The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friends Don't Let Friends Publish Acclaimless


I was shocked when my first story was published and not one of my friends bought a copy of the issue of “This Magazine” that it appeared in. I think if I was in a play or performing in club they would have come. I know they would. I’ve performed in plays and played piano in clubs and friends do come out. It’s an event! They put it on their calendar and they come and they drink and chat. There’s something bellsless and whistleless about publishing I guess. It’s not dramatic. The magazine sits on the stand and you can pick it up at any time, so you don’t. You go by yourself to a newsstand, so you don’t. You can’t order a beer at a bookstore but you can have a coffee with your purchased item, so you don’t. I know. I’ve learned by now that nobody I love will pick up a copy and read my stories. I’ve had four and nothing’s changed.

For me, the writer, getting that first story published was one of the most dramatic moments of my life. I was so excited! The amount of work it represented, time-wise and emotion-wise was so intense. The vote of confidence that it represented towards something that was so close to my heart was so affirming. The lack of congratulatory fanfare seemed even more striking. Like I’d done a full Busby Berkley routine in the mall, with orchestra and dancing girls, and no one had given it a glance.

My latest work is a novella I’ve been working on for almost two decades. The original story about my sister’s first period was the first thing I ever wrote. I was in university. Material has gathered around this event (not a true story—I know absolutely nothing about my actual sister’s actual first period—I assume she’s had one—we are both in our forties now) from all aspects of my existence. Autobiographical bits, things I’ve imagined, things I’ve heard friends talk about, things I’ve stolen—sorry, homage-ed—from other works of art, things that have grown up organically between the bits. And now it’s this massive thing. The care I’ve lauded over one particular sentence is almost embarrassing.

And now, it’s out. Will you pick up a copy? The Malahat Review, Summer 2008, No. 163! I’ll be your friend.

16 Comments:

Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I'm on the case, Andrew! Never fear. How sad about your first story. I read you in The New Quarterly. Does that help?

Fri Jul 25, 02:18:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Hi Tricia, yes, that helps!

Fri Jul 25, 04:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Kat said...

I bought the copy of THIS Magazine that had your award winning story in it, and that's when I first fell in love with your writing. I still have it, believing that it will one day be worth a ton of money. Um, maybe I should get you to sign my copy now, before the explosion of accolades triggers in you some kind of amnesia for all persons not in the literary elite? Hug.

Fri Jul 25, 04:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Oh! Kat! That's so great to hear. I think an overly pessimistic frame of mind has clouded over my thinking. It's so good to know somebody bought a copy, and even better to know it's somebody who's a good writer herself.

I think writer friends are more likely to support each other. Relatives and work colleagues though...

Fri Jul 25, 04:55:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Re your response to Kat about relatives and work colleagues, poet and teacher Susan Stenson related a great story earlier this week during her talk/reading at the Victoria School of Writing. When she was first sending work out, she was very excited to get an acceptance from Grain magazine. So, she called her mother to say "I got two poems accepted in Grain," and her mother said, "That's great, Suze! I got two bras on sale at Zeller's."

Fri Jul 25, 05:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Poems in Grain; bras at Zellers, eh?

People often ask me how much I "make" when I sell a story. I wonder if Susan Stenson "made" enough from her two poems to buy two bras?

I've made $0, $120, $200, $240, $1500, for my published works. So that averages $412. So I could probably almost buy a suit for each. Actually that seems pretty wonderful today.

Fri Jul 25, 09:26:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

I don't get out to the bookstore often and always look for the magazines CWC members appear in, but the bookstores here seem to lack any sophisication -- stacks of People, The Star, Consumer Reports... you get the picture.

I have to write this down, put it in my purse and remember to search for a copy.

Fri Jul 25, 10:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

That's funny, Andrew. I made about $15 in royalties for The Space Between since it came out a year ago, and you were kind enough to buy a copy. I'm forever grateful, but sad that you couldn't finish it.

Bad Ice is out, but only in e-format, so I'm not blowing the trumpets yet since my family only buys in print.

Fri Jul 25, 10:18:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Hi, Chumplet, I loved the first few chapters of the Space Between. I've never downloaded an e-book before and I don't think I'll do it again. I like to read a book lying in bed or on the couch, wiggling, readjusting the whole time, sipping my coffee/tea/wine (depending on what time of day I'm reading). Real books are just so much more portable and readable. Did you say "The Space Between" was out in print? I'll get one so that I finish it.

Sat Jul 26, 03:42:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

Hi Andrew, I've come to realize that I do this writing thing for me, and me alone--as your blog so aptly illustrates.

When I get published in a glossy I'm gonna buy the copies and give them out. Why the hell not? I just want people to read my articles, whether they like them is not important to me.

People that really love and care about me will read them anyway and as I get older I realize that I'm not interested in other people's opinions. This journey is mine and mine alone.

It's actually quite freeing that way. I don't bother with all that outside noise. And I've even found myself telling people (when they offer unsolicited advice) that I didn't ask for their advice anyway!

Sun Jul 27, 09:18:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tania Hershman said...

Andrew - that's so interesting, it's something I have been thinking a lot about lately. A "good" friend of mine, when asked at a recent dinner party, in front of me, if she had read any of my stories - which only require her to pop to my website and click - said simply "No.". Not "No, but I can't believe I haven't get..." or "No, but I've been meaning to." Just "no." I have to say that I am reconsidering whether she really is a good friend. Yes, I write for me, but when we get a story published, it's out there to be read. And I really feel that my writing is me, and if you want to be my friend, you should at least make an attempt to read something of mine! Sorry I haven't read your stories, Andrew, where can I find them?

Sun Jul 27, 10:28:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Hi Tania, I publish mostly in print- Canadian Literary Journals. But I do have two little flashes up at Smokelong Quarterly and an essay up at Frigg!

Mon Jul 28, 12:36:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Hi, Jacqueline, I like your attitude! Mostly I feel the same way, and then everyonceinawhile I get a desire for something- like you toss your voice into the canyon and wait for the echo. And wait. And it would just feel nice to get that echo back, something resounding in your real life that says what matters to me matters to my loved ones as well- that I'm in my tribe or something... it's a primate thing...

Mon Jul 28, 12:39:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

I know what you mean, Andrew.

We all want to be heard, that's why we write. I think I spent most of my life not being heard and I've cultivated a pretty thick skin.

Saying that I do know however that people who truly love me and want to know me will read my work. But I don't expect perfection. They don't have to read absolutely everything or like it even. But for me being able to talk about it to my loved ones is the most important thing of all.

Mon Jul 28, 03:32:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I'm visiting my mom. In the car ride from the bus stop, she mentioned not having gotten to the bookstore to pick up a copy of The Malahat Review with my novella in it yet. I said, "yeah, nobody has" in my sour adolescent way. (I turn into a teenager ten seconds into the company of my mother, unless I consciously fight it!) Instead of saying, "Well, let's head right there!" or "What! That's outrageous!" She pats me on the leg and says, "well, as long as you're happy, honey, you have to do these things for yourself." I thought, "Do I? Damn! I really do want somebody to notice. Is that shallow?"

Wed Aug 13, 10:08:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

How do you know no one has? Do you have hidden cameras in every bookstore?

Thu Aug 14, 11:24:00 pm GMT-4  

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