Friday, 2 May 2008

A Bunch Of Reasons I Have Trouble Getting Published

My fellow bloggers Merry and Angelique (who also posts on Breaking the Mirror) have tagged me for one of those Six Weird Things memes.

Now, I have been hesitating about posting another one of these weirdness memes. Not because I'm ashamed of being weird. No, I'm a woman who embraces her inner weirdness and greatly admires others who do, like my blogging pal Ello, who can make me laugh so hard I spill beverages on my keyboard. And it isn't because I don't have enough weird stuff to post, either; if anything, I'm spoiled for choices. No, my reasons for taking my time over this post are quite the contrary: This blog is already so much about me that even a self-absorbed person like myself has to take a step back and worry about overload.

So, because I'm really not quite as self-absorbed as I come off in this blog (almost, but still not quite), I want to do something a little different here. I have picked, at random, a number of blogs whose writers fill me with awe, and I've found some way to link them all to my own weird attributes. Some of these blogs you will be familiar with, some you may not. But I firmly believe that it is talent like this that has kept me from getting published. (See how deftly I manage to whip it around to me, me, me? That's a special skill for sure, but is it recognized? Is it rewarded?)

If you don't see your name here, by the way, that does NOT mean that I don't envy you and wish you'd stop writing so well. It means that I've got repetitive stress issues, and I don't want to bring down Blogger. I'm betting I'll be doing more of these weirdness posts -- if you've got it, flaunt it, right? -- and I'll get to you eventually,whether you like it or not.

1) I come from a fanatically cat-loving family. If anyone can top our highest number (21, one incredible summer), feel free and call me on this. Both of my parents brought home stray cats, as does the gifted and generous Kanani, even my father, who was allergic to cats, as is my dog-owning, cat-loving blogging pal Katie Alender, who has also written a YA novel that sounds terrific, as has Danette, who might or might not like cats, but is another fine writer. (Confusing paragraph, yes, but I had to pack a lot in there.)

Eventually we became known as the weird people who would take anybody's cats and people started dumping their spare cats at our house. We invariably took them in and fed them. We were rather poor, and my parents refused to take them to the veterinarian, so my sisters and I pooled our babysitting money and started getting them fixed. When we grew up and got boyfriends, the one question always asked was Does he like cats? Race, religion, occupation and intelligence were pretty much secondary issues, but a no answer to the cat question was unsupportable. Cat lovers with allergies were sorely pitied; Katie, I feel your pain.

2) I can eat just about anything as long as it isn't of animal origin, unlike my wonderful friend and fellow blogger Carolie, who is also a talented and creative cook who once ran her own restaurant, worked as a wardrobe master for the circus, and writes incredibly interesting posts and letters.

3) I am a Californian living in Scotland, raising kids who are a weird hybrid of cultures. Sam is my counterpart: a Scot living in California, raising kids who I'm guessing call her Mom. Sam has a huge following, which is well deserved. If she wrote a book, I would wait in line to buy it; the library is great, but you have to return the books you borrow and I wouldn't want to return hers. Her writing is so good and so utterly zany, it defies description. If you're a struggling writer hoping to publish, you'll be as sick with envy as I am every time I read her posts.

4) Since I'm a Californian living in Scotland, I'm obviously an expatriate, as are the marvelously talented Christine Eldin, Kim and Mr Gorilla Bananas (the only gorilla on my blogroll, to my knowledge), and the aforementioned Carolie and Sam. Actually, I suspect that Mr Bananas lives in the U.K., but I'm betting from his writing that he has been an expatriate. And besides, a gorilla living in the human world is arguably an expatriate wherever he goes. If you think you can write, please go and look at his blog -- not that he needs any more readers. Kim, who is the reason I started a blog in the first place, has a unique ability to suffer fools: he talked me through all the technical stuff, and we're talking serious foolishness here. He doesn't need any more readers either, but I am still honor-bound to direct you to his blog. Before I started reading blogs like these, I used to think I could write too. A former short-term expatriate and a depressingly confidence-tapping fine writer is Susan Sandmore, who can also find sharks' teeth and decide when she is going to give birth. Whoever says we only get one great gift in life ought to go read her blog; I reckon she's been given someone else's share. If she weren't so nice and amazingly generous with her spot-on critiques, I'd mind a lot more.

