The Reason for Withdrawal: An Abjective Interview with Donny Thane

May 7, 2011 § 23 Comments

This interview happened via email. I was originally going to post it as a piece at Abjective, but the more I read it, the more I think it’s a blogpost. Okay.

Donny Thane (via submishmash): Xxx Xxxxx xx Xxxxx Xxxxxx by Xxxxxxx Xxxxx has been withdrawn by the author.
The reason for withdrawal is: your magazine sucks

Abjective Editor: haha. to each his own. take care.

DT: You piped up and trashed a potential contributor, douche, or at least someone over there did. That piece roxane liked but rejected, that’s what I pulled from your slush pile. Why would I submit to someone who has negative things to say about me before we’ve ever interacted? I wouldn’t. I wont.

AE: no problem. take care…

DT: And you’re a puss. You said you wished someone would come at you. You’re about as ferocious as a goldfish.

AE: i’m fine with being a puss goldfish though. i thought you were going to come at me.

AE: hey, if it’s okay, i’d like to accept this entire email chain, plus any future contributions we make to it (even like if you want to include a story or poem in the email, it would be included), and post it at Abjective this Saturday. Send along a bio I can use.

DT: Darby, what the hell do you think I was trying to do? I’m collecting material here.

I’m under agreement not to use my real name, and this is it. So, no, I can’t use my real name and you can’t either (or at least you shouldn’t and I am respectfully requesting you don’t), but the pen name Donny Thane is fine, and if you want entire emails just reply to I’ll even send you the same emails over again from that address if you want, but since you never played your pat I’m afraid we’re shy of material.

And poems? I don’t write poems, Darby, and I’d appreciate not being mistaken for a poem writer again. I mean, al I called you was a puss and a goldfish, and you come out with the big guns right away and accuse me of writing poetry? You are fucking ruthless.

AE: right. but ok wait. so you’re playing the bitter submitter and i’m playing the stabbed staffer, and its expected that i get angry and then write a soliloquy about how under-appreciated editors are? this is fun dude. i’ll post this stuff saturday and not use your real name. poetry is fun sometimes too, you should try it out. i dare you to write a poem. also, what are you planning to do with the material, are you writing a book?

AE: we can make it like an interview format. I’ll call it “Abjective Interview with Donny Thane”

So Donny, tell me about your spat with Roxane at Pank. What prompted such vitriol, or was it all just fake? Research for something bigger? Care to comment?

DT: I teach 4 to 7, just got to school. Ill reply tonight.

AE: no problem.

also, if it’s a bigger project, what’s its impetus? Are you trying to say something broader about the general juvenality of writers in the independent literary scene?

DT: Darby,

I said I’d be back last night but I vanished, I know. I was in a motorcycle accident recently and pain killers plus clonepin sometimes knock me out.

I like the interview idea. I’d like to answer those questions.

I really don’t know what I’m doing with all my email stuff, but I’m not a troll and what I sent to you was pretty legitimate at first. It kind of bothered me thast I had submitted to you and you were taking part in that conversation, but you didn’t know, we don’t know each other and it’s not like I hold anything against anybody for long. I’m just easily excitable.

Anyway, my email account has stuff like me bothering Noam Chomsky and him trying to convince me that the country doesn’t need a revolution. last night I got an email from an old friend of John Lennon’s, and the whole email was about how John fucked some chick one room away from Yoko during a party at somebody rubin’s paratment. The anti-war activist, maybe Jerry Rubin. I forget his first name and it’s in my other account. Anyway, guy sending me stuff is Kenny Schaffer, from ‘What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?’ He’s an inventor, was a bit of a spy, partied with all the biggest rock stars for years after he invented the cordless guitar, built Russia’s modern telcom system, married the one-leged nurse from the Sopranos.

I’ll answer your question in the other account. I have long interviews with a few geniuses. Noam Chomsky, Kenny and some others. You have any thoughts on that?

As far as Roxane, I’ll answer that in the other account. I just think lit journals are disgusting these days, mostly because of editors. She has some scam going on with that low acceptance rate and the wicked fast response time, and it’s not meant to benefit anyone but her and her partner. I’ll smoke some weed and explain it better as Donny.

DT (as Donny): Pank’s reading process is a scam. They reject submissions as fast as possible to remain on Duotrope’s list of swiftly responding journals. That in itself isn’t an evil maneuver, but then Roxane goes a step further by trying to bolster future submission rates by writing phony ‘personal’ rejection letters. She urges people to resubmit as soon as possible, because just like she’s overly concerned with placing Pank on the list of swift responders, she also wants to decrease acceptance rates, thus giving the impression that Pank is a competitive market, and possibly even appearing on Duotrope’s other list of the most challenging of all journals. She also wants to sell t-shirts. Word Riot and Neon do the exact same thing. They reject without reading and then urge rejects to do two things: report response times to Duotrope’s and immediately resubmit. She’s a scammer, and I let her know that I know it, and she reacted by writing a blog about me. Nothing was fake but her responses to earlier pieces I submitted. She teased me into submitting a third piece, telling me how impressed she was with my writing (as if it’s her personal approval I sought), and when she wrote me my third nice ‘personal’ rejection, I wrote back to say, “The jig is up, Woman.” The rest is still in her lame, petty, whiney blog for all to see. [link here?]

