Wednesday, May 19, 2010

other people's success is sometimes scary

i get intimidated by author profiles that fall into one of two threatening extremes:

1. "this is sunshine mcthomas' first published story! in between spewing out effortless works of genius, sunshine likes bicycling in the country, feeding her chickens, and enjoying the carefree life of an eleven-year-old."
2. "ron harper is way too legit to be published in this small potatoes lit mag. it's not a big deal for him. he won't even be ordering any extra copies for his grandparents. ron harper is way too concerned with his upcoming fiction in the new yorker, the baltimore review, and the best american short stories 2057. GO RON!"

what intimidates me about these people is that they're SO RANDOM. i have no idea who they are, i have no idea if i should be keeping an eye on their seemingly meteoric career, i have no idea if they're a 22 year old girl working in children's publishing who has just graduated from northwestern university and used to own a goat named ian that she may or may not have accidentally killed! it just reminds me how many writers are out there. why can't some of you go into acting? now that's a creative career that's really starving for fresh young blood.

in a perfect world, i'd see only the following two profiles:

1. "jane doe is good, but not THAT good. with a little work, you too can be as good as jane doe. you'll probably surpass her someday. don't worry, jane doe will still be here, cranking out mildly engaging fiction and tending her chickens."
2. "william shakespeare has had his writing translated into more languages than you knew existed. he's a proud member of a little thing called the english canon. but dude, relax. he's WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. it's not like anyone expects that from YOU."

my own phobias aside, i've been loving online fiction journals lately--who knew you could read cool new stories on the web, through a medium that feels less legitimate than print, thus canceling out any residual self-loathing that you may or may not feel? i've been especially loving "ten-minute novel" from the BAP quarterly, and "of a story" from bartelby snopes. they're both clever, twisty, sad, and delicious, the way you would feel if a sad clown gave you a pretzel.

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You are truly great.