5) I grew up with rather old-fashioned, religious parents, as did Carole, a fellow hick who happens to write deeply moving, honest, and reflective posts. In fact, I come from a long line of religious fanatics, including lay preachers, missionaries, and random religious nutters, and I long to talk with Carole about this some day, if she manages to visit Scotland while we're still here. A background like ours pretty much shapes your life, like it or not, and I find that I readily bond with others who've had similar upbringings. My parents were also serious hoarders, like Kathie's parents. Until I found Kathie's blog, I assumed I was the only one who had parents like this. It is one thing to have hoarding parents, of course; it is quite another to be able to write about them with humor and compassion. Kathie's post about hoarding is so good that I go back to read it whenever I need a lift, and it never disappoints.

6) John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces is one of my favorite books, something I share with Kara, another fine writer. Not that I begrudge her. Not that I begrudge any of you; my only question is Why do there have to be so many of you?


Gorilla Bananas said...

You are too kind, Mary, but I'm certainly not one of those stopping you getting published. Were you only a celebrity, I have no doubt that your charming stories would be read by millions. The secret of getting published is first to get a job as a chat show host.

Charles Gramlich said...

Let's see, I can eat most anything, no matter the origin. I was also raised with religious parents, in fact I'd consider them very religious. I'm an ex-Arkansan living in Louisiana so to some Arkansan's that makes me an ex-pat.

Kim Ayres said...

Taking a quick look at your sitemeter stats, we now get roughly the same number of vistors daily.

Anyway, I don't suffer all fools, only those that smile a genuine smile at me - then they have a friend for life.

Carole said...

The reason you are not published is because editors are idiots. Or not in touch with what the average person enjoys reading. Or they are asleep at the wheel and aren't really reading your contributions.

And finally, the only other reason that you could possibly have trouble getting published is that you aren't sending anything out, which I don't think is the case.

Merry Monteleone said...

Now that was a wonderful take on an old meme standard... by the way, other writers have nothing to do with it - your stuff is superb, keep sending it out and you will eventually reach the right eyes.

Mary Witzl said...

GB -- I have been told before that if I were a celebrity I'd be a shoo-in. Maybe becoming a talk show host would do it. Or if that's too tough, I could be a Spice Girl; I've got a YA novel that I've been working on feverishly.

I know that none of you are stopping me from being published. But if there weren't so many good writers out there, I'm betting my chances would be very good.

Charles -- Yay -- more members of the Religious Parents Club, and I'm betting that Christine is one of us too. Did it rub off on you, and if so, was it in a good or a bad way? I do have cousins who were severely poisoned by Too Much Religion.

Kim -- Is that REALLY true? I've only just discovered the joys of my sitemeter. My favorite part is that world map thing: I feel such a geek playing with that, seeing all the little red dots light up when I've had comments from different countries.

Good thing I smiled at you!

Carole -- I suspect it is more: I don't have my finger on the pulse of the times, have not researched markets adequately, am stubborn about changing what I really should change (though lately I've been getting a lot better about that), and get mired down in rejection instead of going back out to resubmit. But you are sweet to write all those things and have thus confirmed what I wrote about you.

Merry -- Aw, I know you don't! And you can't help being great writers and aren't doing it deliberately to make me look bad. Though I reckon you could write just a little worse and make me look just a little better -- but never mind. (You do know I'm kidding, I hope? There are times I worry that people don't realize I'm kidding...)

Carolie said...

Now stop that right now. You're one of the best writers I know, and the only reason you know so many other good writers (and thank you for the kind compliment) is because WE are drawn to YOUR fine writing!

A good example of said fine writing can be seen in this particular post, where you are clever enough to tell us about yourself, while mentioning so many of us that we'll make a swell bundle of balloons with our swelled heads!

I do have to agree with Carole that editors are idiots. Can I be selfishly glad you aren't publishing, because it means you are posting stuff for me to read here, and not closeted away working on some piddly PAYING gig? Hee hee!

Kim Ayres said...

Yes it's really true - if you click on the sitemeter icon on the bottom of MY sidebar, you can see my stats.

I also think it might help you to get published if you look and act like you already have been. So, some time in the next few weeks invite me up with my camera and laptop and we'll get you sorted with your Author's Photo for the cover sleeve of your next best seller :)

Kanani said...

This is a really great post! I'm honored to be posted as a "cat lady" writer, and I have to admit --I'm allergic to cats! Well, dogs too and I have both.
I like your blog very much! I think the stories about Japan are fascinating and I really like your old California memories.

Ello said...

Hey I got first billing. That must make me fantastically special. Or fantastically weird! You know how much I love your stories. I really think you have got the makings of a great book with all your expat stories. Why not take a shot?

Mary Witzl said...

