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A Few Constructive Observations

by Channie Greenberg

George sent his writing not to the best venues, where queues were long, but to “B-List” publications, where editors touted themselves as fast and caring. They sent George much useful feedback.

George, who aspired to land a teaching position at a community college, meant to score good grades in his creative writing classes. Free, professional assessments were very helpful, and he employed them to improve the work he submitted for assignments.

His “Monsters’ Mayhem,” for instance, had been lauded by his short story teacher, an instructor who remained ignorant of the comments poured on that tale by the slush monkeys at While You Were Weird and by the Associate Editor at Horrible Port Harcourt.

That instructor learned nothing of the slush monkeys’ claim that “love and beauty were missing from that vapid example of prose,” or of the Associate Editor’s remark that “contemplating necrophilia is so old school as to be almost, but not quite, interesting again.” George just handed in his assignment and sucked down the laudatory grade.

Similarly, when George gave his poetry professor “The Dazzling Wife of a Dead Man” and “Corpse Flotilla,” he made no reference to Stigmatization Magazine and Semantic Struggles’ respective responses. He especially neglected to share the readers’ critique that “the writer struggles to understand the motives driving his verse” and that “the yielding of bodily fluids and organs is not sufficiently macabre to be entertaining but is sufficiently disgusting to merit immediate rejection.” Rather, upon being praised by his poetry professor, George smiled and nodded.

Additionally, when George handed his essay, “By Dint of Formaldehyde,” to his creative nonfiction teacher, he admitted that he had sent an earlier version to Kidney and Three but failed to addend that the e-zine’s prose editor had labeled the piece “small-minded, disgusting, and worth no cyber time.” George proudly collected a B+ on that work.

Semesters passed quickly. George’s grade point average remained at an acceptable 3.5.

During George’s final term, a guest writer, Mrs. Gersona Randwell, joined the faculty roster. Mrs. Randwell had sold two dozen book titles and had several hundred pieces of brief literature in print. She was hired to teach marketing. Her class had a waiting list.

George brought the department secretary a pirated version of DNA Shotgun Wedding and a reissued edition of Alien Brain Eaters. In turn, the clerk “accidentally” deleted a student who had enrolled early and added George’s name into that space.

In class, Mrs. Randwell whirred over the necessity of creating bridges among paradigms, the value of developing backstory, and the need to avoid cliché characters such as alcoholic boyfriends of limited cognitive ability, gelatinous monsters, and imaginary hedgehogs, Although Mrs. Randall’s delineation of the character development of the vampiric lesbians, who populated her second most-reprinted book, temporarily captured the attention of her MFA students, most of them again snoozed when she began to speak of “stipulated publishing circumstances.”

The majority of her students had not and would never publish anything. Talent rarely bothered with a graduate degree from an English Department, choosing instead to moonlight as taxi drivers, as assistant bank mangers, or as pet-store clerks culling acceptances at The New Yorker and Asimov’s.

Thus, with a resignation buoyed only by the fee the department was paying her, Randwell spoke of Excel spreadsheets, of creating relationships with gatekeepers, and of the imperative of rewriting. She droned on about the utility of amassing rejection slips, especially annotated ones. Often, the guest lecturer glanced at George as she spoke.

The day when Randall suggested that marketable creations ought to be outwardly directed and that meaning, at best, is negotiated and not ascribed, George remained entirely oblivious to her lecture. He had directed his attention to a youth groping another youngster in the school’s courtyard. To him, little surpassed a free show.

Untalented dreamers, the teacher bespoke, too often rely on trickery. Randall walked over to George’s desk and drummed her fingers on it. Young hoodlums can be guilty of more than voyeurism, she continued.

Next class, Randwell spoke about the sale of her first novel, Silicon Cynicism, a story filled with sand-dune dwelling mystics, caracals, foxes, and hyraxes. She told how she had workshopped the book’s early chapters in Seattle and had begged editors to appraise strenuously her language, plot, and setting. Randwell lamented the pathetic nature of her early writing. Once more, she stood in front of George’s seat as she spoke.

That time, George had been doodling. In his sketch, George was being inaugurated into The North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Concourse. While being coronated, Cartoon George rested his weight on the back of the editor of MMSF — More and More Speculative Fiction.

In real life, MMSF employed a staffer, G. R. Lexis, who had been stringing George along over one of his space operas. In George’s melodramatic adventure, a naked girl championed the world against big, male baddies. Lexis made George resubmit again and again, but promised him nothing. George hated Lexis.

Randall tapped on the lid of George’s laptop, while bemoaning that plagiarism was not the only crime committed by certain graduate students. She continued with an explanation of simultaneous submission strategies and with notations about ever-treacherous First North American rights.

At the term’s end, her students handed in promotion packages for their hypothetical first books. Randall graded those proposals on the basis of protraction, innovation, and detail. George received a “C” on his marketing plans for “Grave Replacements and other Skullduggery.”

When he confronted Randall in her office, complaining that her assessment would keep him from teaching in a prestigious location, he failed to notice copies of his “The Dazzling Wife of a Dead Man” and his “Womanly Blades versus Baddies” lining her budgie’s cage. He only had eyes for her computer screen, across which blazed the logo for More and More Speculative Fiction.

Copyright © 2010 by Channie Greenberg

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