Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Issue 12
Stories
Over There
by Tim Pratt
The Multiplicity Has Arrived
by Matthew S. Rotundo
Somewhere My Love
by Stephen Mark Rainey
The End-of-the-World Pool
by Scott M. Roberts
Hologram Bride: Part One
by Jackie Gamber
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
WEST
by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card Audio
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
The Crack
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Essay
American Idol
by Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

Writing Fantasy

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American Idol
(as a metaphor for trying to get published)
    by Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

I have never really watched this "reality" show, except for a few moments now and then while channel-surfing, but I decided to sit through the beginning four hours one week, and I can see some strong correlations with writing and submitting to editors.

It seemed to me that the main purpose of showing the opening auditions for two hours a night, several nights, is to show the judges interacting with the applicants. So think of the judges in the first part/phase of American Idol as the "editors" and the contestants as the "writers" who are submitting their work.

Watching the show, I saw plenty of people who had been convinced by their friends and relatives that they could sing, who really couldn't -- either they couldn't carry a tune, or they had no rhythm, or they were trying to sing something that wasn't right for them, and so on -- but who got up there and tried to sing anyway.

I saw Paula, Randy, and the new judge, Kara, covering their faces as they laughed at one applicant's singing (so Simon isn't the only one who can be unkind). I saw all of them (including Simon), at one time or another, offer constructive feedback, even to those they rejected. And I saw some people thank them (and, I hope, learn from the feedback) and others leave in tears.

When the singing was over and the judges had made their comments, consider how many would-be singers (who are not treated badly by any of the judges) wasted their time on camera after the audition by expressing themselves vulgarly (usually at Simon). Care to guess how many editors receive mail like that after they've sent a story back with a standard rejection letter?

Consider last season's Star Wars fan who sobbed into her cell phone that American Idol needs something different, and the judges aren't letting it happen. Again, care to guess how many such letters editors get, or how many writers complain that way to their friends after they've been rejected?

And it all sounded so painfully familiar to me from my experiences working with writers and those who aspire to write.

Did anyone notice how the judges told a couple of people that while they could sing, their singing wasn't right for American Idol? That sounded familiar too.

One other thing in the audition process that I found similar to the experience editors have with slush piles is that, after sitting through singer after singer who couldn't sing, when the judges heard someone who could at least carry a tune, they were quite happy about it and willing to encourage the singer.

Writers tend to think about submitting stories as a kind of luck-of-the-draw experience, but when editors look at the piles of manuscripts they have to get through, they pray that maybe there'll be just one in all of those piles that they can use.

If you haven't watched American Idol before, I would like to recommend that you find a way to watch at least one episode of the early-season auditions, just to get an idea of what reading a slush pile might be for an editor.

The similarities just boggle my mind, and I expect that as the show progresses and the contestants try to win the votes of the American public, the similarities will continue.


Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury has six short stories published:

"Cinders of the Great War" in Volume 9 of L. Ron Hubbard Presents
The Writers of the Future, "Signs and Wonders" in Washed by a Wave of
Wind, Science Fiction from the Corridor, "More Than Marks on Paper" in
Turning Hearts, Stories on Family Life, "A Monstrous Duty"
in Magic: the Gathering Distant Planes, "What the Gods Will" in Sword and
Sorceress 13, and "The Smell of Magic" in Sword and Sorceress 15.

She moderates the Hatrack River Writers Workshop at Orson Scott Card's science fiction and fantasy website, and the Nauvoo Workshop for LDS Writers at Orson Scott Card's LDS website.

She serves on the staff of the Association for Mormon Letters and is the new managing editor for their publication, Irreantum.

She is the wife of a chemical engineer, the mother of three girls and one cat, and the grandmother of two boys and a girl. She earned a B.A. in mathematics and an M.E. in mechanical engineering, both from the University of Utah.  She taught a short story writing course for her local high community school for many years and has done first reading for a few fiction magazines. She has a part-time computer business where she helps people with those scary machines, especially with putting their genealogy on computer. She collects dragons, unusual names, and information about her ancestors.

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