Next question?

DT: By the way, Krishan from Neon (I call her Bobblehead) once activated and rejected three stories of mine in about 2 minutes. When I wrote her to ask about it I had a far worse blowout than I did with Roxane, all still in email. Kevin O’Cuinn from Word Riot (I call him Bitchy, and not because he’s so effeminate but because he’s so snippy you expect him to lay down and birth a litter at any moment), that guy will email you at all hours of the night if you upset him, which I have many times. He will dig your work out and reject it with a nasty letter to your personal email address once you make an enemy of him, which I did. But you never hear any writers complaining about these editors do you? And it’s not even like they are gatekeepers to anything substantial. Most of the writers who appear in Pank, Word Riot and Neon have personal web-pages listing a slew of links to their work, so many that it’s almost hard to believe these aren’t accomplished, professional writers. But follow the links and read the stories and you’ll see why nobody ever sends them money, because what they write is as in demand as Jehovah Witness pamphlets in a Jewish neighborhood. Look at the writers who came out to support Roxane in her blog as she complained about writers. Follow their links. You’ll find piles of scribblings, tons of credits, but nothing of any interest whatsoever. It’s a sad network, which is why nobody reads Pank, Word Riot or Neon except small press writers. It’s dead art being circulated amongst the same group of people. There are only a few hundred of them. The problem is that they have monopolized the search engine responses to queries like ‘lit journal’ and ‘read short stories,’ so these pathetic rags run by elitist nobodies are what currently pass for online literature.

AE: Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay. So which is worse: that zines engage in scams, or that what they are publishing is not any good. Like if you felt that what they published was good stuff, would the scamming matter? Or if they published nothing good, but did it ethically. Thoughts?

AE: Also, for Abjective, I admit to rejecting some work without reading completely. Is this bad practice and why?

DT: My main complaint is that people aren’t more imaginative. First off, the human brain matures at 25, on average, so if anybody younger than 25 is reading submissions, they could essentially be replaced with a monkey or a dog or something else that’s house-broken and knows how to point. How can someone with a fresh, mushy brain distinguish between a bad story and a bad feeling they get from a great story? Am I being rough on young people? Yes, I am, but I will die before them so they can piss on my grave for revenge if they want. I don’t mind.

Some ‘writer’ kept poking into that blog string on Pank (which was the best thing they’ve published in ages but instead of thanking me they blocked my ip from making comments), and he kept talking about the right and wrong reasons to write. He kept insisting that ego was the wrong reason, and that he writes for the right reason. That guy’s obviously nuts, but me almost makes a good point by mistake. He almost asks why certain journals exist, and that’s a great question. My complaint is that people supposedly all believing they have talent enough to entertain others with words don’t focus on proving that outright, even in anonymous fashion, but instead they network. It’s ridiculous. What would the NFL look like if players worked their way onto the field by networking? Like an orthopedist’s wet dream, that’s what. A soup sandwich.

New journal called Flywheel coming out. They have a great mission statement about how they want to print what others are afraid to print, and the editor likes to write humor so I look forward to seeing what he publishes. But they also list their reason for starting a journal in an already saturated market of shit as a desire to not be judged by other editors any longer, but to judge the work of others. Is that a good reason for starting your own journal, and does that mean you really want to submit to other journals as an editor and not just a writer that can offer nothing in return? And if doing something to others because it was done to you is a good reason for doing something, then beating children is a good thing, and it’s a shame rates of such behavior have dropped throughout my lifetime, at least according to Flywheel’s logic. By the way, Dave, the editor of Flywheel, had the same idea as you, Darby, and he wanted this interview, but he solicited my stories and then asked me to wait two weeks for him to read them, so I gave him the finger and here I am.

DT: No, it’s not a bad practice, it’s a bad system. Many hands make light work. I see you have a book, Darby. I’m sure Roxane has a book, and she has an MFA at least, probably a doctorate. This field’s full of MFA’s and they seem to want to use some sort of peer review process to evaluate works of an artistic nature, with them (you) being the peers and the artists all being deemed aspiring, or inferior. I submit to you that history proves over and over again that the absolute worst way possible to judge works of art are with one set of eyes only. Almost in every single historically relevant example I know of, great works of art were labeled shit by the most reputable of critics. Dostoevsky hid from his landlady because he couldn’t pay her, ever, and Van Gogh sold nothing. Nothing! They hated them. I mean, Jesus Christ, look at what happens to people with really great ideas, like Jesus Christ.

