Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, April 22, 2005

Buried by E-mail.

“I know what it's like having a full inbox; I've got nearly 1200 emails as it is!”

This quote comes from a recent E-mail I sent out to my mailing list, when I asked if there was anyone who wanted me to stop sending them my monthly writing-related updates. (Apparently, having a weekly blog doesn’t do the trick in summarizing everything going on in my writing life each month.) It pretty much clued these people in to why it takes me FOREVER to get back to them. It’s not so much that I got two small kids to take care of, a house to keep clean, a mother to help out and, oh, yeah, about a zillion books and articles to write; it’s also because I have SO MUCH FREAKING E-MAIL!!! (To any of my friends reading this: Please don’t take that outburst personally.)

Admittedly, it’s my own fault that I have so much E-mail. There are mainly two reasons why I let it build up: I am subscribed to SOO MANY writing newsletters (plus Shadowlands – but that’s moot since I write for them!) and I have a bad memory. And how does my bad memory fit in here? Some of my E-mails are about information I request for my monthly E-zine and I have to wait until the E-zine comes out to get back to them, thus leaving their E-mails in my inbox so that I don’t forget to do this, and also some are interview requests for deferred assignments (don’t get me started on how many I have lined up; I have to write them all down in a timeline just to remember them all). Some are also unanswered E-mails because I am unable to supply the requested information and/or I don’t really have the “right” thing to say yet – as in the case where an author I know excitedly informed me how she’d just had her book “accepted” by Publish America and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that PA takes ANYTHING thrown at them and that signing with them is a VERY. BAD. IDEA. She might as well be signing that contract with blood. That is my immediate response but I’m not going to tell HER that. I still have to figure out how to nicely (*cough, cough* naively) tell her “congratulations” without crushing her excitement, because I think that what PA will do to her and her book will hurt enough, as it is.

But I’ve figured out a method to tackling this beast. As much as I hate to do it, I HAVE to put off reading all those writing newsletters that I get (especially the ones from people I call my friends. Sorry, Frank, Peter, Christine and Carolyn!). Sure, I skim them (and usually almost always read their little editorial notes because that’s where you get their non-newsletter messages) but I don’t read all of them word for word. My time online is limited and I ALWAYS make sure I spend as much of it as I can securing/submitting work BEFORE taking the time to read extra, non-work-related stuff online (it’s been AGES since I’ve read my regular dose of The New York Times online – I DO love the L.A. Times, but the NYT has always been my main source for news). When I get a chance, though, I will open those newsletters up and read them.

First and foremost, though, anything pertinent to my writing assignments has to come first. Anything related to my regular work (Shadowlands and SIGNews) takes precedence. From there, I will tackle E-mails on freelancing; articles I’m submitting to sites and magazines as well as looking for new sites and zines to get published at. Of course I also put top priority to any E-mails from certain friends (since they make MY E-mails to them their top priority, too), but I’m doing this in addition to the work I have going on. Then I move into the MANY review requests I have for my TIPS book, as well as notes from other writers/editors/authors I hear from who saw a mention about me relating to an article I wrote, one of my books, or my E-zine. Then, finally, I tackle those newsletters, which almost all contain more writing opportunities and writing know-how.

It’s not a perfect system but it works. I don’t just feel guilty if I don’t do SOMETHING that would push my writing career forward every day; I feel TERRIBLE. Just like with being a writing parent, managing a full E-mail account is a matter of priorities. If I miss out on an opportunity because I didn’t get to an E-mail in time, I don’t let it bother me, because I know that I missed it mainly because I was busy working. I was being careful with what E-mails get replied to right away and which ones don’t. And I know that doing so doesn’t mean I’ll miss out on anything, it just means that I’m making sure that what needs to get done NOW gets done.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Top 7 Reasons Publishers Take So Long to Reply

Waiting. It's one of the banes of the writing life. THE WAITING!!! You wait while you try to FINISH something. You wait while you try to find a home for your work. Your friends wait for it to get published. But the worst waiting of all is when you have to wait and wait and wait and WAIT until you finally, miraculously get a response to your submission. You tear open that envelope or anxiously click on the E-mail and dance with rapture over your acceptance or scream, cry, gnash your teeth and pull your hair out over the rejection. I mean, you WAITED ALL THAT TIME just to be told, "No, thanks." Or, "Not for us." Or, "Get lost, hack. Don't write to me anymore."

