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May 4, 2020: Traipsing down Memory Lane

I am continuing with my ongoing reorganizational project. I did not think, when I started, that I would sort out and reorganize all the past writing and writing-related correspondences that I had on hand, this including the work that I stashed in filing cabinets in my cabin, my equivalent of Pete’s Black Hole. He has tools, I have old poems and essays, same difference.

But I am doing this, and there now is to be no turning back. I hope to unearth (and unearth is the operative word) work that I will revise and send out again. I realized today that I won’t be sending it all out – I can’t stay indefinitely in the past. A grrl’s gotta move on.

Alys's study

It does interest me, how memory corrupts. If, a few days ago, you’d asked me about past reject letters, I’d have told you that most took the form of little pieces of paper and simply indicated that the work at hand was unsuitable for the selected publication. This is what I remembered.

New memories are coalescing. In looking at past correspondences, I am blown away by the fact that more than half the editors of publications that I contacted were kind enough to write a personal note, explaining why they’d rejected my work. And I had also forgotten that I had lengthy correspondences going on with numerous editors.

I regret to say that there were some editorial acceptances that I didn’t follow up on, or at least don’t remember following up on. And there were a few that just took a nosedive. For instance, I had a wonderful agent, Michael Rosenberg, recommended to me by Donald Murray, a well-known author. He was very encouraging. However, he took a job in the education field and turned his business over to his wife. She didn’t have the interest in finding a publisher for my work that he had, so our working relationship ground to a halt.

I was also amazed at how verbose and articulate some correspondents were. This included my dissertation committee members and chairs and as well academic department chairs. The former seemed to delight in attempting to explain to me why my project would not fly. And the latter seemed to take great joy in attempting to explain to me why I was not cut out for teaching.

My biographer, Christopher Benson, is going to have a good time with all this archival material. I am going to have it all in good order for him so that he does not have to spend a lot of time himself organizing this material.

I even found a self-obituary that I wrote in 1995. This was before the turn of the century.

I have also found quite a bit of student writing; seems like I mainly hung on to journal writes. Reading some drafts, I was also amazed at how honest and articulate these students were. I was definitely on the right path in having them generate material that to them had some meaning.

Tomorrow, a break from this. The veterinarian is coming over and administering spring vaccines. Then I’m headed over to the Big Top and again getting the Bright Lights Book Project going. Wednesday will be a much-coveted day at home.

Next: 125. 5/5/20: A Hero ain’t nothing but a Sandwich

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