|LEON BLOY, AUTHOR OF PILGRIM OF THE ABSOLUTE|
"Every true writer is surely a judge."
Last week, my self-addressed stamped envelope came back with a small Xeroxed notice to the following effect: "Between September 1 and December 30, 2010, Tin House magazine will require writers submitting unsolicited manuscripts to the magazine to include a receipt for a book purchased from a bookstore. Writers who are not able to produce a receipt for a book are encouraged to explain why in 100 words or fewer."
SAMSON AND THE DONKEY JAW
As you may or may not know, submitting to a literary mag means months of waiting, usually for a rejection, and getting paid, if at all, two or three hundred bucks. I don't mind begging; I don't mind being a slave to literature. But if you want to start a "Buy a Book, Save a Bookstore Campaign," the idea is to make a sacrifice yourself, not to compel a sacrifice from others. I, too, am saddened and perplexed by the rise of "digital" reading, but to blindly go out, buy a book because someone else thinks I should, and submit proof of my purchase to a rag that, in this case at least, has the temerity to hold itself out as on the side of the artist is one place where I must--I will!--draw the line.
So here's the letter I'm mailing out tomorrow (with a Mother Teresa stamp) to Tin House:
IN 100 WORDS, WHY I AM NEITHER SUBMITTING A RECEIPT INDICATING THAT I HAVE PURCHASED A BOOK FROM A BOOKSTORE, NOR RE-SUBMITTING MY ESSAY:
I devote my life to writing. I made in the neighborhood of $13,000 last year. In good faith, I submitted my ms. via U.S. Mail. I walked to the P.O. You used my 44-cent stamp to tell me that I had to buy a book. I am too poor to buy a book. I’m also well able to make my own decisions about how to spend my money and how to support literature. Here’s an idea: why don’t you pledge to buy a book from every writer who takes the months of work required to write, edit, polish and submit an essay?
And as my ex-husband Tim would say: So there, March Hare!!