Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A new kind of announcement: Old work unpublished by Squawk Back!

How did this

1) Dear Mr. Gager,

We regret to inform you that we have decided to pull your piece, Fireworks , from Squawk Back's archives. Please do not take this to mean that we did not at the time, and do not currently, thoroughly enjoy your piece: our decisions have been informed more by whether a given piece fits well with the overall aesthetic of Squawk Back, less their aesthetic merit,—in which we, undoubtedly, believed when we selected them for publication. 

Therefore, we enthusiastically encourage you to re-submit this piece to other publications in which it may be a better fit—which would be especially advantageous for its author, as having your work buried in the archives of a publication with whose tone it doesn't particularly accord redounds to neither our abilities to promote and disseminate a uniformity of content; nor your own, to provide content appropriate to a given publication.



p.s. I dislike you

become this?

2) WOW! You're RIGHT! It IS amazing that I'm trying to run a literary publication that isn't an abysmal piece of shit littered with undercooked subpornographic literary farts. God, I mean, WHO COULD BELIEVE that I might regret a hasty publication choice from a year and a half ago when I published a new issue every 5 days and hence the standard was a lot lower.

and then later this?

3) Timothy, the only reason I dislike you is that you were incredibly rude to me whenever I interacted with you electronically. If someone told me he disliked me, and I had no idea why, I would probably ask him, or represent to my fan page this inexplicable and strange turn of events. I can't help but feel that your reaction suggests that you knew why.

I guess they weren't telling me how they really felt.  After I read the first e-mail it seemed like it was their way of communicating that there was a dead link. Journals and magazines have the right to archive anything that they want, even if the rest of the issue was kept in tact. Yes, I was disappointed but when I went to check the dead link I was greeted by a video of a laughing dog. At the time of publication he was very positive about Fireworks, tweeting,   "A disconcertingly sexual prose poem".  We've come a long way to get to "undercooked subpornographic literary farts."

Then I reread the e-mail and very small, under their tag lines were the words ( p.s. I dislike you) . As I've mentioned, it's fine to do what you'd like with your journal but the smug and insulting way it was done was pretty amazing. I was still in the dark about the big picture, as number two and number three statements from above have yet to be posted.

I hate being in the dark. Might it have been a mistake? Who dislikes me and why? I had to check on the editor, as maybe it was someone I may have pissed off. The editor was Zak Block whom, to my knowledge,  I've had zero interactions with but upon further review he had blocked me on Facebook.

So I went public and received a lot of support--none on the merit of the work but rather that "it was a rotten thing to have happened to you", like a car running through a puddle and soaking you at the curb. Some posted a screen shot of the cache and posted it on their pages.

Obviously the word got back to those folks at Squawk Back, as they posted the "WOW! You're RIGHT! " status on their Facebook page. Interesting that there was also another post that either either rightfully kissed the ass of or complimented in a backhanded way, Roxanne Gay, who openly commented that their staff's handling of my being unpublished as "unbelievable".

Still, I have to ask, if the powers at Squawk Back disliked it so much why did they publish it in the first place?

Was it this?
"...whose tone it doesn't particularly accord redounds to neither our abilities to promote and disseminate a uniformity of content; nor your own, to provide content appropriate to a given publication"

Perhaps. Or was it this?

"God, I mean, WHO COULD BELIEVE that I might regret a hasty publication choice from a year and a half ago when I published a new issue every 5 days and hence the standard was a lot lower."

WHO COULD BELIEVE a new magazine might be ok with lower standards when they are in a rush to publish every five days and such. It seems to say, "we published work we considered not so good, but now it's going to be better." Why bother publishing it to begin with? Again, I don't care if you like or dislike my writing or if you like or dislike me but if you claim to "run a literary publication that isn't an abysmal piece of shit"  All I care about is the professionalism in which you dealt with  me which appears to be quite abysmal. 

Personally, I'd rather not submit to journals that seem glad to welcome you and then, later, throw you under the bus. I have a slight negative opinion on that. I also have a slight negative opinion of on-line journals that don't archive to begin with, but it's not going to ruin my day if that's all upfront.  I understand that it's a case of archiving and bandwidth which can be expensive--except, of course, if it's a free blog your posting on, or perhaps not being lazy to move work to a free blog--either way if you are going to archive, then please archive. 

