Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ellipsis Magazine & Why Most Days I Don't Eat My Own Dick

I have a thing in the new Ellipsis. I got it in mail today. My thing in it was published as a poem but it was written as part of a story, a section of the last one in my collection which is eating my mind less than it was two months ago. I still think about it every day. This Ellipsis is full almost entirely of people whose names I do not know. I love this in a journal, esp. one with a name like Ellipsis. Too many journals these days focus on packing out names everybody knows. I like reading things by people I know, but when I see a journal with more names I don't know than names I do, it makes me believe in the journal a little more. I don't know what belief in a journal is exactly, though I have some idea. I've thought a lot lately about the past year I've spent doggedly sending submissions out. Last year I went end over end to make sure I had words at so many doors: bound to get in somewhere. I had good luck last year. I began to think about the process where different journals were different kinds of locks and I had to fashion keys to make them open. Maybe that is stupid. I think about who reads what when. Literary journals are a fleck in America's eye. I went to Borders tonight. I went to a Borders that I used to like going to because they were like the indie Borders. They always had a fuckton of lit mags, big ones like All Story and Poetry and they had good younger journals like Ninth Letter and Black Clock and Columbia and they had journals I'd never seen elsewhere. This time they had I think three journals. They had Tin House and American Short Fiction and like one more. No one I know besides my writer friends online reads these journals. My friends do not go to the store to buy the journals if I tell them I am in them via Myspace bulletin (if they do they do not tell me). My mom buys them if I send her a link to the website and she reads them. My mom's friends sometimes buy them sometimes. My mom one time read a thing I had in something aloud to her sewing group even though it contained several curse words including 'fuck'. My mom said her sewing group liked it. She said one of her sewing friends after hearing the line with the word 'fuck' in it said, 'Well we all feel like that sometimes don't we?' Most of these mid-sized journals have a print run of like 200 (or 400 or maybe more, I don't know, I am talking out my ass all day). Many of the journals go unread mostly, even by people like me who buy and read more journals than almost all of the population. I buy and hold as many as I can and read as much from each as I can and often feel motivated to do more and/or feel better and/or worse about things in life or just anything via certain people's words or just by holding the journal and seeing the cover and the words and sometimes I still feel it's not enough. Sometimes I find myself thinking, why am I devoting so much time to sending work out? I've sent a lot less work out this year. I've felt tired and less urgent. But even still, beyond all of this thinking (I tend to get negative mouthed and brained I can't help it its in my blood) it feels like there is something to it. It feels like even if the only people who ever read those printed words were the ones who edited them in there and laid them out in the layout program and the people who helped and who got handed them around at the free readings where a lot of people come for booze, even it was just them, even if it's just an idea of writing and reading that in the end gets promoted, the process of encouraging and making available the idea of reading, the idea of putting words even out to nowhere that someone could read it one day sifting through stuff they didn't know they had, even if they read a couple of sentences while shitting and think something slightly different than they were going to whether they realize it or not or whether it changes them or not, that is worth it. The idea is worth it. The change in myself is worth it. The process keeps me sane. Keeps me from wanting to not live and I have never been suicidal but most days feel stretched to all fuck and if I did not write I don't know where I'd go or why I would continue getting out of bed. Rick Moody said something much like what I'm getting at here when he spoke at the graduation of the class before mine. He said it so well I swear my eyes got bigger in my head. (INSERT: Rick Moody is not overrated, he is underrated, I swear to god: how many of you Rick Moody shittalkers read the Black Veil or Purple America (two books with colors in the name who gives a shit, he can make a fuckyoureyesout sentence) I didn't think so, do). I am maybe sounding like an uncle about all this 'why I/we do this thing', but I feel okay. I don't know what I'd do if there were no writing and/or no journals. I might rather write and read than eat and fuck. Maybe not. You can buy Ellipsis at their website for I think $7.50 which may or may not include shipping.

23 comments:

Bradley Sands said...

Mid-sized journals seriously only have a print run of around 200? I figured it's was a lot more. Especially those journals that have distribution and end up in Barnes and Noble. I think a lot of the Barnes and Noble copies don't get bought and an employee rips off the cover and sends it back to the distributor. Maybe only about 200 copies of each issue are actually read? I would believe that.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

i guess i am thinking of smaller journals w/ that #. journals like caketrain and barrelhouse and such i think aim at 200-300 journals. the mid-sized, whatever mid-size is, are surely more, maybe like 600 or 1000.

something.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

thinking of journals not distributed by barnes and noble, really. because that is few. as far as i've seen.

Bradley Sands said...

I assume you mean distributed "to" Barnes and Noble. I think it depends on the store. I have seen a lot of different lit mags in some stories and few in others. Same thing with Borders. Independent bookstores are usually better with carrying various journals (although one near me that used to have a lot of stuff has severely cut down their selection). I think they sell poorly though. Bust is sold in very few bookstores. The only place it does decently at is Quimby's in Chicago. If it wasn't for Internet sales, I wouldn't bother doing it.

Bradley Sands said...

some "stores," I mean.

Mike Young said...

I'm glad you don't eat yr own dick most days. Ellipsis is a good journal. There is more than one, tho, which is confusing. Rick Moody wrote an introduction to Stanley Elkin's Magic Mountain.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

bradley, there are few independent book stores in atlanta. the ones that there are here don't carry any lit mags. except i think criminal records has like 8.

hence all around why the internet.

mike, you mean the magic kingdom which is the fucking bomb and moody intro says something about how most people say dream scenes in lit suck but that this is one of the best dream scenes in books ever. and yes.