This is the fucking internet. Why on earth are you reading all those submissions while people are passively staring at your website? Get them involved. How many submissions do you get? Can you fit them all online and let people make comments, see which ones draw attention? Why is the online writer’s workshop nothing but a workshop and why is the journal just a journal. And even though you have a book, who are you to decide for the tastes of others? Are you trying to limit the number of people who enjoy what you publish to only those who have the exact same taste as you? Do you take into consideration that tastes vary? Why are all these editors stuck on this idea that they must love a story to publish it? If they only want to publish what they love and they want to increase reader numbers, then they are saying they know best what most people like. But most people like action movies. MFA’s usually have limited and obsessive tastes, which is why they sit in corners of coffee shops sipping green tea and reading something nobody ever heard of.

It’s just all so unimaginative, all so very much just like the next one. These are the suburbs of literature.

Coincidentally, I don’t think you should be a journal that publishes everything by everybody, just that many many more people should be involved in the process. When I submit to your journal, my story should get to you because more readers liked it than didn’t, and when that ratio gets even higher, you could tell a gem by simply seeing something like this: .82 instead of reading every single submission yourself like you’re someone special and if you don’t filter out our entertainment for us we’ll be deprived of your Godlike guidance. What if you’re like my aunt and your favorite book is The Charterhouse of Parma? Then I’m screwed and I can’t be entertained by your site, at least not all the time. That same aunt told me I was an idiot for not having read Guns, Germs and Steel, and she was totally on the money with that one.

I’d say your best bet, as an editor, to increase the number of readers who find stories they like in each issue of your journal is to make sure only one that you like appears, and the rest are what other people like. tastes vary. But I think you only publish one story at a time, so in your case you should really only publish the story that is your favorite every once in a while, and you should use the input of others as often as possible, to avoid chasing away people who have tastes completely different than your own.

But then this goes to how each magazine is supposed to have its own aura, created solely by the decisions of one or two editors. I’m saying that aura is thin and pale when created by one or two minds, and it’s like pea soup when you involve large numbers of brains. That’s all just straight mathematics. Statistically speaking, you actively limit the number of people who will find your journal interesting, and in the case of Roxane and the guys at Flywheel, I’m afraid they do it because they think an MFA gives them the ability to better judge written art than others. If they wanted to figure out what people want most, they should have went for marketing degrees.

AE: My feeling on this is that I don’t really care about increasing readership at Abjective. I don’t track hits to the site so I don’t know how much it is being read. It’s nice to hear that others read and enjoy it, and it’s nice that people submit, but Abjective is an almost entirely selfish exercise for me. The internet gives me the freedom to do this. So I’m not really concerned about things like what do readers want. The number of submissions I get every month continues to increase, so I feel sort of fine with what is happening.

By the way, this is really chalking up the number of complaints you have. So far I have… 1. editors engage in scams 2. what is being published lacks merit 3. readers of submissions are too young. 4. writers network too much 5. the peer review nature of mfas and academia counters imagination 6. editors publish what they love too much instead of what a group of editors love collaboratively.

Okay, next question. It sounds like you are pushing for the homogenization of all literary journals. That they should all sort of publish the tastes of everyone. Is that what you are asking for? Isn’t it better to have more journals publishing narrower tastes, just so a reader kind of knows where to go based on what they like?

DT: Abjective is different, though, isn’t it? I don’t see any mission statements on your site about how you aim to increase the exposure of new and up and coming writers, particularly those who indulge in experimental… blah blah blah. I don’t see you selling t-shirts and coffee mugs. You can’t really take up the argument for Pank from your perspective, because you don’t purport to be anything and you don’t sell anything. Not as far as I can tell.

It sounds like you are pushing for the homogenization of all literary journals. That they should all sort of publish the tastes of everyone. Is that what you are asking for? Isn’t it better to have more journals publishing narrower tastes, just so a reader kind of knows where to go based on what they like?

Here’s what Pank says it’s all about:

“, the PANK Little Book Series — is committed to fostering access to emerging and experimental poetry and prose, from its brightest and most promising writers, to its most adventurous readers, across a variety of delivery platforms.”

That sounds like a taste-free forum to me. The very next paragraph of Pank’s mission statement is a boast about their one-million hits in 2010, their 100,000 readers and their very low acceptance rate.

Is Pank’s mission statement not homogenous already? They say, “We will print the best, especially the best experimental.”

I’m sorry to say, I don’t read any literary journals. Maybe the New Yorker sometimes. I’m 100 years behind on my reading and still stuck in Russia. There’s no way I want to spend any time reading some stoned undergrad’s attempt at his own personal Naked Lunch. I like Harpers too, but only very old issues. So why must I read through Pank to get a feel for it before I submit when they clearly said they simply want the best and brightest, and what does it mean that I’m not right for them? I’m not the best or the brightest? Then why praise my work and tell me you’re impressed with it? Dim people impress you?

