Submitting

I’m in the process of submitting a short story to various journals.  It occurs to me that this is an act that requires “submitting” in both sense of the word: Presenting ones work for consideration or judgement, and it is a yielding to or acceptance of a greater authority — whether that is whomever has the power to judge, to the way things work, or the mysteriousness of the universe and its unknowable will.

My personal submissions process generally leads to some rabbit-holing. Each journal’s website encourages me to consider whether I am a fit by reading other work they have published. I generally try to do this, and I will also occasionally search for interviews with or works by the editor.

In this way, Dogwood (a journal) led me to an essay by Carole Ann Davis, which led me to this poem by Miklos Radnoti, a poet I had never heard of.

The quote from the essay by Carol Ann Davis that caught my eye:

Before getting to my desk this morning I read a beautiful poem by the Hungarian Miklós Radnóti, who died in a ditch while performing forced labor during World War II but whose notebook of poems was found upon his exhumation in the raincoat that covered his body, a poem that contains lines about the end of summer “bath[ing] in the sun,” and a “pain that wanders around / but you start again as if you had wings.” The notebook nestled in consolation next to his dead body for over a year before it was found.

The poem by Miklos Radnoti that I subsequently found (a different translation from the link above):

Letter to my wife

Soundless worlds are listening somewhere deep
In the earth; the silence roars in my ears and I keep
On crying for help but from Serbia stunned by war
No one can give me an answer and you are far
Away. The sound of your voice becomes entwined
With my dreams and, when I awake next day, I find
Your words in my heart; I listen and meanwhile the sound
Of tall, proud ferns, cool to the touch, murmurs all round.

When I’ll see you again, I can no longer promise – you
Who once were as grave as the psalms, and as palpably true,
As lovely as light and shade and to whom I could find
My way back without eyes or ears – but now in my mind
You stray through a troubled land and from somewhere deep
Within it your flickering image is all I can keep
A hold of. Once you were real, but now you’re a dream,
I tumble back into memory’s depths till it seems

I’m a boy once more, wondering jealously whether
You love me and if, at the height of youth, you’ll ever
Become my wife – I begin to hope once more
And, tumbling back, my wakeful state is restored
And I know you are – my wife, my friend, yet how
Far off. Beyond three savage frontiers. Now
Autumn’s coming. Will it forget me here?
The vivid memory of our kisses still endures.

I believed in miracles once, but now they’ve fled
And squadrons of bombers slowly drone by overhead;
In the sky I saw with amazement the blue of your eyes;
But then it grew dark and the bombs in the aeroplane high
Above were longing to fall. All the same, I came through
And now I’m a prisoner. And though I’ve measured the true
Scale of my hopes, I’m certain I’ll reach my goal;
For you I’ve already travelled the length of the soul,

The roads that seek distant lands; if I must, I’ll contrive
To conjure myself over red-hot coals and survive
Among showers of flames – yet still I will return
To be with you one day; if I have to, I’ll learn
To be tough like the bark on a tree – and now I’m soothed
By the calm of men who, achieving power, move
Through endless trials – and the knowledge that I’ll pull through
Descends, like a wave, with the coolness of 2 x 2.

Camp Heidenau, in the hills above Zagubica, 1944. August-September.

Things like this, I guess, are the rewards of submitting oneself to the process.

My Cinestory Contest Review

I first heard about CINESTORY several years back when I went to a screening of an indie film called Cake. The writer talked about taking the script to the Cinestory Retreat and finding support for it there. I went to their website and thought the experience sounded amazing — spending time in an idyllic setting working with professional writers on ones project, making friends and bonding, etc.

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 10.19.09 AM

Who wouldn’t want this?

Over the course of a few years I submitted two or three features to the Cinestory Contest (entry fee $55-$75) and never heard back, but last year, just as I’d finished a first draft of an original pilot, I saw they’d added an episodic lab for TV work, and submitted again.

This time, I was excited to get an email notifying me that I’d made the quarter finals, and more so when I got the email saying I’d made the semi-finals!

But some of the warm fuzzies cooled and floated away when I read this:

RETREAT FEES
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: Free
CATEGORY WINNERS: $1175
FINALISTS: $1600
SEMIFINALISTS: $1700

$1700??

