Then with specific journals, and I know everyone says this but you need to actually be reading the journals that you want to get yourself published in. It’s true, it comes down to the aesthetic and whims of the editors and the only way you can really get a sense of that is reading the work. I think if you even corner an editor and shake her preference out of her, it would work, you just have to look at her record and her archive. That’s much more informative. I feel like rejection is actually a miracle and a blessing for everyone. It’s a blessing for the editor because you can’t afford to publish bad work for all the reasons we’ve already talked about. It’s a blessing for a writer who gets rejected actually. You don’t want to be reluctantly accepted. There are often good reasons why work is rejected, it’s just not a good fit. I think once I realized that it made getting all those rejection letters a lot easier.
SA: A “wag” is an antiquated word for a wit. Who is your favorite wag — from literature, from history, from your life, from popular culture — and why?
SJ: I’ve been thinking about Nick Flynn a lot lately as I’ve been reading his new poetry collection. It’s really beautiful. I’ve been thinking the way that he’s been able to thrive as a writer in all of these different forms and it’s always excellent. The Ticking is the Bomb is an excellent, excellent memoir. Really a book-length lyric essay and the form is stunning. And then his poems are stunning. His works are like cut diamonds. One book might focus on the relationship with his mother and you see that again and in a different way in his relationship with his daughter, and his father, and suicide, and the past. It’s really brilliant.
And I think the real magic is when you’re able to thrive not just in one facet, one space in your life, but in these other spaces as well. If anything is true of this era we’re in, whatever we come to call this moment now, it’s that we need to learn to be shape shifters if we’re going to succeed. He makes me think about that.