Bradley Sands said...

I'm eating a pop tart so it's a little tricky to type and i'm surprised that the independent bookstores don't care journals. unless they are used bookstores, which don't usually carry them. A Borders in Atlanta carried a couple of issues of Bust. This is because the store's book buyer was a contributor. I am typing better because I'm finished with my pop tart.

Adam R. said...

I think these things a lot. My thinking has been affected recently, though, by the fact that PRETEND I AM THERE BUT VERY LITTLE has had more than 4,000 views.

That's like a bestseller. That's pretty much the "What What in the Butt" of the literary attention economy.

Josh Maday said...

excellent post, blake.

this question of who's reading these days and what's the point of publishing in the print lit mags is interesting, but probably not going to be settled anytime soon. some people say no one reads anymore while others say that people are reading more than ever. if you're hustling your novel from a really small press with zero advertising help from the press, then probably no one is reading anymore; but if you're J.K. Rowling, there's never been a better time to write and publish books. i'm saying this in general; i don't think it responds directly to anything said here.

it's exciting to see that PIATBVL has had over 4k views.

spot-on about writing for sanity and to make getting out of bed seem like a good idea.

KEN BAUMANN said...

i'd like to run nocolony with at least 500 copies. go big or go home, suckas.

i'll sell em out of my trunk if i have to, we have too much amazing shit so far not to.

Michael Kimball said...

I know a few mid-sized journals that print around 1K (e.g., New York Tyrant). The bigger ones, I'm told, print, say, 7K to 10K; they also have libraries and subscriptions and distributors that help a lot. Good distribution can change a mid-sized journal into a big one.

But what I really wanted to say is that I love that your mom read a piece of yours to her sewing group. That just seems like the sweetest, proudest thing. I think I'm going to ask my mom to read something of mine to the people she walks with every day.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

bradley, what store? i assume criminal.

adam, that's awesome i didnt know it had that many views, i am emailing you. WHAT WHAT IN THE BUTT.

thank you josh.

ken, we will sell those fuckers. 500 sounds good.

michael, thank you for speaking with knowledge, i was speaking out my ass, 1k makes sense for tyrant sized. my mom is very awesome.

Bradley Sands said...

It was at one Borders Books and Music, a long time ago. Issues 1 and 3.

Marcos Soriano said...

Another great post. If you sometimes doubt the time you spend submitting, know that I admire you for spending that time. At least you're in active pursuit. I, on the other hand, am generally defeated before I begin when it comes to the submissions process. I start to think about how hard it's been for me to place the few pieces I've placed, and how many of the stories that people are getting published are stories I don't like, and how few people actually care about literature anyway, and it makes me want to give up before I begin. I think I've submitted like three stories to seven places in the last year, which is pathetic.

The only thing that keeps me going at all is the idea, which you mention, that someone somewhere might read a couple sentences while shitting, and then my words will be inculcated into their grey matter, will change the physical structure of their brain in some slight way. That works toward making it worth it, for me.

Anyways, keep it up.

death-hustler said...

Hey I just read your Obsessor(s)(s) and it was a wash of hot ashes(s)(s) . I am deeply devoted to Thomas and Theresa myself or the processions of Atheism.

Klossowski has the spirit of St. Theresa enter the anus of the executed paige boy in The Baphomet who then discoures on the Anti-Christ.

You are much more interesting than an Anti-Christ I think, it is not simple rage which is obessesive, but a kind of affluvia of objectless praise. Creepy piety rather than abject faithlessness, like Lynch.

this makes me think I am a jerk, a jerk, a jerk...

BLAKE BUTLER said...

marcos, it is hard often. you have to enter a certain mood. i don't know.

death-h, i think you are correct in things in ways and i am glad you saw into the words and you are not a jerk.

ryan call said...

i think we print maybe 1k copies of phoebe? im not sure, but i always feel sad when i see how much we print and how much just sits in our office afterwards.

we send maybe 80 to our distributor?, a number to subscribers like libraries, etc, then we have a few people who subscribe, and we also send out contributors copies and exchanges to other journals.

(i have to check on these numbers)

i usually just give issues away. i would rather give them away so that people read them than have them sit in the office. im sure this is not smart business practice.

anyone, email me if you want a copy of phoebe. if you want to buy one that is also cool. or if you want to send us $1, do that too. i dont know. do whatever. we have a new issue out very soon. email me.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

ryan, wow weird to hear those number. you print 1k and send 8% to a distributor? that seems weird. everything is weird. i am excited about new phoebe.

ryan call said...

it is weird - i dont understand why we do that.

we have university funding, which, i guess, allows us to be weird and irresponsible.

also, apparently, we've been having awful problems with our distributor...i dunno

Peter Cole said...

this is an encouraging post. i have a similar thought process fairly frequently. though it's interesting hearing it from a writer's perspective.

all work and too much tv makes you-know-what. art is always worthwhile. gives you something to do if nothing else. if i didn't have keyhole to spend my time on i'm sure i'd drink myself to death. and that alone makes it worth it to me.

Mike Young said...

Also: NOÖ [seven] had 1000 print copies, most of which ended up distributed, except for a small stack on my floor. We're only doing 500 for [eight] because we don't have mailing $$$.

BLAKE BUTLER said...

a university should fund me. i would eat cake.

peter, drinking is a sneaky, i get mean and loud, yes words better.

mike, the tornado ate about half the copies of noo you sent me to distro. i put them 2 places. that fucker.