"You were supposed to do years of this. I could barely handle it for two hours."

David Dickerson writes greeting cards. Specifically, greeting cards for awkward situations, like the wedding of your former fiancee or a birthday that falls on September 11th. In his memoir, House of Cards, Dickerson talks about why he turned away from the “traditional” path of a writer, and toward the Hallmark aisle instead.

But even in writing stories for money, the way I was told to go about it was to submit to small nonpaying literary magazines, then get enough published that you could get a story collection with a small press, and then — on the basis of that or of whatever small-press novel came next — get a teaching job at some obscure college no one much cared for. Yet even this simple plan seemed impossible. I could barely manage to submit ten copies of a story and send them off to various magazines (writing a different cover letter every time, making sure you got the editor’s name right, including the SASE that was properly weighted, etc.). Just thinking about it made my limbs heavy, and my brain gasped for anything more exciting to occupy it. Mailing off stories involved actual suffering. And for what? For ten rejections to trickle in over the next nine months. And even if I made it (I’d succeeded once in the six mass mailings I’d managed to shoulder through), you got no money and no one noticed you were in this stupid magazine that only other MFA students had ever heard of. You were supposed to do years of this. I could barely handle it for two hours.

Uh, yeah, I HEAR THAT.

And yet I’m sticking with it. I must be insane.

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7 Comments

  1. Les

    At least it’s mostly done via email now..? lol
    .-= • Recent post by Les: Reliance =-.

  2. Aurora

    actually, I kind of feel like that’s more of the “literary/critical acclaim” route.. submissions to obscure journals -> rejection -> publication -> university press book -> doing readings to old rich people -> professorship, etc. and that none of that really involves any money. isn’t there a different way to go mainstream? like writing novels instead of short stories, getting an agent, and signing with a major publisher? preferably one that can get you a movie deal as well?

    still, I have a friend whose bday is on 9/11. wish I’d known about those cards!

  3. Les-
    Yeah, that definitely helps. (But it’s still stressful!)

    Aurora-
    Well, yes and no. Even commercial writers will have better odds securing an agent if they have writing creds. And professors make money! Granted, not a lot, but it’s secure/steady income.

    But yes, I am TOTALLY gunning for a major publisher and a movie deal, hahaha.

  4. “…you got no money and no one noticed you were in this stupid magazine that only other MFA students had ever heard of.”

    lol it’s depressing but it made me laugh

  5. Me too. :P Because it’s so true.

  6. Margot

    You’re sticking with it because you will actually be one of those crazy famous writers one day. I think you should be the first writer to make zombies loveable….or mummies. Vampires have had there day….werewolves too. Zombies and mummies never get any love!

  7. Mummies, huh? I’ll chew on that. Zombies are the new vampires, though, I’ve seen it in what’s being sold now (i.e., will be out on shelves in the next year or two). Plus, what’s to love about a zombie?! :p

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