November 15th, 2005


Writing to markets

I was telling my friend Ken Scholes this morning not to think about markets while writing. This is my general perspective -- write what you want, or need, to write, and think about markets only post facto. The one significant exception I make to this is themed anthologies or invitations, where there is an editorial requirement in play.

It occurs to me I might not be right. For example, if I had a perfect understanding of a market's requirements, could I or would I write a story aimed at that market? I've never been in F&SF. Should I study GvG's editorial selections closely, and try to write into whatever "sweet spot" I might perceive? Frankly, that strikes me as rank madness. My auctorial voice is what it is. Whether or not it matches GvG's editorial voice (or anyone else's, not to pick on the fine Mr. Van Gelder) is entirely a matter for them.

What's your perspective on writing to/for markets? Why does it seem to be ok to write to a themed market but not so ok to write an open-ended market?

Moving the discussion from writing-to-market to auctorial voice

In response to my recent post about writing to markets, rosefox said:

I've occasionally thought that maybe I'm very weird in this... chameleonic approach, mostly because I don't do it for the sole purpose of marketability. It would be interesting to know whether this sense of auctorial manners, and joy in ranging far and abroad and adapting to whatever I find, is more common than I expect.

Which led to me reflect on my auctorial voice Collapse )

What's interesting to me about my response is that it had never occurred to me to think about the two levels of auctorial voice until just now. Surface style, which is often referred to as "voice" in critique, criticism and casual discussion, is something that's always been on my mind. But the "the voice-beneath-the-voice" is a new idea for me. Especially since I've never come up with a decent definition of "voice" in the first place, beyond a sort of Potter Stewart "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it" approach.

What the heck is "voice" anyway? Why do we care?

Shiny. Must turn over in my head a while.

Mr. Bad Example

goulo recently sent me some old photos from our hijinks together in Texas during the previous millenium, when we both lived in Austin and the streets were paved with gold and I was young and beautiful.

Well, young.

I had stuck the photos along with some other miscellany in a little pigeonhole thing on my desk and sort of forgotten about them. This morning, the Child came downstairs to bid me farewell before she hied off to school, and happened to tug the photos out.

Oops. Two of them are decidedly not worksafe. One is a photo of me and Annie Sprinkle, from a time that me and goulo and zainybrain and a few others went to see her on her road show. I leave the content of the photo to the imagination of the reader, but suffice to say no father on earth wants his eight year old daughter asking questions about *that* one. (And no, before you ask, I'm fully clothed.) The other is a photo of me and goulo being particularly juvenile in front of a sign which reads "Prude Ranch." (And no, before you ask, I'm not fully clothed.)

So I snag those photos and pop them into my desk drawer. This maneuver does not escape the notice of the Child. Trouble ensues, as she has the inveterate curiosity of a sack of cats. I tell her it's a picture of me being silly when I was much younger. Silly how? Oh, you don't want to know. Yes I do.

I caved. I flashed her a photo of twin moons rising beneath the Prude Ranch sign. And I do mean flash, like a flipcard. Annie I palmed off safely. The look on the Child's face was priceless -- something between hilarity, astonishment and disgust.

I do not, however, look forward to explaining that to her mother.

Polyphony 6 Guidelines

(These will also be available on and in the other usual sources.)


Wheatland Press
P.O. Box 1818
Wilsonville, OR 97070

Wheatland Press announces an open reading period for POLYPHONY 6, the sixth volume in the critically-acclaimed POLYPHONY anthology series. The publisher and editors are committed to finding outstanding cutting edge fiction from new writers as well as from established writers. We will be looking for stories that stretch (or break) the boundaries of traditional genres. Send us your magic realism, surrealism, literary stories with a genre sensibility, and other hard-to-classify stories with strong literary values, compelling characters, engaging tone and unique voice. If you really want to know what we are looking for, check out the previous volumes of POLYPHONY, available directly from Wheatland Press, genre booksellers or online booksellers.

We will accept submissions by lettermail only at our P.O. Box, postmarked from December 15, 2005 to January 31, 2006. Manuscripts received with a postmark date outside the designated submission period will be discarded unopened. Email submissions are welcome from overseas contributors. If you live in the United States and feel you must email a submission to us, please query first.

Please follow standard manuscript formatting and submission conventions, especially including no simultaneous or multiple submissions. Word count is open, but our preferred range is 4,000-10,000 words. If you are unfamiliar with standard manuscript formatting, please see the various essays and references under the heading "Manuscript Preparation" at:

Some specifics based on prior experience.

1) No reprints. Not even if prior publication had limited or private distribution. If you feel you must submit a reprint, please query first. We'll still say "no," but it might make you feel better. Reprint submissions will be rejected unread.

2) Please use normal manuscript headers. Manuscripts without full author identification and contact information on the first page of the story will be rejected unread. This does not mean use a cover sheet, this means put your name and address in the upper left hand corner and the word count in the upper right hand corner, on the same page as the title and the first paragraph of the story. It also helps to put "by Your Name" under the title, just in case. As basic as this is, at least one story got rejected from the final reading round of a prior volume because it had become separated from its cover letter and we couldn't identify the author. Improperly identified manuscripts will be rejected unread.

3) Do not include copyrighted material in your story. Manuscripts which feature quotations from popular music or published authors will be rejected unread. It is difficult and expensive to clear rights for this sort of material, and the potential liabilities to both author and publisher are enormous. This is fiction. Make up your own material.

4) No multiple submissions. One story per author, please. If we want to see additional material from you, we will contact you. Multiple submissions from one author will be rejected unread. Please don't play games on this one, either.

5) By the same token, no simultaneous submissions. We won't hold your story for an unreasonable length of time, please allow us the privilege of being able to buy it.

6) If you are submitting by letter mail from overseas with a SASE, please supply AMERICAN stamps or a sufficient number of IRCs. Colorful as they are, foreign stamps are not accepted by the United States Postal Service. Enclosing cash for return postage is not helpful either, because that is another transaction we have to deal with. We will also be happy to reply by email to overseas subs, even those that come by letter mail.

7) If you live outside the U.S., you may send an email submission to Please be sure that the subject line includes the phrase “Polyphony 6 Submission.”

It is our intention to respond to all submissions by the end of March 2006. We pay $0.06 per word for First Print and Electronic World Anthology Rights, to a maximum of $600.00, on acceptance, along with two author's copies on publication. These guidelines may be redistributed freely in their entirety.

We look forward to seeing your best work.

Deborah Layne, Publisher and Editor
Jay Lake, Editor