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Author: Kelly

Are academia’s literary journals worth saving? #MondayBlogs

Yesterday, I received a rejection letter for four poems I sent as a manuscript submission to a literary journal. It had been a while since I had submitted anything – I’ve been heads down focused on getting my third novel ready for primetime – so I went and checked the submission record. Turns out there was a reason memory of this poetry submission had receded to the dark depths of brain nothingness; I had submitted it all the way back in February. For those counting, that’s nine months (and one day, to be exact).

By comparison, it only took Bank of America seven months to issue me the escrow refund from my refinance, but I digress…

I won’t name names or anything, but it’s a literary journal run by the graduate creative writing program at a college you would probably not know by name. They do have a couple things in their favor: they allow simultaneous submissions (so I didn’t have to have the poem under their sole consideration for the same length of time as a human pregnancy) and they do online submissions (so I didn’t have to send in a self-addressed stamped envelope in the frigidness of February). But looking at the auto-response I received when I submitted my poems way back during the last winter, it read: We’ll consider your work carefully and get back to you in as timely a manner as we can. Apparently the better part of a year is the timeliest a manner they can muster.

Not 2 minutes before I received this email, I also got one from another academia-run literary journal I have submitted to in the past (since once you submit, you receive their spam forever), asking me to donate so that the journal can be saved. It’s not the first journal to ask for “save us” donations, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But it did make me stop and ask the question – are these types of literary journals really worth saving anymore?

No one reads them anymore.
Content in all forms has moved online and the departments still putting out annually published print journals are relying on smaller and smaller audiences of circulation. Even the journals I have been published in, I rarely read the other works that are included alongside mine. Everyone will say that if you’re going to submit to a journal you should also subscribe to it, but who really does that? I certainly don’t, and I don’t know anyone who does. Besides, if I subscribed to every journal I submitted to, I would go broke.

There is no money in it anymore.
In fact, many journals have taken to charging writers to submit to their journals, sometimes calling these “maintenance fees” to defray the cost of taking submissions online. Some journals say they will pay writers with copies, but (like I said) no one reads these copies and last time I checked, the self-checkout lane at my grocery store doesn’t have a slot that accepts literary journals as payment. Few of the journals that once paid writers for their work are still doing this, if they are even still in existence.

There is zero incentive for the writer.
Why would anyone spend the better part of a year trying to find a literary journal to publish his or her work for zero dollars’ worth of reward? Especially when they can publish a piece or a collection of their work on any number of online publishing platforms in minutes, not months, and sell it for more than zero dollars. For prestige? Of the literary journals I have been published in, very few of them are around anymore, and apart from the academic creative writing elite, no one has heard of them anyway.

Maybe you disagree with me and think we as writers need to do everything in our power to save the grand old institution that is the Clever Name Review, courtesy of the MFA program in creative writing at Nowheresville University. Or maybe I’m right, and we need be thinking about what we can do to usher in the next technology that will replace these outdated mediums. What do you think?

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Portrait of Woman in Ink free for Kindle!

Good morning all my Kindle-loving friends! Today is your lucky day because you can get my latest novel, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook for free in the Kindle store. Tomorrow and Thursday are your lucky days, too, because it will be free then as well (so tell your friends). This is a new edition of the book that includes a sneak preview of my work in progress novel Community Klepto.

Get it HERE and get it now!

.. and do me a solid – leave a review after you read it. The Kindle gods will shine upon you if you do.

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Portrait of Woman in Ink available in paperback

After some deliberation and figuring out what to do with Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook now that my contract with my publisher is up. Since I’m in the middle of a career change, uber-frequent visits to my doctor, and deep in the throes of editing my third novel, I opted to go the way of the Amazon and just put it out there as part of my growing “backlist.”

I was partially lucky because I had already done the long, time-sucking work of formatting a print copy of my manuscript: sections, section headers and footers, right-facing pages, page numbers, front matter, back matter – pretty much everything you don’t have to worry about for electronic format books. Even so, it still took a good couple weeks of back and forth with CreateSpace to get my cover positioning just right, which proved to be a frustrating couple of weeks. But at long last, the print paperback is complete and available everywhere (CreateSpace print paperbacks are sold).

