My Pushcart nominations

This morning I walked to the mailbox and posted my Pushcart Prize nominations.

This is the best thing about being a past Pushcart winner. Well, maybe the second-best thing. The best thing, for me, is appearing right above William Carlos Williams in the index at the back of each Pushcart volume since I made my lucky appearance in the anthology a few years ago. One of these days an Oscar or Samantha Williams is going to come between me and William Carlos, and I’m going to be very sad for a few minutes.

But for as long as I or the Pushcart lasts, I get to be a contributing editor. I love everything about this, starting with the amazing fact that I am invited to send in nominations right along with seasoned editors and famous authors. I love reading something wonderful in a lit journal and feeling like I can do something about it, something more than just posting about it on Facebook. I love nominating poems and essays as well as my genre, short stories. And I love having to mail in the list—an old-fashioned letter, addressed to a real person (Bill Henderson, the man who’s kept this going for 35 years), folded into a real envelope, and affixed with a real stamp.

But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t manage to bring some stress to this delightful activity. For most of the year, I read very happily, noting any writing that amazes me on a “Pushcart nominations” list I keep on my desktop. But as the December 15 deadline draws closer, I grow anxious. At least half a dozen journals are piled up on my coffee table unfinished or even unopened. What wonderful pieces are going to lose out on getting nominated because I didn’t spend more time reading? Not that I really need more entries on my nominations list: I already have more than the ten I’m allowed. Who will I cut from the list? Continue reading

20 Under 40 Angst

Last week The New Yorker announced its “20 under 40” list of the most promising American fiction writers under the age of 40, and the only people who seem to be happy are the 20 people who made it onto the list and their agents. The unhappiest folks are probably the writers who were short-listed but didn’t make the final cut. And then the writers under 40 who weren’t even considered. And then maybe the writers—Colson Whitehead is most often mentioned in this regard, although to judge from his prolific “tweeting” he’s taking the blow pretty much in stride—who didn’t make the New Yorker’s last list in 1999 but are just over the age cut-off this time.

And then there’s the rest of us who weren’t in the running in any way, shape, or form, and still feel a little miserable about the whole thing.

Continue reading