Finished Hegel, moved on to Adam Smith

Hello friends! After something like five months, I’m finally finished with my Hegel reading. Most of that time consisted of my reading of the Greater Logic, which is 770 pages long. I really wanted to understand Hegel’s system and how it worked. But it also took about a month each to read Philosophy of Right and Phenomenology of Spirit.

Finally, late in the game, while reading Philosophy of Right, I understood Hegel. He is a mystic. He thinks that everything is governed by a Spirit that is trying to know itself. Thus, his method, which he calls a science, although it seems like intuition and speculation to us, is to him actually the Spirit attempting to know himself.

This is why he is so focused, too, on historicism and collective wisdom. Any one person can be led astray or confused, but in the working out of ideas at a historical level, he sees an inevitability–these ideas needed to progress in these ways.

That’s why it’s so hard to find a method in Hegel–it’s all post-facto analysis. You can attempt to use Hegel to reach forward and say “This is what is going to happen”, but there is no particular reason to think you might actually be right. Hegel himself distinguishes, in most cases, between the formal properties of a thing and its “determinate content”. The formal properties are the things that are definitionally true about it. Like, mankind will inevitably be torn between the fact that it wants its morality to both be self-determined (i.e. willed for its own sake) and that it wants a rational basis for that morality (i.e. a basis that comes from outside himself). That’s the formal property of modern ethics. But that tells you nothing about what that ethics will actually require. For that determinate content, he says, you have to look to history and society, which will go through many different determinations, over time, as the spirit works out greater and greater amounts of the truth.

What people also don’t necessarily understand about Hegel is that for him, this process was done. He had figured it all out. He understood everything. Prussia was the culmination of the Spirit, everything was finished, done, over. So there was really no need to project forward. Indeed, he says at one point that philosophy is just a process of catching up and codifying what the Spirit has already done on its own account.

So, basically Hegel is completely useless. But you already knew that! Still, it provides an interesting model for how to think about the formation of ideas. It’s interesting to think about how ideas have a natural negative, and that they grapple with this negative, until you eventually learn to hold both the positive and negative together at the same time (not a synthesis, as some would put it, but a truth that encompasses both in their distinct particularity).

I am into it!

Now I was going to read Marx, but I decided that I ought first to read Adam Smith, so I could understand the state of economics. Like, Hegel provides the polito-philosophical side of Marx, but the other side was classical economics. I am theoretically familiar with this, because I was an Econ major in college, and my business cards when I worked full-time said “Economist”. But I am very impressed with Adam Smith. The thing about being an Econ major is you never read actual books. Not even textbooks! Instead they give you these expensive course readers, and you read those (or if you’re me you just read the powerpoints the professor uploads to the course website).

So I hadn’t seen how these ideas got worked out in their original form. There is a lot to be said for Smith’s style of argumentation. He definitely understands how things should be proved in economics. He makes a hypothesis, then demonstrates it, using certain relationships. He doesn’t mess around with correlations and R values and charts, he explains things in words. So for instance, he says that if money works in this particular way, we would expect a bank that operates in this particular way to fail for this particular reason, and indeed that is what we see.

He also has very definite ideas about what constitutes the wealth of a nation (literally what the whole book is about). The wealth of a nation is the goods it produces, and its method for distributing those goods. He does not count services in this. In his mind, people buy services as a luxury out of the profit they get from creating goods. And there is a certain logic to this. His definition of capital is also admirably exact. It’s the money you use to make money. So a shopkeeper’s capital is his stock. He has money invested in his stock at any moment. A farmer’s capital is the value they’ve invested in improving their land. A manufacturer’s capital is their stock and their machines and the money they pay their workers. It’s all very simple in a way that it’s actually not when you learn it in econ class, after people have muddied everything up so thoroughly.

I think he also gets to the crux of the matter, which is, how can we have a wealthy and prosperous nation? For him, the core of a nation’s productivity is its capital. The only way for it to become richer is to for it to save up money and invest in itself.

This also made me reflect that, you know, this is what separates the middle-class from the working-class. The middle-class is running a small business. It invests in its own education, and it invests in housing. Of course, the way our economy has involved, this has become a generational process: parents pay for their kids education and their kids houses, so there’s really no way for a working-class person to break in. But still, it made me see that the middle-class truly is involved in the process of building capital in a way that I hadn’t necessarily understood.

