Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In the Treehouse

First, exciting news: I have two short fiction pieces published this week in the fantastic literary journal Treehouse. Best of all, the journal is online so you can read them right this very second, if you so choose. And I so hope you choose. They're called "The Bruise on Your Chest" and "How to End a Marriage."

And now, an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the revision and submission process.

I write a lot (though not as much as I should) and I submit my writing to journals often (though not as often as I should). This means that I receive rejections on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes Usually the rejections are a simple form letter - "Thank you for submitting your work to X Journal. Unfortunately, it does not fit our needs at this time." Usually Sometimes the rejections are a little nicer, a bit more personal - "Thank you for submitting your work to X Journal. We really enjoyed the language, but it doesn't fit our journal at this time. We hope you will consider submitting again." Those rejections are nearly as celebrated as acceptances. (Side note: it is sad when you enter a field where a nice rejection is considered a victory.) Very occasionally, a journal will actually take the time to let you know what, specifically, they think is wrong with your piece. Hardly ever will they work with you to make your piece better. Which is understandable - journals are often run by people who are underpaid (if paid at all) and overworked, and they simply don't have the time to give every submission they receive personal attention. I get it, and I'm grateful that they're reading my work, period. So this, my friends, is why Treehouse was such an unexpected and appreciated experience. 

I wrote these two pieces sometime during the last year. I don't write a lot of flash fiction, but I wanted to play with language, and it's easier to do that with shorter pieces (for me, anyway). I turned them in to my summer workshop, and got some good feedback from my friends. I revised them quite a bit based on the workshop, then submitted them to Treehouse, crossed my fingers, and waited. 

Treehouse got back to me after about a month. They had met and discussed my pieces, and decided that they wanted to publish "How to End a Marriage." I was thrilled. But wait, they said. There's more. They also liked "The Bruise on Your Chest," but they were unsure about the ending. If I was comfortable with a rewrite, they would be happy to take a second look at it. 

Obviously, I got to work. I had struggled with the ending of that piece in the first place, and agreed with their comments. I ended up writing a completely new ending, and adding a few lines at the beginning so it would make sense. Editing such a short piece was an interesting process - usually, I revise on a sentence level. For this piece, I was looking at it word by word and then syllable by syllable. I finally understood how poets work, and was very glad I had gone the fiction route. 

When I finished, I felt the piece was much stronger. I sent it back to Treehouse. They agreed that it was a good rewrite, but suggested a minor change in the last line. I played with it, and rewrote it again - not exactly the way they had suggested, but in the same vein. "We're good to go," they said. I cheered.

All of this to say: Treehouse is a fine journal, not just because they published my writing, but because they care about good literature. They're working hard to publish it, promote it, and help it grow, and the least we can do it is support them by reading it.