February 18th, 2010 / 2:36 am

Q & A #4

If you have questions about writing or publishing or whatever, leave them in the comments or e-mail them to roxane at roxanegay dot com and we will find you some answers.

If you withdraw a story, is it appropriate to immediately send another story to that lit. journal? What if you have multiple withdrawals from that publication? (And I’m talking the kind of place where you have to email them to withdraw your piece, not just pull it out yourself and they never even knew it was there.) Are they going to get pissed at some point? When does your good/bad luck become a reason to basically stop submitting to a journal?

Sean Lovelace
Yes, they get pissed eventually. Numerous withdraws? I am already souring your name. What are you doing? If you are continually getting accepted by multiple journals, bless you. But why not stop the simultaneous submissions? You obviously know how to write a great story lit mags want. Cut the shotgun approach at this point.

Lily Hoang

I don’t submit enough to journals to withdraw, but I have withdrawn book ms from presses. I do ask if they’ll consider another ms in the future, unless I have a spare lying around (which I never do). Usually, they’re nice, but with one press in particular, I’ve pulled two or three ms from them (one just a week or two after I submitted it). That’s just embarrassing. With journals though, I don’t think it’s a big deal.

Ryan Call

I don’t think it’s bad to immediately send another story to take the place of a withdrawal. It doesn’t bother me when I read submissions for NOÖ. I just mark the previous story ‘withdrawn’ and the new story goes at the end of the queue. As a writer, I tend not to send an immediate replacement. I don’t often have a story to replace another story, so it takes me a long time to figure out what to send to that editor if I had to withdraw another story that I thought was perfect for him or her.

Roxane Gay

Multiple withdrawals gets annoying. To go on a tiny tangent, I get irritated when people withdraw stories the same day or the same week. I realize that cannot be helped at times, but it is aggravating. When you find yourself in the position where you’re always withdrawing stories, it’s time to stop simultaneously submitting or at least submitting to no more than two or three markets for each story. To really answer your question, I don’t mind a writer immediately sending another submission immediately after they withdraw a piece but if it happened four or five times in a very short time span, I would start to get testy about it.

If you want to publish a short story collection, do a majority of the stories in it need to have been published elsewhere first? Does it matter? Does it make a press more likely to want to publish your book?

Sean Lovelace
A bad-ass collection will be published, period.

Lily Hoang
Having 90% of your stories previously published won’t make me want to publish your book if it’s bad. Having 0% published won’t prevent me from publishing it if it’s good.

Roxane Gay
I don’t think there’s an equation for the ratio of published versus unpublished pieces to include in a collection. Good writing is good writing. That said, I don’t have a collection out yet so consider the source.

What is your favorite literary magazine? Why?

Sean Lovelace
Elimae. Fresh, varied, huge turnover of new stuff–like a really, really good Thai place. Weird analogy, but a good Thai place kicks ass. The one near me just dropped some crazy green bean dish that tastes like sin. I am surprised often.

Roxane Gay
I really cannot pick just one magazine because there’s too much greatness out there but right now I am obsessed with Unsaid 4. I kept hearing people hype the issue so I immediately began to doubt the thing but after reading it for the past two weeks, I have to say the hype is eminently well-deserved. Unsaid is, without a doubt, one of the finest literary magazines I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The range of writing is fascinating. The very first story in the issue literally made me stop breathing it was so good and while I won’t say I loved every piece, I did read and respect every piece and that is something that rarely happens for me. For editors, the book is a primer on how to assemble a superior collection of writing. For writers, the range of writing styles, genres and techniques on display are very instructive. More than anything, I kept thinking over and over, this is a book that has heart bleeding all over every page. For me, Unsaid isn’t so much a magazine as an experience.

Editors, what is the most annoying thing writers do?

Sean Lovelace

Clearly, clearly do not read the very magazine we print.

Have you ever read a book you wish you had written? Which one? Why?

Sean Lovelace

I am a mediocre writer, so I am going to just give you a number: 84% of books I read meet your criterion.

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