Carolie -- Before I started a blog and really learned what was out there in the way of writing, I thought I was a fine writer -- I really did. Now I am rather amazed by my self-indulgence. The good thing is, I really am getting better. I should, too: I have a past opinion of myself to live up to!

Quite honestly, the fact that so many good writers are kind enough to encourage and praise me is almost better than getting published.

Kim -- Ooh, I'll be working hard on myself before any photos! Too bad I can't afford botox and high quality plastic surgery plus one of those makeovers. Bring those things you can put on your lens to soften the focus and you've got a deal. What kind of soup shall I make?

Kanani -- The fact that you pick up strays, including that darling little kitten you have now, is just one thing I happened to remember about you. But no, you aren't a 'cat lady' writer; you are like me -- a writer who happens to be a cat lady. I come from a long line of cat people, so we may very well be related!

I like YOUR old California memories, by the way. I always get nostalgic for California on your blog.

Ello -- A couple of years ago, I belonged to a writing group who thought I ought to try and publish my stories about learning Japanese. I wrote up a memoir of sorts and sent it around, but the concensus was that no one much wanted to read about someone learning a language. I did try to make it weird -- (okay, I didn't really HAVE to try, but that's a good thing, isn't it?) I got some nice compliments. Everyone thought it was 'fun,' and one agent in the U.K. lamented my lack of fame. If I were a star, he could definitely have sold it. Or so he said.

Maybe I'll try again!

Kim Ayres said...

Carolie does have a bit of a point here. The fact is you link to, and attract, better writers, but you're making the mistake of thinking that these are representative of the entire writing world, when they are not.

A good exercise is to go up to that "Next Blog" button and keep clicking on it, as it sends you to random blogs.

Even ignoring all the blogs that are a) trying to sell you something, or b) are in a foreign language you will discover that good writing is extremely rare on the net.

Click 25 times and I think you will struggle to find a single one you would bother reading more than once. Click on 100 and I still think you'd struggle.

There is so much crap out there that when you do finally find someone who writes well and is engaging, you don't let them go.

You're a damn fine writer, Mary. without doubt I'd put you in my top 3 of all bloggers I've come across over the past 3 years.

Oh, and I'm pretty easy with soup so long as it doesn't contain blue cheese or too much green stuff :)

-eve- said...

An interesting post! I agree; gorilla rocks!
Heheh, yes, I don't dare even try to get published either... there ARE so many better writers outthere...

Charles Gramlich said...

I was pretty religious in my early life, then got completely away from it and was rather upset with how that upbringing tended to get in the way of the kind of questioning mind I needed for science. I've come around to an accomadation with it now, though, and I appreciate many of the good things such an upbringing gave me.

ORION said...

Self absorbed is one of my google alerts...
and honey
I KNEW self absorbed.
I went to school with him.
I served with him in congress.
And you are NO self absorbed...
I guess you had to be there...but as far as trouble getting published?
Well I keep ALL my rejections 70+
The key is NEVER stop...

Eryl Shields said...

Great post, I must get around to visiting some of the blogs you mention they sound great.

I also had a very religious upbringing which I'm glad of as it gave me something to kick against from a young age. I have extremely tough toes now.

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- It's true: I gravitate toward good writers even as I envy their work! I'm always amazed and delighted when people whose work I admire visit my blog and link back to me. But linking only to poorly written blogs might be easier on my ego.

When I first saw the short story you wrote -- about the man who was convinced it was his job to keep the world alive by believing -- I was utterly devastated. In all honesty, some of the stories that were ultimately judged the winners were the ones that made me think I had a chance. We clearly like each other's writing if you can say that about my blog -- thank you!

Eve -- I lurked on Mr Bananas site for an age before I worked up the nerve to post a comment. Some of his other commenters are no slouches in the writing department themselves, and I worried that I would not fit in. I loved that comment you wrote about the Muslim cleric's facial hair...

Charles -- While I feel pretty much the same way myself, I also agree with what Eryl says: learning about religion is useful whether you want to pursue a spiritual life or argue against the existence of a divine creator. I hated having to go to church when I was young, but I am glad I did now. I learned some wonderful lessons that have stood me in good stead.

Pat -- Thank you for commenting on my blog!

I worry that I really AM self- absorbed, only canny enough to openly confess to it, thus making myself look less obnoxious. Weird logic, but there it is.

It always amazes and humbles me to remember that even successfully published writers had to start somewhere and have themselves received rejections. I'll keep plugging away!

