Learning experience

I tend to send out manuscripts in batches, which means I tend to get all my rejections in the same week. I got one this morning that was particularly frustrating, in part because the editor pointed out some technological and economic holes in a space opera I’d written that make the plot and the characters completely pointless, but mostly because his points meant I misjudged that market and I’ve been sending him soft science and character pieces when clearly he’s more of a hard science kind of guy. Well, live and learn. My new tactic is to not only look at rejections in terms of story critique but also to use them to get a better sense of the editor’s brain, so I’m making notes next to the submission info for that market.

I’m looking over my manuscripts for the next round of submissions, and some of them are really great and I’m really proud of them, but some make me pause and wonder if they’re good enough or whether I should do myself a favor and lock them away so editors don’t judge me by them. I hate feeling like creative effort is going to waste, like some stories are just never going to be good enough and have to be written off as learning experiences. It’s made more difficult by the fact that I’m having trouble thinking up new ideas recently, and the three stories I’m working on now are all massive overhauls of things I wrote years and years ago. It’s like I’m afraid to move forward, and I don’t know why.



Sam and I had a great weekend, went to see the Max Ernst exhibit, which was pretty wild. He was doing such different things at different periods in his life, and I kept getting drawn into these sensuous forestscapes of his. You could look at his paintings for a year and keep noticing new details that changed your perception of the whole. These bird shapes kept recurring in his paintings with very rounded beaks. They look surprisingly like him as an old man, but not as a young man; he was interred a few times during WWII, and I wonder if his nose was broken, and if the birds are his way of coming to terms with a new face.

We saw Amelie, which I’d never seen before, and which was splendid! Gah, such loveliness. And Central Park is blooming, tulips bursting everywhere. Central Park is so well-designed and groomed; there are places where you feel with a shock like you’re trespassing on a rich English estate, and then you realize this is yours.

One sour note: I got some sort of stomach bug on Sunday, which meant I actually dragged myself out of the house at 8:40 and halfway up the block, sick to my stomach, but determined to get the eggplant parmesan I’d been coveting all Passover, even though the very thought made me even more sick. And then I thought, “What am I doing?” I went home, switched to something gentler but not what I had wanted, and tried to take my mind off being ill by watching Exodus for the nth time.

Every time I see Exodus, I’m back in Israel, walking to the cinematheque past the thistles in the dry heat, with the posters for Yellow Submarine up in the theater. And I’m twenty, watching it with my best friend in the Toasters at Bard, cheering whenever Paul Newman gets a good one in. And I’m older, watching it with post-911 and Intifada eyes, wondering if I’m accepting the Jewish terrorism because they’re the home team, or whether there’s some critical difference in ideology or method.

Oh and hey, almost forgot, I saw Hitchhikers on Friday with my brother and my friend Sara! Definitely being with them was the highlight; the film was good, and the opening song and the hitchhiker animation was great, but it’s just not a film I need to see again in a hurry.