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Friday Fable: The Novelist and the Literary Journal that Paid $30

fish fableYou may know the old story, “The Angler and the Little Fish:”

An angler spent all morning casting and reeling in the hot sun, dreaming about the bucketload of trout and walleye he might catch, how delicious they’d taste fried in butter, how his wife would welcome him home with kisses, how his neighbours would gossip about his fishing prowess, and even his grumpy old father would say, “A two-foot trout? Not bad, kid.”

But alas, the angler didn’t get a nibble all morning.

He was just about ready to eat his box of worms in desperation when he felt a tiny tug on his line and he reeled in a little rock bass. “Don’t kill me for one lousy mouthful!” pleaded the fish. “Throw me back and catch me in a few years when I’m big enough to impress someone.”

bassThe angler considered this. He imagined walking home with the tiny fish on a line, how it would barely flavour a soup, how how his wife would grumble and his neighbours would joke and his father would mutter, “Not much of a fisherman, are you, son?”

Then his stomach growled and he said to the unfortunate fish, “If I let you go in hope of something bigger, I might starve.”

And the moral is: A fish on the line is worth two in the lake. (AKA “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”)

That is a fine old tale. But if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he might have called his fable, “The Novelist and the Literary Journal that Paid $30:”

fiddleheadA writer spent all year polishing stories and submitting them to literary journals, dreaming about the Paris Review deal he might land, how his delicious words would glimmer from the pages of Glimmer Train, how his wife would exclaim, “Darling, you’ve been nominated for the Journey Prize!”, how his critique group would envy his anthologized pieces, and even his grumpy old father would say, “Two stories in The Fiddlehead? Not bad, kid.”

But alas, the writer didn’t get an acceptance all year.

He was just about ready to write some cheesy erotica piece in desperation when he got an email acceptance from an online journal he didn’t even remember submitting to. “Don’t sell that great story for $30 lousy bucks,” a writer-friend advised. “Wait for something more impressive.”

The writer considered this. He imagined announcing the modest publication credit on his website, how barely a dozen people would read it, how how his wife would say, “That’s not much money for something you spent a year on,” how his critique group would ask, “What’s the name of that magazine again?” and his father would mutter, “Not exactly Khaled Hosseini, are you, son?”

coinsThen he thought about how moved he’d been by a story he’d read online a few years ago by some writer whose name he didn’t recognize in some journal whose name he’d forgotten.  And he thought, “What the hell. I’m only selling First North American Serial Rights. It’s not like I can’t republish this in a collection someday.”

And the moral is: A publication online is worth two in the imagination.

There are lots of good journals that just can’t pay well, and someone might find your story in one someday. If you’re not sure where to send your work, try these lists:

To keep on top of the latest news for literary journals, here are three websites you might want to follow:

  • The Review Review. A hub for all things literary-magazine-wise. Lists a kazillion journals (mostly American) and reviews a bazillion of them. And it will send you news in regular emails like this one if you subscribe.
  • Quick Brown Fox. The blog of writing teacher Brian Henry, listing calls for submissions (mostly Canadian) from agents, publishers, and journals, along with other writerly posts.
  • Writing Career. Brian Scott’s website listing oodles of calls for submissions from journals, publishers, contests, and various fiction and non-fiction markets. He will send you a free biweekly newsletter of looming deadlines and markets if you subscribe.

With these links, you’ll have more markets than you could possibly saturate with one lifetime’s writing. So start racking up publication credits. Good luck.

And that’s my Friday fable. Have a great weekend.

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One comment on “Friday Fable: The Novelist and the Literary Journal that Paid $30

  1. […] Friday Fable: The Novelist and the Literary Journal that Paid $30 […]

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