Eryl -- I only listed about half of the good blogs whose writers comment on my blog or link to it. Whatever Kim says -- and I know that there are some less well-written blogs out there -- there are an awful lot of excellent ones. They're wonderfully fun to read even if they do make me feel envious.

Kappa no He said...

Oooo, so many new places to visit! Also, I looove _A Confederacy of Dunces_. And ditto on all the great writers out there.

kathie said...

Hey Mary you are the greatest weirdo I know! Hey, I'm trying to free up your comments on my blog--the akismet thing claims to have blocked millions of spam from my blog, yet tons still gets through and your comments don't!!! Ugh, my site redo will be done this week and hopefully that solves our problems.

Angela said...

You're day will come, Mary--keep on trucking! *pets one of Mary's cats*

The Quoibler said...

This was a marvelous post, Mary! I have to visit some of these blogging gurus!


Mary Witzl said...

Kappa -- Yay, another Confederacy of Dunces fan!

When I first met my husband, he asked me what books I liked. I listed a dozen and he winced at all of them, and none of the ones he mentioned appealed to me either. Then I happened to remember Confederacy and finally we had a book in common.

Kathie -- Me, a great weirdo? I am so proud!

Don't worry about the comment thing -- it isn't you! I can't leave comments on any of the WordPress blogs. I think they have a spam filter that is a little too effective.

Angela -- Thank you -- (sniff!) The nice thing about my cat is that she thinks I'm great no matter whether my writing is going well or not. No wonder so many of us writers have cats and dogs.

Angelique -- Thanks!

I still can't manage to leave a post on Breaking the Mirror! Were you able to find my comment in the spam filter?

Kara said...


don't worry, i'm not trying to get published so we can be friends instead of adversaries.

Mary Witzl said...

Yes, Kara, but you won't tone it down, will you? You'll still keep writing as well just like everyone else. In fact, if you write this well now, what will you be like when you're my age? It doesn't bear thinking about. I suspect it runs in your family.

Danette Haworth said...

Mary, I'm so behind! Thank you for including me in the honor roll of writers.

When I come to your blog, I feel like I'm visiting my own past, the feelings are so familiar (and well put) and the atmosphere is warm.

Every one of your posts is a short story. If I had an award, I'd give it to you.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Holy mackerel, Mary! You are much, much too kind. I've just seen this - my site is supposed to pick up links to me but doesn't any more for some reason.

I am envious of your writing and style because you write to such beautiful purpose and effect . You take your skill and make a point with it, elegantly, thoughtfully and succinctly. It's top-notch craftmanship and I often retire from your site feeling as I've just experienced an exquisite Japanese tea-ceremony and wishing my writing had more of a point to it.

Long may you blog, Mary. You have a real talent and a compelling voice. Long may you blog and soon may you be published.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Incidentally, I think I figured out why my spam filter might be catching you all the time. It could be the "sell" in your email address. Have you been having luck with any other wordpress sites?

Mary Witzl said...

Danette -- Aw, thank you! Your book cover looks superb and I can tell your book will be too, by the way you write. And you can bet I'm going to be sticking Violet Raines on the front of the shelf in every book store I go into. This is one of the cool things about knowing authors -- being able to subtly participate in product placement!

Sam -- Every time I read one of your posts, I am just overwhelmed by your inventive mind and wonderful ways with words -- the sheer craft of it. The point of your writing is to entertain, to enlighten and inspire. And you are marvelous at lampooning Californians and all our silly ways. Yes, I know: it can be like shooting fish in a barrel, but not everyone can do it right, with empathy and gentle humor. You've got that in spades. You write like Dickens, but the difference is that I don't want to read Dickens.

You may have a point about that 'sell' -- I'll check it out. I am able to post on only ONE WordPress blog -- Debra's. Perhaps I'm Witzl on that one and just didn't realize it. I'll see if I can change my name on the other blogs. It's been driving me wild that I can't post on yours!

Kanani said...

I must admit, I almost brought a cat home yesterday. I'm now seeing adopted animals as the perfect foil from getting any writing done. By the way, another goldfish died today. I suppose I will get a new one, then fiddle about with the tank.

Oh, you will get published. In due time... it will happen! You've got so much good material and pieces already done. Yes, it'll happen!

Mary Witzl said...

(Sniff) Thanks, Kanani. We almost picked up another cat a while back and now I'm glad we didn't: we will have to leave ours behind. I feel like crying every day, just thinking about it. She is one of the finest cats I've ever had and so happy here with us.

I think I'll have to settle with being published posthumously. But hey, that's better than nothing!