Saturday, February 25, 2012

Again? Still? Another Invisible Illness and Society Post

I'm feeling a little - just a little - disheartened right now. I just saw a Facebook comment by a friend that said, "...all the handicapped seats were taken by people who weren't handicapped..." I almost responded, but my relationship with this poster is a little too close for me to want to risk a fight, and not close enough to comfortably say what I'd like and know it won't be seen as instigating an argument. (I don't fear a fight, but fighting is emotionally draining and very often pointless - especially on a Facebook or forum thread, on which there are witnesses and posters therefore feel the need to trump one another for the sake of ego.)

But the pervasiveness of this myth that physical handicaps will always be visibly apparent does bother me. Many people with invisible illnesses are treated quite rudely by uninformed members of the general public. Thankfully, I have only had to deal with overt rudeness a couple of times, aside from the treatment I dealt with from some members of the medical community while I was searching for a diagnosis.

One of those times involved, as so many of these incidents seem to, the use of a handicapped parking space. My son and I pulled up to a store in the pouring rain, and I used my placard to park. I didn't exactly make a mad dash into the store when we exited the car, but it is fair to say I moved at a fair clip.

Oooh, was some lady on the sidewalk giving me the stink eye and the pursed lips! She looked as though she'd just downed a shot of vinegar.

A few minutes later, while shopping, I relayed what I'd seen to my son. Then we turned a corner and saw the lady walking past! I had guessed she'd been leaving the store, not entering, but I suppose I shouldn't have made assumptions, either. She'd surely heard everything I'd said, and in truth, I was not sorry.

I had not said anything rude or insulting; I'd merely recounted the incident and made some comment about my ability to walk upon entering a store having nothing to do with my ability to walk upon leaving a store - which is true.

In fact, before I was taking any useful medication, my husband had at one point gently - gently - asked me to stop helping with the grocery shopping. Though I moved at a normal speed upon arrival, my movements inside a store became slower and slower as time passed. Without browsing or doing anything other than shopping from my list, I was adding a great deal of time to our outings.

You know what? I don't have or use a wheelchair or a cane. I don't have or use orthotics or prosthetics. A lot of times I limp, but a lot of times I don't. I look like a whole lot of other 40-year-old women. And I look handicapped.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What Is It All For?

That post title isn't an angst-ridden lament. No, it's a real question I've been thinking about since reading a lot (a lot) of articles and blog posts about electronic submission fees and the comments that follow them. I won't rehash my arguments for the fees here; this post is completely tangential.

Some comments I've read have raised some really good questions, questions that anyone considering launching a literary journal should be able to answer:

What is the nature of the relationship between journal and submitter?
Is the relationship, as some assert, that of journal entirely dependent upon submitter (because the journal must have material to print, which comes from submitters), or is the relationship one of journal as producer and submitter as customer (because the journal offers opportunities to submitters who want those opportunities)? I've read both these arguments. I haven't, however, seen many people respond with the suggestion that both of these views are too extreme.

The relationship between journal and submitter is symbiotic. Journals need material, and those who submit to them need outlets. Remember, submitters are writers. And writers who submit do so because we want our work to be read. Some of the more foolhardy among us will say aloud that we want to earn money from our writing.* Of course journals need writers to attract readers. And of course writers need journals for exactly the same reason.

Why do we need another literary journal?
There are many, many literary journals already. Why do we need another? I suppose there are those who will say that any propagation of the written word has value in a society many fear is becoming less literate. I can't really agree with this; I fear some publications do more harm than good where grammatical influence is concerned.

Good short stories, though, and good poetry? Those we should propagate. Those cannot fail to move, educate, and entertain.

More specifically, though, I believe we need the journal I am trying to create. The most important question any publisher should be able to answer is Why do we need this literary journal?

Why do we need this literary journal?
There are several qualities I enjoy in journals as both a reader and a writer. Many journals have some of these qualities, but very few journals have a great many of them. I want to create a journal that incorporates as many of these qualities as possible. I believe great art and great accessibility belong together, and that good writers should be financially compensated. To further explain what I'd like to do could be interpreted as tacitly criticizing the way things are being done, and that's not what I want to do at all. I simply want to provide an alternative aesthetic, one perhaps reminiscent of one more commonly seen a generation ago.

I can answer the preceding questions, but that does not mean my answers will satisfy the great majority of readers or writers. What it does mean is that I believe, passionately, that what I'm doing has value. And I believe that anything of value has a place in the world.

*Don't think it's foolhardy? Then you either haven't experienced the helpful cautionary lectures and derisive laughter that many of us have, or you have an unbelievably strong sense of self. And you also write fiction. On a message board devoted to fiction, those who submit to journals that don't pay are often helpfully informed of their ignorance. Bring up money on a poetry board, and you're likely to be taken to task as not writing for the right reason, the love of it. Argue rationally enough and you'll eventually see those who schooled you qualifying their answers: "Well, you write for the love of it. You submit for pay." Really? You don't say!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This Should Frustrate Me Far Less than It Does

Full disclosure: Within the next few months, I'll be launching an ad-free online literary journal that pays its writers. Postal mail submissions will be available and free; electronic submissions will require a small submission fee.

My gripe: Mention reading fees, even with caveats, in a crowd of writers, and they'll likely chase you with pitchforks. I don't know how embedded the resistance is; I do know that the only people chiming in vocally are pretty damn self righteous.

1. If a journal offers a free postal mail option, an electronic option is a convenience. The electronic option is handy and, yes, commonplace, but all a journal needs to offer to receive submissions is a postal address. Therefore, it is within a journal's purview whether or not to charge for electronic submissions.

2. You cannot sensibly compare these fees to the fees charged by unscrupulous book agents and vanity publishers. The book agents don't actually place any books with publishers; they just live off the money they've conned out of you. The vanity presses are happy to take your money at either the beginning or the end of the publishing process, and they will give you books in return - but you'll almost certainly end up the poorer and remain largely unread.

Most of the magazines and journals charging fees for electronic submissions are promising writers only an alternative to postal mailings, and they are delivering on those promises. No such journal or magazine has a pay-to-publish model. Paying to submit electronically does not give any writer an edge. Furthermore, charging the fees allows a journal with no other income stream (such as a free online journal that does not accept advertising) to pay its writers. (I've twice read comments on other sites asking why writers who'd been rejected would want to help pay writers who had not. Frankly, that seems illogical and short-sighted to me. Do writers who have been rejected by the New Yorker stop purchasing the magazine? Okay, some might - but I think most good writers want to see good magazines and journals become and remain successful.)

3. If a journal is going to pay, it has to have a way of making money itself. It is unrealistic to think that anyone will buy a subscription to an online zine. And let's face it, unless a site is Facebook or Twitter or similarly popular, it can't sell ad space for anything approaching professional print rates.

4. Even if the fees become standard for good, paying zines, there will always be plenty of online zines for those who don't want to pay the fees. They'll be small, run on sites that are not eye pleasing or user friendly, and they won't pay - basically, they'll be the same as many online lit journals to which many of us are already submitting.