And besides, they seem pretty homogenous to me already. Where are these narrow tastes? I see sci-fi, porno stories and the giant umbrella of everything else called true literature, but so much of it is just flowery, overly descriptive, boring nonsense. Some guy looks at a bug in a way I never would have imagined somebody would look at a bug, but I still don’t give a fuck. Do you? If I’m not laughing or my heart’s not pounding and all I want to do is jump into the story and scream, “Shut the fuck up, already!” it’s useless to me, and that seems to be Pank, Word Riot, Bananfish, Neon, Paper Darts and almost every single journal that isn’t sci-fi, porno, the New Yorker or Harpers. To me, anyway. The good stuff, the funny stuff, it’s always on somebody’s blog or in some comment somewhere. Like this one: [insert link to 18 Ways To Die here].

AE: Earlier, you said.. “he solicited my stories and then asked me to wait two weeks for him to read them, so I gave him the finger” I’m confused by this. You want works to be evaluated by multiple editors, right? Is two weeks too long or too short to wait?

DT: It was 1,300 words, Darby. Dude asked me for it. You’re asking me if 2 weeks might possibly be too short a time? You can read Moby Dick in 2 weeks. He said he had absolutely no slush pile but me and some guy who sent a real cat skull in with his story, but he needed 2 weeks. Could you kindly explain this process to me that takes 2 weeks to read 1,300 words? I could remake the story out of chocolate letters in 2 days. What the fuck’s he going to do for 2 weeks?

AE: Well, there’s a rumination/mood factor, I would say. Decisions aren’t always so binary. Sometimes I’ll read a submission and I’ll think something’s there but I won’t trust myself in that instant, and I’ll get some time away from it and look at it again and see it differently. Or an editor wants to see how it holds up to a second or third reading. Or maybe an editor wants to lay out some editing requests and those decisions can take time. I don’t know. All editors have their idiosyncratic ways of deciding what good art is.

AE: Earlier you said… “It’s a sad network, which is why nobody reads Pank, Word Riot or Neon except small press writers.” Isn’t this true of all specialized arts though? Isn’t a concert flutist more likely to thoroughly enjoy, not to mention gauge the merit of a flute concerto performance?

DT: Well, I look at it this way. When Vermeer painted pictures like photographs before photography was invented, it was progressive. After the photograph was invented, the impressionists gave people a view of unfocussed vision, which is something neither the camera or the human eye can do, but it is in fact what the world looks like when you view it (if you could view it) without the use of a lens. progressive. Abstract art was progressive too, because that’s what art is. When it gets to the point where people are simply performing old old artworks, like chamber music, orchestral performances, absolutely nothing new is being added and those partaking are just dealing in dead art. There’s no reason literature has to be dead art. You can do things with the written word that can’t be done with film or audio clips or any other medium. it’s not dead yet, so why call it specialized and assume it’s only accessible to people who already have a taste for it? If it’s progressive, then nobody has a taste for it because nobody ever saw it before.

DT: I guess I feel like a misunderstood person, I don’t think I have the ability to write stories that feel familiar to people in tone. It will all strike some new chord in readers and editors, and I fear they use this thing called, ‘what we’re looking for,’ to maintain some monotone nature to their publications, and when they tout themselves as progressive and eagerly seeking the experimental and unseen, I feel a contradiction exists, and I’ve been scammed.

DT: who are you, Darby?

DT: You asked for a story. I’m submitting one that I don’t think is a truly pleasurable read, but more a bit disturbing. It’s a bit violent but still literature not pulp, and it’s a hell of a lot smoother and better than a lot of shit I see in Pank and other journals. But no 22-year-old is going to understand it, they’ll just think it’s about violence. It’s a simple statement about how closed-minded everybody is. A dude who contemplates the most unrestricted, most progressive intellectual pursuits doesn’t have the ability to consider people as genuine individuals, but instead he deals with them like annoying bugs. Also, I’m the dude in the truck, and I’ve never figured out exactly who I am. I studied a lot of physics and I do think about the shape of spacetime. It’s an amateur pursuit, I’ll never solve unified field theory (Jacob Barnett will), but math and physics are my fields and these are the things I like to think about. But I’m also a veteran of special operations, a former college hockey player and, for a long long time, a manual laborer working on the biggest, scariest construction projects in or around NYC. I’m a total nerd who will beat the ever-loving shit out of assholes who deserve it. So far, nobody has appreciated this little story. All I want to know is if it sticks with you at all. Pank said it did, but it wasn’t right for their magazine. This is not the story Roxane said she really liked but didn’t love. That was goofy humor, which I think is mostly what I write. And I don’t claim to be some great writer either. I claim to be a good combination of clever, crazy and recalcitrant, that’s it.

AE: It doesn’t really stick with me. But I’m in a very singular mindframe when I’m reading for Abjective, and if it starts to read like a story, like the sentences sound all perfectly, grammatically correct, that’s enough to put me off and I’ll struggle through the rest.

