A Writer’s Notebook: not really a notebook, just a passed note in class

I never could figure out how to open these things, let alone fold them to begin with.

Maybe you’re young enough that every note you’ve ever passed in class was in the form of a text message. But not me. I remember when all passed notes were on intricately folded sheets of notebook paper, often torn out of spirals, and handed cupped palm to cupped palm below desk-level or handed off in hallways like spies swapping secret microfilm.

Not that anyone ever passed me notes. I wasn’t cool enough to ever be the recipient — I was just the courier. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t peek now and then.

That’s not true — I did receive a note in second grade. A first-grade girl passed it to me on the bus. It was one of those Q&A notes, like a survey. It contained a single question: “Do you want to be my boyfriend?” Underneath were two large, hand-drawn checkboxes next to the words YES and NO. I checked YES, and just like that, I had my first girlfriend. Her name was Natasha. I never saw her except on the bus, and we were both too shy to ever talk to one another, let alone sit next to one another. I don’t know that we ever officially broke up. (Natasha, if you’re reading this, you should know that I’m happily married now. Sorry to break it to you like this.)

I thought about those old passed notes when I submitted my story “The Voice You Throw, the Blow You Catch” to Fiction Circus a week ago. Fiction Circus is a bit of an anomaly in the lit magazine world, because they don’t simply collect your fiction, laugh about it in some back room, and then file it away for two or three months before they get around to rejecting you. Instead, they make their entire submissions and considerations process open and public: Not only does the whole world know what you’ve submitted to them and when, but the whole world also has a chance to read your submission and comment on it, vote on it, and laugh about it in the cold, hard light of day.

The editors claim that all this public judgment has no official bearing on their decision-making — “Stories that attract lots of votes will not necessarily be published,” they write in their guidelines, “and stories that seem to be ignored by the majority might achieve instant transcendence. Your ever-watchful Fiction Circus editors have strange tastes and precarious whims.” But let’s face it: those votes do mean something, because any traffic — up or down, good or bad — is still traffic, which means a shitty story that gets lots of buzz is surely more likely to attract the editors’ attention than a good story that everyone’s ignoring.

You want to vote yes. I know you do.

I think I’ve written a good story, and I’d like it to not get ignored. So this week, instead of my usual Writer’s Notebook entry (which, I know, I’ve been lax on lately), I’m going to simply pass you a note. Do you like me? Please check YES or NO!

To read the story, head to this page at Fiction Circus and click on the title. (You might want to right-click and open it in a new window; alternatively, you can just click here to read it at Ryan Werner’s Our Band Could Be Your Lit, where it originally appeared). Then, back at that Fiction Circus voting page, click on the up arrow to show how awesome you think the story is. Or the down arrow, if you think it sucks, but really, admit it, it’s pretty damned good.

Feel free to leave a comment at the Fiction Circus page, too.

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3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Notebook: not really a notebook, just a passed note in class

  1. Ha! Thanks, M!

    But I think if you asked everyone I went to high school with, you might find three people who would ever label me as having been “cool.” And I couldn’t tell you why they would. I was pretty ridiculous back then.

    But, a) weren’t we all? And b) aren’t we all still? 🙂

    1. a) Maybe, but you can bet that there are people out there who now say “Hey – I was at school with Samuel Snoek-Brown! b) Yeah, but now it’s a kind of cool ridiculous.

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