Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Titular Journal

Following up on my May 20th post, I've started submitting a few things to Internet Literary Journals. Last week I had my first acceptance, a piece called "The Mosquito Coast," which has been published on Titular. Titular is a site dedicated to publishing works that take their titles from movies, novels, and TV shows. It might seem like a strange premise, but it's resulted in some pretty intriguing stuff (check out Blake Butler's piece, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me").

My experience with Titular brings to mind two more benefits offered by online journals. The first benefit is incredibly quick response times. I submitted "The Mosquito Coast" to Titular by email at 10 o'clock at night. When I checked my email the next afternoon, there was an acceptance letter in my inbox. For a literary journal in general, such a response time is astounding. For a print based journal, with the traditional postal submission process, such a response time is impossible. The fastest acceptance I've had for a mailed submission to a print journal was around three weeks (for my short-short "grace" which appeared in Quick Fiction #9). The slowest acceptance I've ever had, for my short memoir "Jumper at the Hyatt" which appeared in Instant City #5, took eight months. The average acceptance would be closer to 10 weeks. When you take account of the fact that most stories are rejected multiple times before finding a home, every week of waiting compounds the total lag from writing to publication. You often end up with a story hitting print years after it was originally written.

The second benefit I've thought of, after this acceptance, relates to the greater possibilities in story types that online journals can offer. The Mosquito Coast is a story that probably wouldn't be suitable for very many journals. It's a straight-forward, un-funny, gimmick-free account of a man hunting and killing a mosquito. The subject matter is modest, the scope brief. The value in the story lies, as I see it, in the clarity and honesty of the prose, and in how that prose serves the subject (in my mind, even a story as simple as a man killing a mosquito can be interesting when written well). I think it's a good story, a nice story, but I can't imagine that many print journals would consider it. When every page is costing money, the editor is compelled to look for stories that make more noise, that have a more dramatic emotional impact. That's why we end up with so many "epiphany" stories--it's the emotional equivalent of the dynamite blast.

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