldn’t write the same book again and I think that’s significant.
  35. Art matters, much more than people think; especially artists.
  36. Realize that this period in your life is natural and must be worked with as opposed to worked against. You are trying to cultivate an entire career as an artist in an age that would just as soon tell you to fuck off and keep looking for GIFs from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ or something. It’s going to be fucking difficult. But in the end you get to join the pantheon of those aforementioned influences and your life will no longer suck completely. If it does you’ll kill yourself which is acceptable as well, because what fundamentally matters is the work.
  37. I’m not saying kill yourself, fuck face. I’m just saying that if it pushes you to that don’t reject art in general. Maybe work on the ‘not killing yourself’ thing for a few months and come back to literature. It’s not going anywhere. If you’re dedicated enough a few suicidal thoughts are worth the creation of something that no one else could’ve dreamed up.
  38. Dreamed V. Dreamt. I always side with dreamt.
  39. Use bullshit lists like this to figure out what the fuck you think about certain things. I’m almost done with mine and it’s actually working, I think.
  40. My book—as a Kindle E-book—was reviewed by a gal who works for the ‘Kindle Book Review’ and it was acknowledged as a semi-finalist in ‘literary fiction’ for book of the year or some shit. I don’t really take that to heart. I take the second half of this with a rather lofty cup of salt, but the first part—her review—was honest and got to some serious things I was trying to do within the book. That shit matters/mattered, and it probably kept me from destroying every copy of it several times.
  41. I often write destroying as ‘destorying’ and feel like that might as well be a word too.
  42. When I was sixteen or so I wrote a manuscript of poetry and sent it to tons of places until my friends noted that I said ‘mind as well’ instead of ‘might as well’ and I realized I don’t know the first fucking thing about literature.
  43. I still don’t.
  44. Norman Mailer fighting Rip Torn on a hillside during the filming of ‘Maidstone’.
  45. Tao Lin writes a numerated biography and makes me realize I can’t be fucking up so horribly.
  46. One night I paint the entire left side of my body purple with spraypaint and take a shower with a copy of War and Peace because I don’t feel up to reading it just yet. I masturbate into the center pages of the book as it plumps up with water and afterwards I close it, stand on top of it and shower with the water spraying at my chest instead of my forehead because of the extra height the book has given me.
  47. The urine-soaked copy of The Persistence of Crows no longer exists and I do not await its return.
  48. I threw it into a dumpster in Chicago in the dead of winter (death of winter) and will never see it again.
  49. 120,000 words seems like a lot but don’t believe the hype, it isn’t.
  50. I love you.
Editor’s Note: Preorder The Persistence of Crows from Tiny TOE Press.
February 3, 2013 1:38 pm

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