I want to stress that the removing of work in itself is less of a big deal then the disrespectful way it was done. There is a way to point out that you smell badly without leaving a bar of soap in your locker with a note that says, "Here you go, smelly." Honestly, you might be doing me a favor by removing work of mine from the internet that may stink up the joint.

If my three paragraph flash piece no longer existed in the world it will not make or break my writing career or my goals for my writing. One single opinion that my work is not up to snuff will not discourage me to write any more or any less but what I bring out of this is why would anyone publish with a journal that may unpublish them at any time in the future? Maybe it was because I was rude at some point, a point that I don't remember but Zak Block later mentioned on Facebook:

"it's not relevant because it isn't why I pulled the story."


Post blog, 11:30 AM:
Statements numbered 2 and 3 have been removed or deleted from their site. Also the post about Roxanne Gay was removed. That's good stuff right there.

Post blog, Part 2, 12:55 PM:
I heard from Zak Block who said I could share "Anyway, I read your blogpost and everything you said is pretty much accurate, I have no complaints and am more than willing to admit that I was wrong and might have been taking a few liberties of the imagination in inferring your electronic conduct as rude, for which reason I apologize. (This isn't intended to be a confidential apology, I am more than happy for you to show it to people.) Sorry again and happy trails."


Nathaniel Tower said...

Bartleby Snopes has published two new stories each week for 5 years. We have never felt embarrassed about anything we have published. We would never even think to remove a writer's work. We would certainly never publicly insult a writer. What an unprofessional publication. Thanks for alerting me to this. I will never submit anything to these people.

ctgager37 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ctgager37 said...

I remember editing an issue of Heat City Review, the deadline was approaching and we didn't have enough work we felt to be excellent or high quality. What we did was delay the issue. If any journal felt work wasn't of the best quality, maybe others in the reading world would feel the same way and not publishing the piece to begin with would be a benefit to the writer. Perhaps having my piece removed in the long run will benefit me for those same reasons. Anyway, it's over---resolved in a way I can live with.

megtuite said...

I have only read exceptional work from Timothy Gager, including this flash piece that they published and then pulled. The whole approach by this magazine was horrific and approaching the psycho realm! And Timothy Gager took the high road all the way through. Asked why, what the hell, etc. And finally, but what I consider WAY too late, an apology!!! I'm so sorry this happened to you Timothy, but so thankful you put it out there for everyone to see! You are an inspiration! Best always, Meg Tuite

ctgager37 said...

Meg, as always, you are a gem.

Nathaniel Tower said...

I realize that aesthetics and tastes change over time. I'm sure that some of the stories we published in the nascent years at Bartleby Snopes would not make the cut today. That isn't to say they aren't good stories. They just might not match our tastes now. But that doesn't mean we are embarrassed by them. We are proud of all our work.

I would suggest that any publisher who has decided he/she no longer likes what she has published should find a more tactful way to resolve the situation. Perhaps start a new project. Maybe make the archives harder to find. Possibly post a mission statement about the changes in aesthetic. Or maybe just delete all the archives. But don't call out a writer as being inferior. Shame.

ctgager37 said...

Exactly, Nathan!

Catherine Noble said...

I'm disturbed by the hysterical behaviour directed towards you, Timothy. I would discourage anyone who cares even remotely about their creative work from submitting to Squawk Back. Their conduct does nothing to suggest they have "grown" since your publication at all, professionally, creatively or otherwise.

Indeed, it wouldn't be unreasonable to question the mental stability of one who displays such unashamed reckless behaviour. As much as I can't stand bullies, I find Zak Blocks behaviour to you quite concerning, and I genuinely hope he gets the help he needs for the abusive behaviour he is "more than happy" for you to speak out about.

Anyway, good luck with your writing.

ctgager37 said...

Good luck with yours as well, Catherine! Thank you for your support. Zak and I had discussions as noted and I always encourage the chance for my own personal growth based on what life has given me.

Zachary Harold Block said...
This comment has been removed by the author.