Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Drought, flood, drought, flood

I sent work out during all of 2005 and got nothing in return for my efforts. No love, no ink, no shred of interest, and rejection after rejection after rejection. A year's worth of it. Hard to imagine going a year with next to nothing in the way of positive strokes, but it's the writer's life I'm afraid. Needless to say, I was getting bummed and wondering if I should just quit trying to get published in journals. The whole lit journal publishing racket leaves SO MUCH to be desired.

Then, on Saturday, I opened my email to a lovely acceptance from Xavier Review for the short story that is essentially the first chapter of my novel. This acceptance was especially sweet because Xavier Review publishes work about the southern US and Caribbean, and wants work that explores racial themes. Perfect fit! Yay, life is good.

Then, the mail arrived. In the stack was a letter from Primavera accepting another story of mine that was first submitted in 2004! (In 2005 they requested a revision to the ending, which I did, and they have now agreed to publish it in 2007. A long way off, one might think, but in this crazy publishing business I've learned that it really isn't so far away.) This is another excellent fit, as Primavera is a journal that showcases work by and about women and the story is about two very different women who come together and the assumptions that each makes about the other. The editors were wonderful and really considered and discussed the work before deciding to publish it.

My faith in the system has been restored. Although, in a perfect world, I would have preferred to space my acceptances out just a bit more--two in one day may be more excitement than this poor fragile writer can handle, and it mostly left me shaking my head in disbelief. But I've decided to stockpile the excited feelings--store them away so that I will have a stash of fortitude to get me through the possibility of another long acceptanceless year.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Generous Crows?



BREWSTER, NY -- (December 22, 2005) -- Why would a full-grown raven, living in a flight cage at Green Chimneys' Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, voluntarily feed his own food ration to a group of wild black vultures through the wires of his enclosure? That's the question perplexing staff and students at Green Chimneys.

I couldn't believe my eyes, said farm psychologist Dr. Suz Brooks. I was watching the raven pluck little pieces of meat we had just fed him, walk over to the wire of his enclosure and push the food toward the waiting vultures on the outside. The vultures gobbled up the morsels, as the raven kept getting more.

For many years, it was thought that concepts such as sharing, altruism and generosity were strictly human traits, and subject of animal emotions still is hotly debated among scientists. Yet, the work of ethologists like Jane Goodall, Mark Bekoff and others interested in the study of animals continues to reveal amazing abilities some species have to demonstrate complex behaviors indicating a much higher level of emotional and intellectual functioning.

Based on the science, ravens and crows are known to be extremely intelligent, said Michael Kaufmann, Green Chimneys' Farm and Wildlife director. But we really don't know why our raven has decided that feeding his food to the vultures outside his cage is something he wants to do. We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions based on human emotions when we are looking at explanations of animal behavior. But then again, sometimes things really are what they appear to be. Regardless why the raven is doing this, the students at Green Chimneys are seeing firsthand that even a bird can share his food, and wouldn't it be amazing if that were exactly the reason why the raven is doing it?

"Green Chimneys is dedicated to the preservation and rehabilitation of wildlife, said Paul Kupchok, founder of wildlife programs at Green Chimneys. The one thing we must remember is that wild animals belong in the wild and no matter how intelligent they are, they do not make good pets.

Green Chimneys restores possibilities and creates futures for children with emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges. The organization operates a residential treatment center for children, a special education school, a farm, and a variety of programs in New York and Connecticut.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year!

I'm looking forward to 2006, actually. I have this gut feeling that's it's going to be a good year.

Of course, that could be the crazy optimism that I feel after having finally completed my novel. It's a sort of insanity, this euphoria at being done. I liken it to the new mother who holds her little wrinkled bundle of mewling pinkness and proclaims it to be the most beautiful baby ever.

Well, yes. And no. There's something magical about all that promise just waiting to be fulfilled that makes the blank slate of the newborn seem like perfection. In reality, it's more a combination of the thrill of creation, the innocent helplessness of the infant, and our own egos being fed by replication that makes a baby seem like a culmination of all our hopes and dreams.

Which is how I feel about my novel now. But babies grow up. And books get published. I'm sure my feelings will change as time passes. And it will be painful to see my paper baby sent out into the world, facing the judgments and opinions of others, but the alternative isn't an option, so out it goes. Today. To my first tier of agents. Wish me luck. :)