Very, very useful. Not certain whether I’ll read Malthus and Ricardo when I’m done or will jump right into Marx. But Wealth of Nations is very long, so might take a while. On the other hand, it’s not total nonsense, so it’ll probably take less than six months. It also makes me wonder what in the world they were putting in the water in Scotland back in the 18th century. I mean, for this tiny nation of a million people to produce an Adam Smith and a David Hume in the same generation seems nuts–easily on par with Classical Athens producing a Plato and an Aristotle, but there were also a bunch of other extremely influential Scottish doctors and scientists at the time.

In the 18th Century, men were men, and men wore turbans

What I’m working on these days

Hey there friends. I did that thing where when you’re on book deadline you don’t update your blog anymore. I’m okay with it!

Anyway now that I am not on deadline anymore, I am trying to do things that are energizing and are good for me and all that junk. My first step was accepting that I do most of my reading in audio. That’s just where I am right now. I spend A LOT of time ignoring Leni and waiting for her to go to sleep, and that’s audiobook time. The bulk of my textual reading this year has been reading friend’s books on the kindle and reading Hegel’s Logic. Right now I’m trying to read Philosophy of the Right. It’s slow going, but I’m hanging in there. After this I want to move on to Marx. Anyway, I’m meeting myself where I am at.

Am also trying to prioritize my health the way I prioritize my writing. I don’t want to be 50-60-70 and feel like the window has passed for me to improve my achy joints and lower back.

In terms of writing projects, I’m working on a proposal for a nonfiction book of literary criticism about the canon. An editor contacted me after reading my essays in LARB and wondered if I could expand some of those ideas into a book. I feel laughably unqualified to write about the canon, but also…not a lot of professors have the kind of broad base of reading you’d need to write the specific book I’m envisioning, and very few books about the Canon (which in my case includes some Eastern books that’ve come out in good English translations, but obviously is mostly tilted toward the Western Canon) have come out from people of color. So maybe it’ll be a good contribution to the field. I hope that I get to write it! My mom said “That book would be tenurable!” But thank God I’m not a professor and don’t need to worry about that.

Also working on a sci-fi novel. But that’s something I’ve said numerous times before, and it’s never quite worked out. Maybe this time it will though!

And…that’s what I’m doing. The end.

My relationship to bias against trans people in the publishing industry

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my ‘career’ (so to speak) as a trans writer for teens, which (oddly enough) now includes being one of the enemies du jour for a substantial part of the country!

Personally, it doesn’t bother me that much. I don’t lose sleep over it. If I got harassment or felt unsafe, I’m sure that would change. All the consequences are professional. There’s a huge appetite for trans narratives now, but I think they’re also risky, and that more marginal or nuanced perspectives like mine are just not what the country feels like it needs. That’s even aside from the risks of a book being banned by the right or cancelled by the left (or, as in a few cases, cancelled by right-wing trolls who pick out seemingly-offensive passages and use them to get the left riled up)

I see being trans the same way I see being a woman or being brown: it’s a definite professional liability, and it probably makes publication and acclaim harder to come by, but it also makes the work more meaningful. In a way, it’s kind of a privilege to be able to write about things that people care about, to say stuff that they might not’ve heard before, and to have a perspective that’s valuable. Which is to say, if it wasn’t harder for me to succeed, the would be less worth doing. I do think that if you want to produce something valuable, it’s always going to be more difficult, precisely because what is valuable is rarer, less-understood, and doesn’t have the same immediately-intuitive appeal.

But the fact is, I don’t rely on writing to pay the bills. That is the X factor. Other writers could disagree, but personally I think racism and prejudice are a lot easier to bear when your life and livelihood aren’t under threat. As I wrote earlier this year, if I never wrote another book, my family wouldn’t starve. That’s not true for most trans writers. There are a lot of people out there who need writing to work if they’re going to survive and have a good life. And these people just want to write. They just want to do the thing they’re meant to do. And if they were white, cis, straight, etc, they would have a much better chance of succeeding in this profession! It’s really sad! People come to me looking for reassurance, and I’m like…I don’t know what to say. It doesn’t always happen. It doesn’t always come together. People don’t always sell books. And that’s an injustice. It’s not the world’s worst injustice, but it’s hard when you see it happening to people who really do deserve better, and you know it’s happening because the industry just isn’t good to those with an outside perspective.

But speaking purely for myself, I’m fine. It’s not an ideal world, but I’ve made my peace with it, and I’m able to keep working and, basically, to just not think very much about that sort of discrimination.