So if you’d like your very own dead tree version to add to your Kelly I. Hitchcock collection of works, you can find it here!

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Portrait of Woman in Ink on Kindle Unlimited

Now that Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is in my purview, I’ve enrolled it in the Amazon KDP Select program. This probably doesn’t mean anything to you, unless you’re an Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited subscriber. If you’re an Amazon Prime-ate, you can borrow my book from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library for absolutely free. Because this is America. If you’re Kindle Unlimited folk, you can buy it for zero dollars and zero cents.

It’s a beautiful thing. So check it out.

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An afternoon with @JudyBlume #MondayBlogs

Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a talk and book signing with one of America’s most loved authors at BookPeople (I promise this will be the last time I mention the fact that Judy Blume and I have shared the exact same stage), pimping her newest book In The Unlikely Event, which I cannot wait to read. I don’t even remember the first Judy Blume book I read, but I remember that my mother forbade me–and by forbade I mean I picked it up as soon as I got the chance–from reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, not because of all the adult themed content it contained that my pre-teen brain could not possibly grasp, but because its title implied that it questioned the existence of God. Oh, Mom…

As a writer, I think I will always measure the honesty and authenticity of my own work against Judy Blume’s, not that I think I can ever even come close to her level. I remember after I wrote my first book, my mother was so unhappy with me for the things that I shared, and I had just finished reading Wifey, which exhibited a level of honesty that couldn’t even be classified in the same realm as what I portrayed in my book. I don’t know that I would ever have the courage to be half as honest as Judy Blume is in her books, especially the more adult-oriented ones. For that alone, I will always have undying respect and love for Blume’s work. Even Superfudge.

But back to the event! Blume is 77, but certainly doesn’t look it. I hope that when I am 77, I am A) still writing books and B) look as youthful as Judy. That Key West air must contain Retinol-A or something. I never knew how engaged she was/is with her fans. It never occurs to me to engage with an author I enjoy unless they share the same level of notoriety as me (so, very little); however, there were people in the audience who had been writing back and forth with Judy for YEARS, without ever losing touch. It’s now my life’s goal to keep in touch with all my fans, especially those who have been with me from my very first book, even after I write the career maker (which could very well be Community Klepto… who knows?).

She also talked in depth about censorship; in short, how fucking stupid it is. Just let your kids read. Let them be exposed to the world and form their own opinions of it. She also offered great advice for how to get your children to read something, saying “leave the book laying out and when they ask about, say ‘I don’t think you’re ready for that yet’.” It’s possible that’s what my mom was thinking when she made Are You There, God? verboten, but unlikely. To Mom’s credit, though, she never kept me from walking down the street or riding my bike to the public library, where I spent a lot of time and maxed out the balance on her library card. Nowadays, kids attempting to do the very same (and innocent) thing I did might draw the attention of Child Protective Services.

But my favorite moment of the event was when I was waiting in line for my brand new (and new book smelling) hardback copy of In The Unlikely Event to be signed. For the record, even though they have staff whose sole job is to take ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ at book signings, I decided I didn’t want to partake. It just seemed nice to have a private moment with her that I didn’t have to share with anyone else. The person in front of me was a mother with her young daughter (twelve or so), who told Blume that she (the daughter) was beginning to write short stories. To this, Judy replied, “You know, maybe my next thing will be to finally learn how to write short stories.” If I could say one thing in response to this, it would be, dearest Judy Blume, leave the impostor syndrome at the door. You’re one of this country’s most beloved storytellers of all time. You know how to write short stories; you just may not know it yet. Or maybe you were just trying to make a young writer feel better.

If you ever get a chance to see one of your favorite authors at a local bookstore event, take it. Even if it’s standing room only (which BookPeople was), the air conditioning doesn’t want to work (which it didn’t), or you can’t see (which I couldn’t–God bless the height challenged). It is SO worth it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to crack the spine of In The Unlikely Event.

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Second draft, part of the craft #amediting #MondayBlogs

Amidst a weekend otherwise consumed by massive flooding and tornado warnings every ten minutes (which my husband had to inform me about because I was too focused on rabid writing), I finished the first draft of my third novel, working title Community Klepto on Memorial Day. As such, I am now going back to the beginning to start revising what will eventually be my second draft, and going through the mile-high stack of critiques I have amassed from my workshop group thus far (pictured).