Let’s go back and read that submission page again. Reading more carefully than I did, you’ll see that the grand prize winner gets “free tuition,” which by implications means the the other invitees… don’t. Also, if you go to their FAQ there is a statement noting that the is a cost for the retreat.

That cost, by the way, does not cover lodging or transportation. So, for me, the question became, do I have in excess of $2000 to spend in three days?

In other years, when I have been working a day job, the answer might have been yes. This year I am mostly writing, so the cost is on the high side for me. In truth, the $55 entry fee was already on the high side for me.

For me, the $2000 buys a month of food and rent, and expenses so I guess that’s like my own personal writers’ retreat?…  Except… not. Working at my desk at home is not meeting people and making connections. What if, like with the Cake, someone took a shine to my project and help shepherd it to fruition? What if someone just liked me, my writing, my work ethic, and it led to the job in or near a writers room? What if this were the opportunity  that changed my career?

I won’t ever know, because I didn’t go.

Luck, they say, is when preparation meets opportunity.  Once you’ve prepared, how far should you go –and how much should you spend — on the hunt for “opportunity?” for those little moments, those chance meetings that might change everything …or might change nothing?

Cinestory, by the way, is a non-profit organization. None of the mentors are paid. As noted in the FAQ, “they volunteer their time for free.” The way  they say it implies I should feel good about that, though I’m not exactly sure why I should feel good that money is just going to the organizers and not the instructors.  Isn’t that just saying that if I ever succeed in my own struggles to achieve a career and reputation in the industry then I can look forward to being asked to work for free, teaching students who are paying generously for the experience?  If you want to pick a profession  (besides writer) that gets consistently undervalued — it’s teaching!

So my review of Cinestory retreat is that it looks enticing on the website.  My review of the Cinestory contest marketing is that it feels disingenuous, despite what I’m sure are genuine good intentions on the part of the organizers.

If you are an aspiring writer with a day job and want to take a feel-good vacation that will maybe give you some inspiration, friendships, connections, you should totes submit. But if it doesn’t work out, consider using the same amount of money to take three 10-week long classes at UCLA extension, also taught by working industry writers who are being paid (albeit too little) to help you with your writing.

Who Ya Gonna Call? Gumbusters

I just got back from my summer travels. First stop was New York City. I got to see some family and friends I hadn’t seen since my last trip five years ago. I stayed in Manhattan but traveled almost every day to Brooklyn, which gave me a chance to check out some day-to-day action in the city.

One day I saw this guy; IMG_4440

Once I saw it, I became aware of the myriad dark blotches on the sidewalks and streets and realized they were old gum. Kind of crazy. I’ve never noticed that in LA — maybe because we have less pedestrians? Though now I need to look more closely the next time I’m in a neighborhood with more foot traffic.

Who pays this guy?  The sidewalk in this picture doesn’t seem to be associated with any private business. Maybe he has  contract with the city. I found this video online, but it doesn’t address that question.

Great Idea, Flawed Execution

I saw this online and ordered it from Target.  53162450Super-cute right?

But I didn’t look closely and I made some assumptions. Like I figured those straps probably had a hidden snap or button.

Or I figured that there might be a zipper on the side.

It didn’t occur to me that they would have would have sash on the front and…

53162450_Alt01Yup, that’s a back zipper.

Totally practical if you have a “jumper buddy” to go with you to the bathroom and help you with the zipper every time you have to go. Otherwise, not so much. The zipper is high -I can’t reach top in order to pull it down — or back up.

I get it — it’s easy to get so excited about an idea that you don’t entirely test it before you send it out into the world. Focus groups are tedious — so many busy-bodies wanting you to make changes. Maybe I’m just not the right demographic — there might be some more limber-bodied folks out there who can totally make this work.

I, however, had to return it.

Jon Ronson and Jeff Simmermon

You know how on the podcast Scriptnotes, at the end of the main conversation, the hosts each share One Cool Thing? An app, a game, a book that is striking their fancy.

I currently have One Cool Thing X 2 — in other words, two cool things.

One is the book Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson.

The other is this story told by Jeff Simmeron at The Moth, heard by me on the radio on the way back from the gym, which also exists on video:

“sad King Arthur,” “pinballing,” “patina of sheer rage.”  So good.