does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Auditions and Resilience

Last I checked, I am not an actor. But I feel like one auditioning for a role whenever I submit a short story to a review or a query letter to an agent. There must be common ground here—the hope at submission, the exhilaration of acceptance, the plummet at rejection. That’s not even mentioning how stacked the odds are against admission to the club. Honestly, I have to acknowledge the courage of actors who do this in person. If I had to do that, I might never submit my work.

But submit I do. You should see the size of my Excel worksheet which tracks the history of my submissions over the years. It ain’t small, let’s just say. It might never have reached that size, though, if along the way I had not received acknowledgement that my writing has merit. Twelve of my stories have been published. Two of my novels, though not published, received recognition. Cruel carrot or not, this whets my willingness to keep going.

It may sound cheesy, but I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on something imbued with possibility. It makes other more intractable issues in my life appear less overwhelming. So, in the last two months, I have sent out thirteen stories to roughly sixty literary reviews. I started crafting my query letter and synopsis for my latest completed novel. To date, three of my stories have been accepted for publication. Hope reigns strong that the other stories and my novel will find homes, too.

Here is what I also know about this writing thing. I can’t not write. Writing feels as essential to me as breathing. As for getting my work out into the public arena, I follow the intention of a poem I once wrote.

One thing I do know.
Giving up beforehand means
guaranteed defeat.

So the stories, novels, and poems will continue to emerge from my production line. Their fate in the vast distribution channel of publishing is another thing altogether.


Brent Robison said...

Judith, I respect your productivity. And I know the feeling of looking at that big spreadsheet, and with every rejection, just taking a breath, adding another line, and sending the story out again. I think that's the right thing to do with literary short stories: get them published in little magazines first.

But I'm curious about your older novels... why not take more personal control over those works that are clearly of value to some readers but just haven't been deemed commercial enough for the big noisy business of traditional publishing? These days it's so easy to bring one's art directly to one's audience, no gatekeepers required.

I chose to self-publish after a year or so of numerous submissions and finally an offered contract that was simply too abusive to accept. It's not an easy road, but I don't regret it. I'm proud of my book, and I doubt that even if I had been published traditionally I would have had any easier of a time getting readers for a collection of rather quiet literary short stories.

Anyway, let me know if your thoughts turn to independently publishing those older books. I can give you lots of pointers.

Meanwhile, best of luck with the submissions of the newer stuff. Stay resilient!

Unknown said...


I'm with Brent on this one. I've been reading a lot of independently published novels lately and I've come upon some real gems. I just finished The Skin of Water by G.S. Johnston which was excellent. Also, Elle Lapraim's short stories have really impressed me. Indie no longer means not good enough.

Judith Mercado said...

Brent and Patricia, I'm actually with you on this one too. It's a matter of timing and feeling that the personal moment is right. Indeed, my kind of work may never be considered viable in the traditional publishing options. So it behooves me to explore nontraditional paths. I have done extensive research on how to take the self-pub option, but again I have to feel inside -- and that has not happened yet -- that this is the right way for me to go. Your testimonies encourage me to continue considering that option as a viable one. I thank you for your input. You will know my decision because I will post it on my blog. Thanks for being in my corner.

Nevine Sultan said...

I've always believed, in my heart, that it's not the "getting published" that truly counts, but the writing. That having been said, getting our stories out to a broader audience is always a special treat . . . but not if it means we have to compromise just for the sake of pleasing the editors. So then, we just keep writing, and the fate is the fate is the fate. There is nothing more beautiful than the feeling of warmth that washes over me when I know I have completed a job well done . . . published or not!


Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Congratulations Judith - good to see that your perseverance has paid off! Great to see that your short story THE BARCELONA CHAIRS has been chosen for the new anthology to be brought out by The Literary lab in March! WELL DONE!

Judy, South Africa

Judith Mercado said...

Nevine, thanks. You certainly give me enormous pleasure with the poems you post on your blog.

Judith Mercado said...

Judy, Congratulations again on your win. I am so pleased I can be in your company in the anthology.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Congratulations on the good news at the Literary Lab!!! I can't wait to read your story.

A Cuban In London said...

What can we do about rejection but continue to write? I'm with Nevine. An author (established or not) writes because he/she has to. Other wise they'll go crazy.

We all carry stories inside us. Some have the gift of making those stories, no matter how personal they might be, universal and calling to a part of us that identifies us as a fellow human. Regardless of financial success (and that's also necessary, I won't deny it), what truly matters is the content.

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Yvonne, Congratulations to you too. I also can't wait to read your story.

Judith Mercado said...

Cuban, wouldn't it be great if one could combine content and also provide a livelihood? But, you're right, content rules. I love what you said about how we all carry stories. It's great that there are so many different options for releasing those stories. Mine just happens to be the written word. If I were a singer, I'd sing them.