In the short time since Memorial Day and revising the first chapter, I have made the following observations about my third novel:

1) This started out rough. Like, really rough.

When I started this book, I had only a vague idea of who the character was and what the story was going to be. I started this weird fourth wall narrative kind of thing where my character was talking to the reader, and it just didn’t work. Luckily, my drunken muse took over at some point.

2) I wasn’t afraid to go big quickly.

This book is about being playful with gymgoer archetypes and stealing things, and my character isn’t afraid to do both in the first chapter. I say thrust the reader in like a warm dildo; at least then, they know what they’re getting into.

3) This is gonna take awhile.

For any of the three hardcore Kelly I. Hitchcock fanclubber types out there anxiously awaiting my next release, thinking it will be any time soon, you are sadly mistaken. This is but one chapter out of 24, so I have my work cut out for me. Besides, I’d really be doing you a disservice if I didn’t edit the fuck out of this book before bestowing it upon the masses.

Some people have asked me whether I am going to start querying publishers immediately now that I am done with the first draft. My answer is, for now, no. I want to get this manuscript as polished off as a bottle of good Pinot Noir before I even attempt to send it off to a publisher whose editor would inevitably be all like, “What is this rough turd?”

So be patient with me, as this will be a long lonely process of editing loneliness, but will be so worth it in the end, because I think this is my best work yet. Also be nice to me because it’s my birthday, bitches.

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The 5 stages of nearly losing a manuscript file

At some point in any writer’s career, he or she has the hapless realization that a manuscript into which blood, sweat, tears, caffeine, and other vices were poured into is GONE – whether through erroneous deletion, #technologyandstuff #fail, or act of gods.

I had one such moment last week with the novel that I’m 51,000+ words into (working title COMMUNITY KLEPTO for those not in the know of all things Kelly I. Hitchcock). Its primary storage location was on our family NAS (network-addressed storage) device, which my husband – who is vastly superior in the realm of tech savviness – informed me underwent and update and subsequently crashed. Below is an account of the 5 stages of anxiety I experienced at this news and prospect of losing my manuscript.

Phase 1: Overhear spouse downplaying outage

“The device is down, but I don’t think there’s anything important on there…”

YES HUH! IS TOO! Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be using the NAS as my primary location for my 50,000+ word manuscript, but it’s a little late for that.

Phase 2: Realize the last time you backed up drives was 5 months ago

We have a pretty retentive backup system that involves swapping out the drives every so often and putting the backups in a safe deposit box at our bank. Somehow, though, we hadn’t done this since before we left for Christmas vacation and other things besides running the backup were top of mind.

Phase 3: Realize your local backup is 4 months old

So at one point there was a time that I needed to work on my manuscript offline, but that time was four months ago and I had written several chapters since then, which pretty much made my local copy useless. Phase 3.1: eat an entire bag of potato chips while crying.

Phase 4: View stack of printed chapters with lament

While the prospect of losing four months worth of work is almost unbearable, the idea of re-typing your lost chapters using only the stack of printed chapter-by-chapter manuscripts you’ve been bringing to your workshop group is somehow worse.

Phase 5: Restart device and hope for the best

This phase took some time and it’s a bit like waiting for water to boil while watching it. “I see green lights. That’s good right?!” Then watch the cursor spin and spin and spin as you wait for all the file folders to load up so you can navigate down the 12 levels you need to in order to get to the one file you care about.

Phase 6: Dodge a bullet

When you finally get down to the file itself and see that the modified date was a mere two hours ago, you can indeed breathe a sigh of relief, knowing your work for the past four months hasn’t been obliterated as happens in your worst nightmares. When you’re finally done wiping your forehead sweat away, slowing your heart rate, and downing a couple shots of tequila, move on to the next phases to ensure this never happens again.

Phase 7: Back up locally

After all, this is where you should have been working in the first place. The network device is where you should be backing up to after you bang some words out. Besides, Micro$oft Word will be more performant locally anyway.

Phase 8: To the cloud!

No, don’t go take a bong hit. Download Dropbox (if you don’t have it) and enable two-factor authentication before creating another backup in the cloud that you can use in the event of nuclear disaster. You’ve learned your lesson, after all, and you can use all the help you can get to make sure you never have to deal with this again.

