By Anne R. Allen
January, 2006, 21:14
Here we are celebrating a whole year of IN. I’m jazzed to be part of it.
A year ago, when I sent a little rant about bad critique groups to a new online writers’ zine, I didn’t even expect a response, much less a regular writing gig. My piece had already been rejected lots of places, including—okay, this is embarrassing—a local amateur writers club newsletter.
But hey, I was just a fiction writer. Didn’t know squat about non-fiction. What I did know is that online zines often don’t bother to send rejections. (An annoying reality: they seem to forget an alienated contributor is an alienated reader.)
I had discovered Inkwell Newswatch (IN) while Christmas shopping in December of 2004. I Googled Leonard Cohen to see if the melancholy Canadian divo had produced a recent CD. What came up was the preview issue of IN with Mr. Cohen on the cover. I read the whole thing. These dudes up in Toronto sounded brave, hip, smart—and best of all, not terminally puffed up with literary pretensions.
They asked for submissions. Said if a how-to-write article made the cut, they’d publish a fiction sample as well. Since I had a new novel to promote, I e-mailed my much-rejected critique group piece with a sample from my first novel, Food Of Love—and forgot about it.
But they responded within weeks, and Nine Pieces Of Bad Advice appeared in the official debut issue of IN. I don’t know if my use of Daryl Jung’s magic number in the title affected his choice. (Coincidence? I think not. —Ed.)
Now, as it begins its second year, IN is rated the number one online zine for writers. And although my fiction career may be going pear-shaped, I’m getting nonfiction published all over the place.
Those dudes in Canada are still hip, smart, unpretentious—and brave. Bringing words to the public is a profession that takes remarkable courage. Writing is known for breaking hearts, but publishing can break the soul.
Two of my publishers died this year. Neither was much older than me. Californian Steve Moss, the editor/publisher who published my first novel as a serial in his alternative newsweekly, New Times, collapsed in his garden last April, victim of a neglected chronic illness.
Sometime in November, Yorkshireman James Brown, half owner of the UK press that published my last two novels, fell off his yacht into Vancouver Harbour after consuming—as was his wont—too many snootsful of Canada’s most famous beverage. His body has not been found, but he’s presumed dead.
Both men were driven, exasperating to work with, and maybe a little nuts, but they cared—a lot. Unfortunately, what they cared about most was the struggle to succeed. Neither of them was comfortable with actual success—that, or they didn’t view their considerable accomplishments as successful.
I live not far from a monument to one of the most successful publishers of all time: William Randolph Hearst’s over-the-top get-away vacation “Castle.” Talk about struggle: this is the house of a guy who tried way too hard. When Orson Welles wrote Hearst’s fictionalized film biography, Citizen Kane, he gave Kane/Hearst a squishy core of childhood pain to explain the man’s damaged soul.
But I don’t think you need to look to secret “Rosebuds” to see why a publisher might crash and burn.
Very few publishing enterprises survive, and fewer still make money. It’s a cutthroat business, with a slim margin for profit. Any new publication is a wild gamble requiring a superhuman strength of will, plus the urge to self-destruct via terminally unhealthy work hours. And it’s all conducted in, well, public.
I have a friend who jokes that he’s the kiss of death for literary zines. He says any magazine that accepts one of his stories is guaranteed to fold before publication date. But we’ve all been there. Especially with the increasing rise and fall of e-zines. I have one story that’s won an international award and been accepted by three magazines and never seen print—electronic or otherwise.
So—still in business a year later, with 13 issues of a big, classy online publication to your credit—Rowdy and Daryl, I’m in awe.
You may be frazzelated, scrambling for cash, and occasionally laid low by the Big Cosmic Why? But you’ve survived. IN is thriving.
Dudes, take your vitamins, stay sober (at least while yachting) get some sleep, and keep on keeping it real. Money may not be pouring in, but maybe this is what actual success looks like.
You deserve a big round of applause.
And an even bigger round of thank-yous from us all.
Anne R. Allen is a California novelist and book editor who has been living part time in the UK. Her latest comic novel, The Best Revenge, An Historical Novel Of The 1980s, (Babash-Ryan) debuted in the UK in 2005 and is available from amazon.co.uk and most UK bookshops. Her first novel with Babash-Ryan, Food Of Love is available from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com as well as amazon.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org