I was remarking to Rachel recently that I think a lot of Indians of my parents’ generation, especially, just don’t get that worked up over American prejudice. And it’s because…they didn’t really expect better. Like, you don’t come across an ocean to a new country and expect the people in the new country to treat you like you’re one of them. You come for a better life. You come so you can get an education and do your work, and as long as you can do those things, you’re like, well…that’s pretty good! With regards to myself, that’s sort of how I feel: I don’t really expect anything better of the publishing industry or, really, of the world around me, so I’m rarely disappointed!

A little log of my writing progress on this draft

Hello friend-os. I did that thing where a blogger is like “I’m on deadline so I’m not gonna be posting for a while,” except I never actually said that, I just went silent. But now that I am coming to the end of this YA novel (Just Happy To Be Here, my third book), I’m feeling an odd urge to do the blogging again. It’s been a pretty wild writing time–I’ve essentially written a novel between Feb 15 and today! Two months?

Scrivener lets you generate a little log of your writing, so I have one here. I did writing on this project in Jan-Feb too, but I ended up scrapping most of that, so this is a log of me writing this actual draft of this actual book–the draft I will email tomorrow or the next day to my editor

DateWordsTotal
3/3/2227950
3/4/222032814
3/7/221037
3/8/222138
3/9/222119
3/10/221756
3/11/22340210623
3/12/224819
3/13/22220117643
3/14/225505
3/15/223407
3/16/22242428289
3/17/222615
3/18/22345234356
3/21/2265433657
3/22/222106
3/23/221272
3/24/2254937584
3/28/221530
3/29/225310
3/31/22278847212
4/1/22272249934
4/4/223518
4/5/22487958331
4/6/223255
4/7/22159963185
4/8/22221365398
4/9/2246065858
4/11/2294666804
4/12/2210242
4/13/229677142

That’s a pretty good amount of writing! And as you can see, I didn’t even write much on the weekends. I like the book. I feel good about it. I wrote it while feeling a slight sense of social responsibility occasioned by the fact that trans kids are a topic of such intense persecution these days. Normally I feel like the YA genre is WAYYYY too self-congratulatory–authors are always talking about how kids need their books. I don’t think kids need my books, or that my books will improve lives. I think my books are entertaining, artful, and truthful, which are three qualities that many YA books do not have. And that’s really what I aspire to. But with this one I was like, sigh, the book probably will help some kids or something! Some kid probably does need this dumb book. Was kind of a lot of pressure.

Anyway, it’ll hopefully come out summer 2023, unless something goes disastrously wrong (which is not as unlikely as you might think it would be)–but it’s hard to imagine that someone somewhere won’t want to publish this one, so I hope you’ll eventually get to read it!

Getting close to the end of this revision

Hello friends. I’m entering the home stretch of revising this YA novel. After this I will have NO looming deadlines! Got some things I might try out, including a proposal for another YA novel, but we’ll see what happens! Anywaysssssssssssssssssssssssssssss…I started reading Hegel’s Philosophy of the Right—definitely should’ve read it before The Science of Logic. It’s a thousand times more comprehensible, and it makes clear certain of the assumptions that underpin the Hegelian system. Essentially, in Hegel you’re trying to intuit the concepts that underlie the way things are. So when it comes to morality, you’re looking at systems of morality and trying to intuit their essential principles, and from these you develop an idea of how things ought to be. Except the Spirit outpaces philosophy, so philosophy is inevitably always playing catch up and trying to figure out and justify the developments the Spirit is undergoing. The problem here is obvious—you can’t use this philosophy to figure out how things ought to be. Or, rather, you can say that a certain system is not in accordance with how the spirit is currently developing, but someone else can be like, no this system is part of that development. So it doesn’t fulfill the essential function of metaphysics, which is to give us truth about things that are beyond our senses—the truth of how things should be and what is their essential form.

On the other hand, the book makes it more clear that Hegel’s system is grounded in actuality, and it’s also grounded in a sort of mystical feeling that there is an order to the shape of society—it’s not all random or arbitrary.

Also finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank, brilliant book, kind of funny how hard it would be to get published as YA: the fact that they’re in hiding adds poignancy and drama to the story, but it’s largely about her own development, her understanding of herself and her character, her development as an artist, and her attempts to connect with other people. Really, really liked it.

Now am trying to listen to some other stuff. We’ll see how it goes.