Needless to say, the last four chapters I write will be completed with far more intention to disaster recovery. And hopefully they won’t be a disaster themselves.

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In search of a genre

I’m always impressed by how specific writers in certain genre and non-fiction can be with pinpointing their sub-genres: paranormal romance, slipstream mystery, speculative post-cyberpunk, satirical basketweaving history. For me though, this is an area that I’ve always struggled with. As I get closer and closer to finishing Community Klepto, I’ve been challenged by people both inside and outside the literary community to be more specific about how I classify my own genre; trouble is, the genres I’ve always considered myself to most closely identify with aren’t at all specific

Literary fiction

Thanks to the infallibility of Wikipedia, I can actually give a definition of what this means for people who don’t know what this means, which is most people. Now when people ask me “What type of books do you write?” and react with confused puppy dog faces when I say “literary fiction,” I can tell them that I write:

“…fictional works that possess commonly held qualities to readers outside genre fiction. Literary fiction has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression.”

Clear as mud, right? And sadly, those who do know what literary fiction is typically have a negative opinion of it. They see it as plotless drivel that only university professors to teach grad students to write more literary fiction could appreciate.

Women’s fiction

In the past when I’ve described my work as “women’s fiction,” I’ve been met with “Oh, so romance?” Why, if a book is written with strong female characters and a female audience in mind, do people jump to the conclusion that it’s a romance novel capable of hosting a male Fabio and a scantily clad lady in a heaving bodice on the cover? It’s not as though all women read nothing but stories about sexual tension and romantic entanglements. Nothing I write could be further from this; for one thing, I have far too immature a sense of humor to write sexytime scenes.

Still, this seems like such a broad label to apply to works that can be so different in nature. At least I have Wikipedia to back me up on this one:

“These stories may have romance. Or they may not. They could be contemporary. Or historical. But what binds them together is the focus on a woman’s emotional journey.”

Contemporary fiction

Again, a genre I feel fits my work but is so vague it’s useless in classifying it. Any work of fiction that’s happening in contemporary times could be classified as “contemporary fiction,” even if it’s got a woman in a heaving bodice frenching a cyborg on the cover.

True or not, I don’t know that any reader ever sets out to pick out something with the contemporary fiction label on it.

Literary humor

My latest book is meant to be a humor work that riffs on the tropes people find at the gym, but it’s told through a literary lens with elevated prose. You know, fart jokes told by painfully introspective fuddy-duddies. Humor can be smart and raunchy at the same time, right?

But is this a genre that’s specific enough for readers, something they actually seek out? Will they stop reading if they’re not bursting at the seams with laughter after the first page?

Chick lit

If none of my female characters have their storylines driven by male love interests or shopping for designer clothes, can my work still be considered part of this genre? After all, my books do fit the bill according to our friend Wikipedia:

“Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.”

My problem with labeling my work this way is that I don’t see shoe shopping as a real issue of modern womanhood (although I do have a $10 credit at DSW burning a hole in my pocket).

 

Maybe I could just create my own hybrid genre label from a combination of all of these. Does Contempowomen’s Lithumor sound like something you’d go looking for in a bookstore?

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I have a fan club!

… and believe it or not, it’s not the first time.

My BFFF created a fan club for my authorisms on Facebook if you’re into joining the fun.

Interestingly enough, I once had a Facebook fan club way back in college. I have no idea how it started, but it became a thing and I eventually dissolved the group due to the fact that I no longer interacted with any of the people in it. This time, however, the fan club is run by someone other than myself, so it will actually be a legitimate fan club and shit.

Maybe there will even be a P.O. Box so you can send fANthrax mail.

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Novel Night at Malvern Books

Mark your calendars, Austin peeps! I’ll be making an appearance at Malvern Books for their June Novel Night event, reading from Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook and talking about my work. Come join in the fun and you can say you saw a rare appearance by the one and only Kelly I. Hitchcock (though not rare entirely by chance).

What: Novel Night at Malvern Books
Where: Malvern Books 613 W 29th St, Austin, TX 78705
When: June 11, 2015
Who: Myself and author Christopher Brown

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