I guess a question I have is why write a story about how closed minded everyone is? You got to get over that. It feels like you are approaching so many things from an antagonistic point of view. I hate reading stories where I feel like I’m reading someone’s therapy. Why do you write fiction?

AE: Wow, 18 ways to Die takes me back. That was literally my first online publication. But see, I read that now and I think how naive I was. I was so not well-read. In the decade since that was published, I’ve devoured writers like Carver, Beckett, Barthelme, Lutz, Lish, DFW, Gass, Diane Williams, and they opened me up to contemporary literature as something more than just occasionally, off-handedly funny. Compare 18 with my most recent online publication and its 180 from where I started. Everything is a journey, dude.

DT: You couldn’t have put together a better collection of names to represent the kind of writing that simply gives me the creeps. Who the fuck do these guys think they are? What set of this type of garbage writing anyways? It wasn’t Naked Lunch, so who started this ridiculous trend?

It’s fucking nonsense, dude. I swear, when I had to read Beckett plays in some mandatory drama class, I literally felt sick. I want to pour pig’s blood on anyone who writes that shit. Sorry, Darby, but if that shit were legitimate, they’d make great movies that are nothing but seemingly unrelated scenes.

There is a type of weirdness in literature I love. Gogol’s stories were great, and he was crazier and smarter than anyone on your list. Ever read Oleshi, I think, book called Envy?

Blah, your taste! I wish I had read that before I sent you something to read.

DT: My sister likes that kind of stuff. She has her doctorate so she has to pretend that it all makes sense to her. meanwhile, she can’t add 2+3

DT: I’m the absolute opposite. What on earth is anyone doing writing sentences that don’t flow? trying to draw attention to the words, make people stop and stumble, leave thoughts incomplete? That’s poetry, not fiction. Fiction means story, did you know that. the words are supposed to get out of the way, as is the writer, unless of course he thinks far too much of himself and needs people to feel as if they fail to comprehend him, because he’s so superior.

I like to tell stories. Why on earth do you write what you’re referring to as fiction?

AE: haha! but whatever i mean! to each his own, right? i mean, so people in the world have different tastes than you, why is that horrible?

also, i love nonsense! i like not understanding everything about what i’m reading. its just what i like. that’s okay, right?

DT: what’s the point of a bunch of words that don’t amount to anything?

AE: you mean like what’s the point of this whole conversation?

DT: it’s totally OK, just a shame we discovered how different our tastes are so late. People love that shit, I know. I can’t stand actiopn sequences in movies. An action movie, like a summer blockbuster, it puts me to sleep. With film, my tastes are so friggin pretentious, but in writing, I love goofy, absurd funny stuff.

DT: at least we exchanged ideas.

AE: You said: It wasn’t Naked Lunch, so who started this ridiculous trend?

Sterne? Joyce? I don’t know. These writers make reading a different kind of experience, and the more I read the more I craved the experience. I don’t know how to explain it any more than that.

DT: It’s obviously a right brained/left brained thing.

AE: You said: “I fear they use this thing called, ‘what we’re looking for,’ to maintain some monotone nature to their publications, and when they tout themselves as progressive and eagerly seeking the experimental and unseen, I feel a contradiction exists, and I’ve been scammed.”

I read it simply as what they are looking for is the experimental and unseen.

AE: I don’t know, I’m fairly left-brained. My degree is in engineering, not english.

DT: Roxane’s letter to me said she loved the experimental part of my story. Are you trying to argue this with me now, because in italics I was taking a hard line on everything.

DT: I don’t know which side is which.

You said something (I don’t know what exactly) about it being pessimistic to say we’re all closed-minded, but that’s how you keep reminding yourself to open your mind, is by remembering that we’re naturally closed-minded. We get used to stuff. That’s why. Positive message, not a complaint.

AE: No, that’s what a person internally does maybe, but writing it in a story is like telling a reader how they ought to behave, like wagging your finger at society. No one wants fingers wagged at them. I don’t want to read fiction that gives me life lessons or tells me how to live.

AE: It seems like you’re approaching it like it’s an objective pursuit though. Like if all the criteria match, then it should be accepted, and it doesn’t happen that way. It’s all so much more subjective, intuitive. You should try being a reader to a journal sometime. Start your own and start taking submissions.

DT: no way I wagged any fingers in that stupid little story. And I didn’t sit down to write a story about some moral lesson. I actually got a nasty email from that dude from word riot and the next time I felt like opening word, I just wrote a story about punching someone in the face. Then I looked at it and realized that it makes a little statement about how not just the redneck but the 1/2 jewish guy is closed-minded too.

AE: I didn’t read the story the way you are explaining it. I just kind of read it as a dude thinking about stuff and a guy interrupts him and then goes away and the guy resumes thinking about stuff. I don’t read anything about close-mindedness at all. I just read two very different personalities clash a little. People clash sometimes, I don’t think it’s implied that people will ever care about why other people are not like them.

