June 24, 2013


Somewhere around thirty years ago, I met Bruce Bethke for the first time – when I responded to an ad in a newspaper for a science fiction writers group seeking new members. I called, then sent in an “audition story” and was invited to join the group at the ORIGINAL, original Loft Literary Center (before grant money started flowing) in Minneapolis. One of THEM reviews books now, the other published a few books and short stories but no longer writes. Bruce doesn’t write much lately except for non-fiction; he is currently executive editor of STUPEFYING STORIES, an irregular anthology of new speculative fiction, he mostly works for a super computer company as well as presiding over Rampant Loon Press. These nuggets of wisdom can be found here: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/a-12-step-program-for-writers/. They are used with the author’s permission.
11.We have sought through prayer and the Internet to improve our conscious contact with Our New Editor, praying that she will stay with the publisher long enough to get our latest book out the door.

Of course, this implies that I had an OLD editor.
Given that, I can relate one experience in which the editor I worked with changed and I had to re-establish a new relationship with a new editor.
In 1995, I wrote and sent a story called, “Mystery on Space Station Courage” to HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN magazine. It was written specifically for a call they’d posted for “science fiction for children”.
They didn’t want it.
I sent it to CRICKET MAGAZINE, whose editor was Deborah Vetter at that time. She saw something in and after working with me for several weeks, accepted the story and published in 1997.
Fast forward to October 2011. Minnesota SCBWI holds its annual Conference at the beautiful campus of Metropolitan State University where we listen to a number of speakers – one of whom is Lonnie Plecha, most recent editor of CRICKET MAGAZINE. After listening to him, I craft and send a science fiction story for children (which they still apparently seek!) called, “The Penguin Whisperer” which combines not ONLY Space Station Courage, but also a recently discovered phenomenon called colloidal jamming in which penguins move constantly through the flock from one edge to the other and back in order to keep warm during very cold periods.
He accepted the story with relatively few changes and while I didn’t experience shepherding a story from one editor to another, I DID experience a shift from one editor to another. I am hoping to do the same with Trevor Qachri at ANALOG. He recently assumed the helm from long time editor Stanley Schmidt who retired. I’ve only sent two stories there since the change-over, but I have a third that is there presently. We’ll see if my writing matches the direction that Trevor Qachri will be taking ANALOG in the future!
I can possibly see this in my relationship with my agent, Karen Grenchik of Red Fox Literary. I do NOT want to bother her, but I definitely want to keep in touch. I recently became discouraged with the lack of positive response from editors who have seen the manuscript, VICTORY OF FISTS. I emailed Karen and asked if it was time to pull it down and give up.
She (sort of) laughed and said, “...please don’t give up hope on VOF.  I just sold a middle grade novel for an older man who’s been writing daily for 20 years.  He quit submitting ten years ago when he received his 300th rejection.  I will keep trying to find the right home for Victory.”
I love her for that (as much as you can  love a person you’ve never even met!) and I have some decently shaped hope as a result of that brief message.
How MUCH does this relate to Bruce’s 11th Step? Not so much, but it certainly got me to thinking about exactly what it takes to stay in the writing business. As several people have pointed out – including Bruce and Kristine Kathryn Rusch – this is, after all, a business. And while it certainly involves ART & CRAFT, it is really more about keeping your product on the market, watching market trends, and then trying to tweak your product to meet the needs of the market.

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