I recently had an article accepted this week. And of course while I was delighted with this news, there was one thing: I'd forgotten which article it was I'd submitted! The editor refreshed my memory but this is just proof that sometimes it will take SO FREAKING LONG to get a reply that we forget just WHAT it was we'd sent in! This has happened before and sometimes I'll hear from someone after waiting MONTHS and I don't even remember why I contacted them in the first place.

This week included Day 120 since I'd submitted my novel to a publishing company. Today is Day 121. Yes, I'm counting. Actually, that came after reading the publishing company's response time is 90-120 days, so naturally I started rifling through the rest of my calendar pages to see when Day 120 would be. And I have been told that they are still considering the manuscript and that sometimes it takes longer than 120 days to reply. More WAITING. Ack!

I have heard before that the wait really shouldn't be so long. I mean, according to this thinking, if they love it and want it, they will know right away. They will know after reading the very first sentence. Or was it the first page? Can't remember that exact quote but I do know it talked about how editors KNOW from the start if they're going to accept a book or not. And now here we are, at Day 121. I know my book is long, but, c'mon! This. Cannot. Be. Good.

OK, I know. I have to be optimistic. I have to think POSITIVELY. And, YES, to any authors reading this, I am working on other books and projects. I've got my eye on other things, but the other eye is ALWAYS on this one. At least until I finally hear back whether or not they've accepted it.

So, to pass the time away, I have created a short list of the 7 reasons why publishers take so long to respond to submissions. This is only written in fun, mind you. It is NOT intended to whine, complain or to imply that these reasons are the REAL reasons why editors take so long. It's all just meant in fun:

7 Reasons Publishing Houses Take so Long to Reply to Submissions

1. The mail carrier did a song and dance skit and got thrown out before he had a chance to deliver your manuscript. (They’re not letting him back in, either.)
2. The envelope plays the song “hugs are good, thugs are bad” so now NOBODY wants to open it.
3. The very first sentence on the very first page shocked them by your brilliance and they’re too euphoric to come back to earth and read the rest.
4. The e-mail server they receive manuscripts at is Hotmail.
5. Or AOL.
6. A crazy intern thought it would be “funny” if he switched all of the unread manuscripts on the editor’s desk with his own unedited and unread trunk books.
7. Because the submitting author has a Web site that includes, among other things, “anyone rejecting my work shall face the wrath of the Unholy Purple Dogman!” and they’re still trying to get someone to draw the final straw.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Downtime, Part 2

I have one thing to say to all writers out there coping with personal trauma and debating whether or not to take some time off: Do it. Now.

I can’t tell you what “taking time off” from writing work has done for me!!! I feel so invigorated and rejuvenated. Sure my writing brain kept working (which means I’ve got some mags to query next week), but for the most part, I devoted my downtime to turning inward. I wrote a journal (and my hand got ink all over it when the pen leaked – yuck!), read this GREAT BOOK that really helped me sort through my problems (a book I’m also writing a GLOWING review for) and spent more time playing outside, getting out of the house and sleeping in than I did working on the computer. I HATE being chained to the computer (one of the reasons why I decided to quit freelancing for money) so of course I gave myself permission to ignore it. Sometimes I was online to answer E-mail and of course I used the computer for Internet relay calls (I use IP RELAY, a free relay service for the deaf and hard of hearing. I LOVE it so much – what’s not to love about free long distance calls?? – I’m ready to say goodbye to my TTY and phone bill). I also spent the week rearranging my house (getting rid of furniture that has been cluttering up the place and also extra junk lying around) and taking EVERYTHING out of storage that I was saving for “someday” to put up and use NOW. If anything, I have learned that “someday is TODAY.” The house sure does look different but, you know what? So are the people living here. Some friends have also pulled through for me, lending an ear and some really great advice to help me figure out just how I’m going to “rebuild” myself after all of this. It certainly has given me a new perspective and outlook. I am happy to report that I do indeed feel like a brand new person.

All of this has given me a new sense of empowerment and direction. I have finally pulled myself back up by my bootstraps to go out there and get what I want. I’m not afraid to be who I am anymore, or even to live the life I want to live. Nobody in this world has the right to take that from me and I’m still shocked that I actually used to think anyone had the right to.

But wouldn’t you know it? The same day I’m ready to get back into the game, I end up getting sick. Besides sneezing my head off, dealing with a stuffy nose and sitting on the couch zoned out like a zombie thanks to Aleve Cold & Sinus, I’ve also got watery eyes, body aches and a mild fever. Oh, well. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

I just found out I have a Skyline E-Magazine to proof before Sunday. Good thing it won’t be a print mag I’ll be sneezing over this weekend.