AE: I don’t know, but see why I don’t like this kind of fiction where a writer is trying to make like abstract statements about things? It’s so much easier to read Beckett.

DT: I don’t think that way at all, and are you interviewing donny thane or just bullshitting with me now? It comes down to people’s opinions, and nobody has any obligation to anyone else. Roxane teased me into submitting more and more and it pissed me off. About 10 years ago I hooked up with this agent in Hollywood (I wrote a few screenplays like every morn in their 20’s does) and this fucking guy was making deals with studios for 1/2 a million dollars all the time, with screenplays from unknown writers. he supposedly took a shine to my writing, didn’t want to rep any of my screenplays but he spent hours talking to me on the phone and writing me long instructional emails. I ended up doing nothing but pitching idea after idea to this guy for months and months. I wrote so many treatments for him and he kept egging me on, letting me know I was getting closer and closer.

Anyway, I think it wasn’t actually just the one guy. I was definitely dealing with his office. They’d tell me about deals that weren’t yet in the trades and 2 weeks later everything they said was totaly accurate and it was this agent mentioned. He must have had readers, must have had a hundred screenwriters on the edge of their seats. I ended up with zippo, but that guy became a mega-millionaire in about 6 months of making like 20 huge deals. Then, nobody could talk to him and he repped big names.

Sucked. Roxane solicits more and more, and it’s just for response times and low acceptance rates. She doesn’t outright lie and I’m sure she does read the stories, and I know she doesn’t mean to waste anybody’s time. it’s just a pisser of a thing, ya know?

DT: Yeah, we don’t like the same stuff at all.

AE: i don’t know dude i’m just chatting. You’re entitled to think what you want to think, but I don’t personally see the logic in Roxane asking for resubmissions if she wasn’t serious. Low response time is not a function of overall number of submissions, so it doesn’t matter that they would be getting more submissions, it would only create more editorial work from their side, and in the end, you get a quick response, which many writers prefer. editors dont care about duotrope stats to the extent that they would sacrifice integrity.

DT: That makes sense. She got my hopes up, I reacted immaturely, we went back and forth in emails for a long long time and then she told me she was going to blog about it. I don’t like what they have in Pank, so why would they like me? But there’s nowhere to publish straight up humor, really. It’s sort of avoided, maybe. Anyway, I’ve only been submitting again for about a month.

What would be funny would be an email or blog argument between two people, one writing like we’re writing now and the other one in your beloved Beckett style. I’d love to see an angry piece written in that style, whatever you call it. Maybe a dude who writes like you do trying to submit to something really square, like almost a trade journal that puts some related short stories in it, about carpentry or something, and his angry rejection of the rejection is also written in that style, so it still makes no sense but it grows angrier and includes more and more curse words.

AE: you could try like, or those are the two straight humor places that come to mind. i used to write straight humor a little. i wrote a list for mcsweeneys online a while ago and a thing for once.

anyway, i think this interview is dwindling. i will finish it by asking one last question: What are some writers/books that you love and why?

DT: We by Zamyatin, because he was such a visionary and because they immediately banned it for like 80 years or so.

The Phantom Tollbooth, because it rocks.

The Overcoat by Gogol, because it’s the greatest short story ever.

Guns, Germs and Steal, because it’s my bible.

The Restraint of Beasts by Mills, because it made me laugh the entire time through.

Women, by Bukowski, because it’s a truly intimate portrait of salt-of-the-earth folk.

Seeing Red, by Arp, because he challenged the most dogmatic sector of all science with it.

DT: That’s what I’m saying, no place for humorous literature. plenty of shit sites like the Onion. Check out Flywheels editor, he writes straight up humor pieces. read their blog, especially the one about the rejected story holding a press conference.

later. I have no idea why you interviewed me or what you’re going to do with it.

AE: ok great. take it easy.


§ 23 Responses to The Reason for Withdrawal: An Abjective Interview with Donny Thane

  • Roxane Gay says:

    I don’t have an MFA.

  • ryancall says:

    donny, wat kind of motorcycle did u r1de? r u ok? i ride a ninja 650r.

  • Molly says:

    well, I read this with great interest. Donny is a character with great bravado and insecurity. A sea of contradictions. He hates all the writing found on small presses but he doesn’t read them? Editors shouldn’t publish stories they love?

    Donny, what is the reason for your anonymity? It prevents me from checking out your work, which is too bad. I’m interested. I’m interested to read humorous writing from someone who has no sense of humor about themselves.

    Switching to direct address.

