The day I accepted a story for Hunger Mountain—a visit to Yesville

(This is part 2 of a rant on what it’s like to be the new fiction editor of Hunger Mountain – A Journal of the Arts based in Montpelier, Vermont.)

Dawns like any other.  Cold, miserable, wet and dark.  Man, that was some winter. Wasn’t it rotten where you were?  Don’t tell me you’re from San Diego or Florida or some place annoyingly exotic where the sun always shines and you’re cold if the temperature plummets to the sixties.  Don’t want to hear it.  Here?  Lousy.

My attitude?  Matches the weather—cold, miserable, wet and dark.

But there is coffee. And wool socks.  And music. And the muse, maybe.  And the prospect of yet another day staring at the blank screen—c’mon, write something fabulous, what ‘chu got, son?  You got another novel in ya?

But first, I must Hunger Mountain.  That’s a verb. To hungermountain.  I must hungermountain. I, Keymaster, Lord High Executioner, your humble fiction editor servant, slave to my aisthetikos, must dive into the slush pile.  This time, I will find itit will be there—writing that will raise my spirits, make me laugh, inspire, charm my hungry soul.  Show me the way to Yesville.

My spirits rise.

Hopeful, I log in to The System—an automatickal complexicon of intertublular organizationing software stuff housing the vast warehouse of Hunger Mountain story submissions.

The Automatickal System

Don’t you hate the term slush pile?  I do. Mostly.  So cold, smug.  So disdainful.  Hell, somewhere out there, my stuff’s buried in somebody else’s automatickal system, marooned amidst countless competitors, waiting for love, awaiting the pluck from the pile, the selection by a kindred, understanding, loving hand.  See, your heart’s in your writing, my heart’s in mine, it’s the best I’ve ever written, the best you’ve ever done, it’s wonderful wonderful, couldn’t be better.  We’re laying it all out there, risking it all, buying the ticket in the lottery, going for broke and you hope I say yes.  I hope you say yes.  We all want to go to Yesville.

And then, yes, somebody sees, somebody says yes, you see what I’m doing, I see what you’re doing—I dig it, I get it, I want it, I love it. You’re happy and I’m happy. Editor Miciah’s happy.  Our readers are happy.

I sigh.  My coffee’s gone cold.

My automatickal system list is long.  Screen without end.  I scroll.  I return to reality.

A gust of wind rubs against my window pane.  Winter splatters the glass.  More snow, more slush.  My heart hardens.

Messages, like little neon signs, blink in the slush pile—read me, read me—hey bud, over here!  I’m the one you want.  Dig my title, you’re gonna love this.  How about my fab cover letter? Got a list of pubs a mile long including a Pushcart nomination or three, and oh man a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner’s in there for crying out loud.

I read. And read.  More reading.

I’m sorry.  No, this one doesn’t make it.  That one doesn’t either.  No matter how well written, I don’t want to read about somebody’s run of the mill dysfunctional, melodramatickal family, the bummer relationship with the mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, lover.  Don’t want to.

(Unless I do.

I don’t know.

See, fiction is about not knowing.

Donald Barthelme said that.

I don’t know.

I’m a jerk.  I send rejections.  I feel bad.)

So I want to be somewhere else—I want to go to Yesville, where sentences explode with imagination under tangerine trees or marmalade skies or there’s wisdom, humor, charm, quirks and magic—the strange unexpected quantum quarks that make life fabulous.

Something’s happening.  My coffee heats up.  By itself.  Begins to steam, thermodynamics rising, fogging my screen. Fuses are lit, sparks fly.

I’m reading stories about killer pufferfish, fake legs lost in trees, southern spirits, spiders in the night and dentists gone wild.  Ha!

Found it.

Left turns, spine tingling zigs and zags.  That’s what I’m talking about.  I am in Yesville.

I make some writer’s day. And then another one.  Feels good.

I sit back. Coulda been me.

Inspired, I go back to my blank screen.  I write something fabulous.

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2 Responses to “The day I accepted a story for Hunger Mountain—a visit to Yesville”

  1. Barry, so happy to have found your blog through QT. I’m enjoying looking around. Fiction is about not knowing–yes.

  2. Thanks much, Toby! Appreciate your comment…now, I’ll go write something. But I just don’t know…