The YA novel has been tough. I mean, the writing has gone okay. It’s been of about medium difficulty—was kind of stumped at the beginning, but once I figured out my approach it hasn’t been too bad. It just ended up being on a short deadline (sort of my fault for not figuring out my approach for a while) and came at a difficult time, so have had to just be head’s down and move forward.

I’ve really been feeling the responsibility involved in there being so few YA novels by and about transfem people. I know that probably only a very few trans girls will read this, but I feel like I’ve got to warn them about some things, and those things are gonna make non-trans people unhappy. It’s just astonishing the amount of lying people do (not just to kids, but to everyone). Anyway, going into that mindset has been really tough, but only tough in a relative sense—I mean it’s better than digging ditches.

Here’s a picture of a dog. Not my dog. Just a random open-source public-domain creative commons dog.

Am back, have been reading so much Walter Scott

Hello friends. I’ve been struggling to get stuff done, so I’m devoting today to doing all the random extra stuff on my To-Do list. I’ve already funded my ROTH IRA, and now I’m writing a blog post. My last blog post was I don’t know when–a long time ago. Weeks? It was in the before times. And by that I mean “before my toddler stopped sleeping” times. For a while I was sleeping in her room with her, on the floor, which made me feel every morning like someone had beaten me up. We’ve since managed to get things into somewhat sharper order, hence me having the time to write this book!

I’ve also been revising my YA novel, a process that as always had has its ups and downs. I really like the book, I have to say. It has my trademark nuance, sharp characters, complicated relationships, and this time I even put in a plot. This draft has focused on building out a lot of the supporting cast more, filling them up with their own little hopes and dreams. I love my main characters, but they always partake too closely of myself to feel really distinct to me. The supporting cast are what I love even more! I’ve given up on creating realistic characters, instead I like to make the best version of a person. What would someone be like if they were totally awesome in this particular way? As a result, even my villainous characters seem great to me.

The revision is about 2/3rds done. I’m at a place where I had to pause and do some stuff. It’s looking pretty good, I think. Will be sad to leave this group of people behind, but I suppose that’s how writing works.

Another thing I did was get into a BIIIIIGGGGG Walter Scott phase, listening-wise. It was all Walter Scott all the time: I listened to Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Antiquary, Old Mortality, and Kenilworth. Scott is a historical novelist who wrote relatively early in the 19th century and had an incredible influence on the development of the novel in the 19th century. If you want to look at how novels stopped being the picaresque, playful creatures of the 18th century and turned into the brooding, baroque (and lengthy!) novels of the 19th century, the route runs through Walter Scott (and Ann Radcliffe, another novelist who I need to read).

Scott has a terrible reputation these days. People talk about him like he was a 19th-century hack or something–a writer with no skill, nothing to say, and certainly no verbal facility. That’s a very undeserved reputation. Is he Jane Austen? No. But he certainly does aspire to write realistic characters, to accurately convey manners, and to just generally write exciting and informative books. They’re better than almost any commercial novels you might read (and better than most literary books as well). My favorite of the ones I’ve read is probably Old Mortality, since it’s a well-constructed book with a lot to say (though you might want to read up a bit on 17th-century Scottish religious history before you start). However if you DO read Scott it’s hard to imagine you won’t start with his most famous novel, Ivanhoe, which is a really strange mid-period novel of his that features, amongst other things, Richard the Lion-hearted and Robin of Loxley teaming up to protect the fiancé of a virtuous Saxon noble, the eponymous Ivanhoe. Just a truly, truly bonkers book (reminded me in some ways of the Heath Ledger movie Knight’s Tale). Definitely worth a read.

Placed a story in American Short Fiction

Hello friends! Some writers are very reticent to talk about their short story sales (or ‘appearances’, as a literary writer might say?) before a contract is signed. I’ve never had that reticence. Usually if an acceptance disappears it’s because the journal has gone out of business, and that can happen whether you’ve signed a contract or not.

In any case, I have now signed a contract, so can doubly announce that a story will appear in American Short Fiction–a relatively high profile literary journal (certainly the highest profile in which I’ve placed a story). This prompted me to go through and update my various bibliographies. I maintain many now: one for essays, one for literary stories, one for science fiction stories, and one for poetry. But just looking at the short stories, I see that this makes my 62nd short story ‘sale’ and my 41st at professional rates, as defined by the Science Fiction Writers of America back when I first started writing (five cents a word). I think SFWA has since bumped their criteria up to eight cents a word, and it’s a good thing too, what with inflation and all. But I am sticking to five cents as my ersatz definition, mostly to cut out the short stories I sold to tiny embarrassing magazines early in my career. Many of those journals aren’t on the internet anymore, so I suppose I could simply scrub them out of existence if I wished! But I don’t.

