Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers February-March 2010
vol. 6, no.2
One of the most famous pieces of advice that the Dear Abby columnist ever gave was the following. A man in his thirties wrote in to say that he wanted to go to medical school but he was hesitating because it would take him seven years to complete his education and he would be forty-three by the time he was done. Abby responded with one sentence. "And how old will you be in seven years if you don't go to medical school?" This is our problem—we don't think logically about our goals. We wonder if we are too old to start graduate school or if we are wise to devote so many hours to writing an article or a grant, as if doing nothing will make time stand still. Time cannot be saved. We cannot, as Walt Whitman hints, "Steady the trot to the cemetery." What we can do is chose a "long obedience in the same direction"—whether it is studying or writing or loving. It is such choices that make something valuable out of time, not the other way around.
Most readers of Flourish are scholarly writers—graduate students, independent scholars, or faculty. But every once in a while a reader will out him- or herself as another type of writer—someone who writes screenplays, television shows, dramas, novels, or short stories. One of those authors sent in the following story to illustrate the perseverance theme of so many issues of Flourish.
About a month ago, I got a story accepted for publication by Two Hawks Quarterly, a literary magazine published by Antioch University. I am extremely excited about this because it had been twenty-five years (I counted) since my last piece of fiction was published. Not a day went by during that duration without my intensely desiring such publication and feeling its lack like a steady ache. I did keep writing over that time and did keep sending stories out but they kept getting rejected. There might have been some years in there when I didn't send stories out, but even then I still wished devoutly for publication and even hoped that I might discover something of mine had been handsomely published without my even being aware of having written or submitted it. The chances of this were low, I knew, but perhaps not impossible? So, when I got an e-mail stating that the last story I had sent out had been accepted, I felt jubilant, like a giant hand had just come down from the sky and given me a thumbs up.
What's most interesting, however, is that my memory of the writing process was wrong. I thought that I had written each of the story's five scenes in one sitting, put them together, and sent them off. But when I looked through my notebook, I saw that was not the case. In fact, I had not only regularly pleaded with myself to continue with the story, but I had actually invented letters from all manner of august literary establishment types who urged me on. I mean, the editor in chief of Random House wrote me a letter, the spirit of Ted Solatoroff wrote me a letter, the Nobel Prize in Literature committee got in on it. I had to conjure up a deluge of imaginary support just to get that thing finished. And then I left it in a drawer for a year before deciding, on a whim, to try sending it out. This week, I got another story accepted, so apparently all that hard work (plus inventing my own cheering section) worked.
All Cued Up
Flourish reader Mike Easterly recently wrote in: Shortly after I finished my dissertation, I stumbled across this link, in one of those down-the-rabbit-hole moments that we've all experienced on the Internet. Apparently Sony was promoting a Bob Dylan album and put up a web site where visitors could customize the cue cards that Dylan runs through in a promotional film for "Subterranean Homesick Blues." Some enterprising fellow took the opportunity to send an important message for struggling graduate students. I thought Flourish readers might appreciate it.
Review of the Workbook
Steven Gump wrote a lovely review of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing. This is the first formal review of the book, in print media rather than online blogs and so on.
News from the Editor
Being in the most northern city in the world in January was wonderful! Alta, Norway, has many attractions, not the least of which were my lovely hosts at the University of Finnmark. They arranged so many great activities outside the writing workshop. I went on a dog sledge ride with Trine, a woman who regularly races in the 1,000-mile Iditarod. Driving through the snowy forest along the Alta River (with only one spill!) and listening to her stories about dogs and races was great. Check her out at Northern Lights Husky. Then we went to the Alta Ice Hotel, which, yes, is a hotel made entirely of ice. It's quite big, eighteen suites, a full chapel for weddings, and a bar where we drank vodka out of glasses made of ice. The blue light inside was incredible, refracted from the blocks of ice cut from winter lakes. We also took a trip to Kautokeino, the cultural center of the Sami people (the term Laplander is considered pejorative) and visited the otherworldly Juhls Silver Gallery. Last but not least, I got to see the northern lights, which are impossible to describe—the whole sky, from horizon to horizon, rippling and pulsing. On returning to New Jersey, we had two storms, dumping a foot of snow each time, so I have had a real winter.