    I just think you should keep writing and spend less time fretting over authors you hate. Not to get all “The Secret” about it, but you seem to at least believe in the brain as a vital organ. I wonder if the thoughts you’re producing don’t work towards manifesting negative outcomes for you. You believe in your writing. That’s good. Respect it and work hard. Learn to bend a little. Submit to journals you believe in, if you can find any. Or what about self publishing? Also, regarding your idea about a journal posting every submission they get and allowing readers to comment – I’m sure places like that exist. Forums and whatnot. Personally, I think it’s a neat idea to have a journal come together with a loosely shared aesthetic and to make executive choices for me in filtering out the very best of their submissions in an effort to bring forward quality work, but that’s just me. call me crazy.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now.

  • Rion says:

    No places for humor? This motherfucker checked the PANK blog?

    Some funny ass shit there.

    (self-promotional post)

  • Donny says:

    “I’m interested to read humorous writing from someone who has no sense of humor about themselves.”

    That’s an amazing statement. Is it a written Freudian slip to mix the singular ‘someone’ with the plural ‘themselves’?

    Trust me, I’m not being a grammar Nazi. I’m amazed I could verbalize that technical error like I did in the above sentence. I’m just saying, it’s profound to ask that question and then make a mistake that implies one person might actually be two people, or at least two personalities. When I look at the things I wrote as the dialogue of a character, like Molly did, I don’t see the insecurity, but I do see the contradictions, I knew about them as I made them. They exist.

    Where are the insecurities? Which parts expose an insecure self?

    And what’s your degree in, Roxane? I thought you taught lit or creative writing.

    And does anybody see how Darby just ignored my idea about a a story he could write that would actually put those rambling sureal statements he loves to some use? I thought it was a good idea, but I guess Darby doesn’t need any new ideas, so I shouldn’t suggest he put a link somewhere on his own damn journal to his own damn blog, especially since they have the same name. I can’t find that button.

    Where’s that button?

    And… do you smell that? Anybody smell that?

    • Roxane Gay says:

      I have a PhD in technical communication. I teach professional and technical communication and sometimes creative writing.

  • i would like to know more about this scam about low acceptance rates/swift market status Duotrope status getting me coffee mug and t-shirt money because i would very much like this money.

  • barry says:

    like everyone i suppose. you say some very smart things and some very foolish things. but me personally, i just have no respect for anonymous whiners. sorry about the bike accident man. keep on keeping on.

    p.s. please report this comment to duotrope

  • Donny says:

    How am I an anonymous whiner? Check out the front page of Bananafish tomorrow, read my story, read my bio. What the fuck does that mean, anonymous? You need my SS# for some reason, motherfucker? You want the three-digit security code from the back of my Visa? In what way are you present here that I am not? What am I hiding behind? Am I using the wrong font or something? I thought I was just a bunch of fucking words and that’s all you were too. Now I find out that I’m somehow fake and you’re the genuine article?

    Well, that just sucks!

    I’m not real? Then who made me?




  • barry says:

    hahaha. dont let “a bunch of fucking words” raise your blood pressure bro.

    this is what you said: “I’m under agreement not to use my real name…”

    when people say they are not using their real names i assume that means anonymous. perhaps i shoulda said i dont respect people who use aliases. i misspoke. my bad.

    i never one time made any statements about myself being genuine or smart or talented. truth be told im a fucking idiot.

    either way. why get so upset because one person doesnt respect you? move on.

  • Donny says:

    Did I mention Bananafish somewhere? Got an acceptance from them, they were running some goofy thing I sent them tomorrow, now it’s declined.

    I feel even less apologetic for my behavior with Roxane now. Angry writers, they’re such a menace and editors are such fantastic people.

    “Oh, Roxane, thank you so much for writing this blog that basically tells me to shut the fuck up and go away the next time you reject me. This was such a beautiful, stirring and courageous portrait of the day-to-day WW1 style trench warfare editors engage in as they struggle, as do God’s angels, to bring brilliance and radiance into our world. We owe you EVERYTHING (I think the latest piece I submitted is a really great fit for Pank).”

    It’s not cool to egg people on unless you mean it, not cool to accept and then reject as part of some revenge scheme launched in the name of literary journals as a whole. It’s just a lot of bullshit.

    In any event, an occasional thank you would be nice. I mean after all, are you not entertained?



  • Donny says:

    Actually, I figured out the Bananafish mystery already, but not down to people’s names, not that anybody involved has a name worth remembering. Just some good old fashioned editorial revenge, as I suspected the moment it happened.

    I accidentally rattled an entire shelf of porcelain dolls.

    Woe is me…

    • Donny says:

      Maybe it had to do with the titles of my last two submissions to Bananafish: ‘Suck It’ and ‘Goodbye and Fuck You’

      Or maybe my cover letter of, “suck it good,” just didn’t work for them over there.

      Roxane, you also despised my cover letter, and that was just a quote from Goodfellas.