Forty two! That’s a lot! I could put together a collection if I wanted. But I don’t.

There’s no demand for a collection by me, and I think perhaps a collection will wait until the distant day when there is. Maybe at the end of my career I’ll put one together. Most of my stories, I have to say, are not necessarily ones I’d want to put before the reading public again. I’m not sure if off the top of my head I can think of ten I’d truly recommend. Hmm, certainly ‘Bodythoughts’ and ‘The Leader Principle’, which appeared originally in F&SF. My forthcoming ‘Nick and Bodhi’, which is coming out in a YA LGBT SF anthology, Out There, is pretty good. Several of my Lightspeed stories, most notably ‘The Girl Who Escaped From Hell‘ and ‘A Coward’s Death‘ are worth reading. Probably ‘Everquest’, which also appeared in Lightspeed. And then hmm…well I suppose ‘Sexual Cannibalism‘, which appeared in Birkensnake, and ‘The Anti-Fascist‘, which appeared in West Branch, are both pretty good. Hmm, that’s eight. ‘Corridors‘, which appeared originally in Nature, is a hell of a ride. ‘Empty Planets’, which was reprinted in one of Rich Horton’s Year’s Bests, and which originally appeared in Interzone. And that’s ten. But all together that can’t be more than thirty thousand words. Half a collection.

Oh there’s other stuff I could throw in there–my three stories in Asimov’s and one in Analog and my three Clarkesworld stories, and a few of my other literary stories too–but I don’t know if it really adds up to anything. I’d feel difficulty recommending it whole-heartedly, the way I can recommend my novels or my cynical guide to the publishing industry.

Anyway luckily I don’t have to sell anyone on a collection, because it doesn’t exist! I don’t even campaign for science fiction / fantasy awards anymore–something I’ve at times done assiduously. If I’d won or even been nominated, I’d probably have become an inveterate campaigner, but as my efforts came to nothing, I’ve thankfully been rescued from that practice. Now I just throw the short work out there without any expectations. They’re fun to write, and the psychological reward of selling a story far exceeds the amount of effort it takes to produce and submit one. And in the last five years I’ve also been selling a much greater percentage of what I write. During my first 14 years as a writer, I wrote 210 stories and sold 48 (22%), more than half of which were to complete no-name publications. In the last four years (holy crap, I can’t have been doing this for more than eighteen years, can I?) I’ve written 43 and sold 15 (35%), almost all of them to respectable publications, and the unsold number for the last five years includes fifteen or so that I’m still submitting and which might yet sold.

Feels good! Feels like a sort of accomplishment.

Pet Sematary

Lately I’ve gotten really into taking all these List Challenges lists that go viral on Facebook. I take the book list ones. It started with the list of 500 books that’s like if you’ve read ten percent of these, you’re really well read. I’ve read 280 of them, obviously. Which is not an accident: I literally use lists like this to determine what to read next.

Anyway, with these lists, I tend to do well with the classics, but there are always a bunch of popular novels that I’ve never read. And I’ve also been getting a little burned out on the heavy reading. In the last year I’ve read hardly any novels, much less contemporary novels. So I pinned a whole bunch of the popular novels that appear often on these lists, and I’ve been reading them. I just finished listening to Pet Sematary, by Stephen King.

That guy is a good writer! He really understands how to do this thing. I mean the book is over-long, particularly in its final act, but that too is a testament to the level of control Stephen King has: he knows there is no chance you’re gonna stop reading the book. It starts off so slowly, with the main character coming to a new town, making friends with the neighbor across the way, and you getting slowly introduced to his family. The nice thing about King is you always just like his protagonists and their families. They always seem like good, but not perfect people.

Pet Sematary, as almost everyone knows by now, is about kids dying. It was really harrowing for me, as a parent. But also a little cathartic. In the intro, King says the story was inspired by a time they lived on a road where semi-trucks used to blow past at high speeds, and one of his sons once came close to running into the street in front of a truck. I don’t know–it’s just something you think about constantly, as a parent–the fact that at any moment something could go wrong, and they could die. I actually cried at the midpoint, where the kid actually dies. It was terrible.

Anyway, next up, I’m listening to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve also got some Dean Koontz and Anne Rice books on this list, and then, like…you know…200 more.

