“Look, publishing is FUN. That's it. Just let that be it. Period. Stop fucking worrying about whether or not you're gonna be published in your dream journal or whatever. It doesn't matter. It has no real bearing on whether or not you're a good writer or whether you'll find success or not. Just keep writing.”
Do you remember your first rejection? How did you feel about it? Looking back, is there anything you learned from that experience?
I don't remember my FIRST rejection. I think I'd sent off a story in the mail or something—this was, like, '06 or '07, and I just never heard back. Actually, wait. I vaguely remember an emailed form rejection that I got in '07 for this honestly kinda fucked up thing I'd written about a junkie waiting at a bus stop, and all my friends who had read the story were like, "Yeah, dude, that story was really fucking dark. Get help." If I'm honest, I don't think I learned anything. I loved that story. I wish I still had it, tbh. Maybe I could do something with it now. If I learned anything, maybe it's that: keep writing/submitting the shit you love. Don't make exceptions. Fuck the rules. Do what you want. Burn it all down. Or don't listen to me. Your funeral.
What was the first piece you got published? How did you celebrate? Also, what does your process look like for researching where to submit your work? (do you browse or just submit to anyone with subs open regardless?)
My first piece published was with Chiron Review in 2009 for a story called How Sad. I remember being so stoked because a) it was in print and b) Bukowski had published there (I found out later that another one of my favorite writers, Donald Ray Pollock, also published there). I didn't necessarily celebrate, I just remember feeling like I did something right for once. As for research, I mostly submit now where I read. I don't submit if I don't read what's been published. That's not to speak against that. You only know what you know, especially if you're getting started. But, for me, I submit mostly to places where I've read shit that I really dug and felt some sense of connection with.
For a short piece like a story or a poem, how many places do you submit it to at a time? Do you keep track of your submissions? What does your editorial process look like before you hit submit?
I used to be a lot more organized with this, but, I mean, with Submittable, you can kinda just use that as a tracker for where you submit. In the past, I'd have whole fucking spreadsheets and shit. That's also because I'd submit one piece to like, 20 places. I don't do that anymore. I'll submit to maybe 1-2 places and that's it. No reason for that really. I think I'm just too lazy. I don't submit that much anymore either.
What type of writer are you when it comes to submitting your work: Do you hold on to a piece for a long time and then have to give yourself a pep talk (if yes, please share) or do you subscribe to a more fuck it hit submit right away approach? If your piece gets rejected, are you one to power through and move on to the next publication or do you sit with it a little longer and try to figure out where you might’ve gone wrong?
Even when I first got started submitting, I was never a hold-on kinda dude. I'm definitely more of a fuck-it guy. Almost to a fault. Taking your time helps you catch little mistakes or things that can make a story better. That's still sorta subjective. I'll submit and then be like, "Fuck! I shoulda waited because x,y,z would've made this story better." Then, the universe will tell me to shut the fuck up, it'll get picked up as-is, and people will like the story. It doesn't always happen that way, obviously. When it does, it's nice. When it doesn't, I hold on to it and revisit it months (sometimes years) later and then I'll have another go at revising.
Is there a rejection letter that stands out in your mind? Something particularly harsh or intense? Or maybe even comical?
Not really. I think one that stands out in my mind is one that I sent out myself when I first started Rejection Letters. I can't get into that, just know that it was fucking wild and people are fucking WEIRD.
What publication or magazine would you love to see yourself in someday? Or, if you have already been published in your dream pub, tell us about the experience.
Big pub/mag? Playboy. Jk. Not really. I actually think that would be kinda cool. That or Mormonism Today. Or maybe some Scientology mag. Why not?
Is being published all it’s cracked up to be? What is your advice for writers who are working on getting published?
No, it's definitely not. Look, publishing is FUN. That's it. Just let that be it. Period. Stop fucking worrying about whether or not you're gonna be published in your dream journal or whatever. It doesn't matter. It has no real bearing on whether or not you're a good writer or whether you'll find success or not. Just keep writing. Submit to places that are fun, that publish shit you actually enjoy reading, not the shit everyone tells you that you should read too. Have. Fun. Don't make it more complicated than that.
Okay, you are really hungry and in front of a sub shop. What is your all time favorite sandwich order?
MOTHERFUCKING FRENCH DIP!!!!!! I'm ordering all the French Dip! Then, I'm gonna stop and get a six-pack, walk to the park or some riverwalk area or some shit, and eat/drink it all. Then, I'm gonna take a nap. NIGHT-NIGHT!!!