‘an open ransom note to narrative magazine’


This piece was retrieved from an old archive of my online writing—there will likely be some rough edges!

What writer isn’t getting a little tired of Narrative? Between the e-mail blasts and the criminal submission fees, there isn’t much to like. Luckily, over at Bling Theory, Johannes Lichtman is doing something about it. Notably, taking hostages and demanding ransom.

Something had to change. Something had to be done.

So I kidnapped Richard Bausch.

He’s in my basement as we speak. I’ll return him to you once I’ve received assurances that my email address will be permanently removed from your list.

You have my word that Mr. Bausch is comfortable, and so far he’s been very polite. Whenever I bring him his toast and tea, he says, “Please, call me Dick.” Then he covers the side of his mouth with his bound hands, motions to Robert Olen Butler (who’s been tied to the radiator yelling “Three months free access to Narrative Backstage if you let me go!” for the last couple hours) and whispers, “Is there any way to get him to shut up?”

I’m still on the fence when it comes to submission fees. I have a few pending submissions right now that I paid for, mostly because I thought the piece was an excellent fit for the magazine. One started taking submissions for a theme that fit perfectly with a piece I’m particularly fond of. And I know that there’s an incredibly small chance that $3 will convert into an acceptance, but I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. I really want to see my work in those magazines.

What I still haven’t gotten over is the price to submit to contests. I understand that contests are often necessary for a litmag’s survival, even after paying out for the prizes, but when the chances are so small, is it worth the 15or15 or 20? I worry that places like Narrative will become more prevalent in the future, as the economics of a litmag become more and more dire. Where writers will have to pay up-front for their work to be considered anywhere.

They say it’s the dawning of a new day in publishing—I just hope that come tomorrow, we can still afford to keep all the aspiring writers (like myself) around. We’re happy to take the scraps. We’ll crawl around and eat off the floor if it means that someday we’ll evolve enough to twist our spines and shed our fur and take our place at the table. What we won’t give up are our claws, because we’ll need those to fight for whatever is left.