I write book. I book writer

Hey friends. Heard back from my agent about my literary book. He loves it, which makes me really happy, because it means I don’t have to go and find a new agent. Some edits, of course, as always, but the upshot is that during 2022 I will for the first time in my life go on submission with a project for adults. This is probably the last I’ll mention about it, because you’re not supposed to talk about going on submission (you don’t want editors to read your blog and be like hmm this book went out two years ago and nobody has bought it yet! It must be a highly undesirable book). Of course in my experience, editors don’t really care that much about who you are as a person, and it’s rare for them to even google you before making an offer on your book, but who knows–one must obey the proprieties.

The real reason to not tell anyone your book is out on submission is because if you tell people then they’ll ask about it, and since most books die on submission, it tends to be pretty depressing to have to say, "Nope, nothing is happening" for a few years.

It’s kind of like this line I once read in a Chuck Palahniuk novel about how the main character had made the mistake of telling her parents she wanted to be a novel, and as punishment they asked her about that ambition every few months for the rest of her life. Or something like that.

I’ve been on submission five times! Thrice for YA novels, twice for middle-grade novels. And that doesn’t even count times I’ve tried to sell a follow-up book to an editor who’d already acquired one book by me. Being on sub is a huge drag. But, honestly, querying agents is worse. When you’re on sub, an agent does all the work for you. And it’s also a process with a defined beginning and a defined end. Eventually you’ll have exhausted all the editors the book could go to and the book will be dead. Whereas with agents, as my own experience shows, you can just keep going and going and going and going–there is no end to the number of times you can rewrite and requery a book. There are always more agents.

In contrast, the moment a book goes on submission it’s more or less dead.

Anyway, so I have revisions to do on this literary book and revisions to do on the YA book, and then…nothing! No more novel projects in hand! Not sure what comes next! Will probably write a novel of some sort

Lots of small things coming out sometime this year

Hello friends. Not much happening here. Except that I got sick!!!!! On Sunday I started running a fever and by Tuesday night was symptom free. No respiratory symptoms, mostly fever and chills. May have been COVID, but I tested negative on four rapid tests and a PCR test. And this is in SF where our test positivity is 18 percent! I genuinely have no idea what it was. But I was isolated in our bedroom for several days on the assumption it was COVID, and it sucked.

So that really threw me off. But I am better now.

During my illness I got notice about a few shorter works. My poems "Hatshepsut" and "Bites" will be in the Tampa Review. My poem "Before Sleep" will be in Storm Cellar. My story "Endings" will be in the South Dakota Review. And my story "Citizen Science" will be in Analog! No publication date on any of these yet, but I did also see page proofs for a poem, "Fire", in Cherry Tree and an essay on classics in the curriculum for the LARB. And I have another essay coming out in LitHub at some point, as well as two stories in two YA anthologies, Out There (ed Saundra Mitchell) and Out of their League (ed Dahlia Adler and Jennifer Iacopelli).

So that all seems pretty good! That’s a lot of short things! I like short things. I like how the stakes are so low. A friend of mine was talking about how we’d had the same experience, of having a story accepted by Praire Schooner (a middle-tier literary journal that doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions) and having to tell them that another journal had accepted the piece first. In both cases we had sim-subbed the piece anyway, despite their policies, and the editors were a little upset.

The novel-writing version of this (pissing off an editor) would be a minor catastrophe. You don’t want to make enemies at a big publishing house. But the short story version doesn’t matter at all. The absolute worst that can happen is you never get into Prairie Schooner.

I like short things. I like how nobody reads them. I like how you can always just write another one. I like how you can finish writing them in a day. I like how you can control the submissions process yourself directly.

The worst part of short things isn’t that they make no money, it’s that they’re so ephemeral. They’re gone before they arrive: yesterday’s story, yesterday’s poem, yesterday’s essay. It’s like they never existed.

The second worst part is they make you no money.

The third worst part is nobody reads them.

Having a short piece published is an abstraction in the highest degree. The check–small as it is–represents the realest part of the transaction. Everything else: the fact that it is published and that someone read it–is something you have to take mostly on faith. I mean yes you do get contributor copies, which I like. So the contributor copies are the realest part, and then the check.

Yet, the thing is, that’s surprisingly true for novels as well. Yes, you get more feedback, and you get sales and see covers and author copies fill up your crawl space, and you get askked to be in anthologies and to do school visits, but mostly it doesn’t affect your life much at all.