  • two things. first off this interview is only slightly larger than my cat’s balls. why stop there? i only had to cut my fucking fingernails twice. second, what’s all this talk about me pussing out? didn’t this just start? you’re like that fly in that quote by that guy who sits on an axle and says, “Look at the dust I raise!” actually that doesn’t fit at all. point is…gimmie a chance! i’m in for the long haul brother. this interview was a good read tho. i’m glad you exist. seemed like a good trade-off. i’ll take that abuse for the press. I also agree completely about The Phantom Tollbooth.
    for the record when i said you were the slush pile i meant the other 2000 stories turning brown in submishmash were going to be ignored by us completely until the launch. except for yours and the dude that sent us a cat skull. basically i gave you the fucking world. this “two weeks” thing sounded good because The ‘Burbs was on, and that was a joke in there, and i kinda need two weeks to launch this shit, pack up this apartment, move across the country, drown someone in a toilet, sit on it, take a long, lazy shit, then read your story. which i’ll probably do anyway. that’s the beauty of this virtual middle finger you gave me. it sounds pretty dramatic, like you yanked them right out of my grasping hands. instead what happened? i don’t know. nothing really. the font in the submission manager just sort of changed color. shit’s still there. there’s your story right there on my other computer screen. i’m tapping you on your first sentence. feel that? yeah i got sort of a War Room set up with all these TVs. screens reading from left to right: end credits are rolling on The Thing, Roadhouse halfway through, this interview, and, finally, submishmashiwastakingabath with your glorious fiction you “yanked.” and because i don’t know what the fuck i’m doing and tend to burn the house down just to make a point, i’m tempted to… do something with it. i have to, right? i haven’t decided.
    but it really does feels like a hostage situation.
    maybe i’ll get it published for you under another fake name just by being really, really nice. would that make you blow your brains out? if everyone thought you were this nice guy and you were featured in like Highlights Magazine next to Goofus and Gallant? or what about we start a journal, just me and you, that publishes things by people who have withdrawn stories from us in a tantrum. i’ll call the rag The Lawsuit Review. anyway, thanks for the shout-out. you’re better than a marketing degree.
    one question, why is this story called “Double Rainbow” when there’s only one? you weren’t kidding though. this shit is gold..

  • Donny says:

    Two things:

    First: Unless you’re going to assassinate someone famous, Dave, you can stop telling us your middle name.

    Second: Darby is not necessarily a bad editor, he simply does not edit at all. For instance, if the person you’re interviewing has to stop and ask, “Is this part of the interview or are you just bullshitting now?” then you’ve already gone a bit off track as an interviewer, and if your answer is that you’re just bullshitting and then you put all that in the interview, you just gave your readers two guys bullshitting to read. Why would you do that? We don’t even listen when we hear two guys bullshitting at the deli. Why would we want to read that? Darby is like the hack reporter who runs to his editor with super clever and weaselly ideas that ultimately get shot down, but that editor doesn’t exist, so Darby runs to himself with those ideas, they both agree on how brilliant it all is and arm in arm they dance in celebration across the floor of an editorial office that doesn’t really exist either. It’s all so much fun, and thanks to Darby’s brilliance, we now have an actual documented case of two people shooting the shit. Genius!

    Third: I saw this guy in his argyle sweater and I decided to use his description of himself as my own:

    I am now a Magic Realist.

    Fourth: Flywheel will be interesting to read. Dave the assassin writes some pretty funny stuff, as you can see from above, and their first issue has an essay by Roxane, so you know you’re going to laugh and also be depressed. It’ll be like that old commercial for some broadway play: “I laughed, I cried, I fell the fuck asleep.” Something like that.

    Fifth: Someone at Bananafish was so upset that yesterday they spent half the time preparing their new issue writing me letters, accepting and then rejecting previously submitted and withdrawn stuff on submishmash and pouring unsolicited biographies into my email account.

    “Dude, I’m a 37-year-old ex police sergeant who has been writing professionally for ten years…”

    I fell for it because I didn’t expect anybody who would go through the trouble of having an online journal and link it to submishmash would also spend his or her time like that. The feeling is familiar. It’s like when I was in high school and a couple ex girlfriends would get together and design some scheme to get me back for having — I don’t know what — liked them and then not liked them, I guess. It makes me feel like I’m dealing with children but I’m out of place not them, kind of like I’m deep inside some clothing store, browsing racks, when I finally realize it’s a store for boys, or worse, for women only, and now it hits me that the kids who work there were watching as I held a few different shirts up against my beer belly, as I searched that one shelf for pants that fit me like a cop looking for drugs. Young people can embarrass you too, even though they have soft mushy brains. I teach young people. When my baby sister was 4, she told me I smelled funny. That was embarrassing. But now I feel a bit repulsed by all these journals. Are you all so young? I hope not.

    That’s a great analogy I just almost made. I used to work in the GE building on 5th ave, and I loved this Cuban sandwich place but to get to it I had to walk past the Abercrombie and Fitch, and I had a real problem with that.

    First off, it’s a clothing store but even during the day you could see that it was dark inside besides some strobing light to go along with the deafening club music that was so fucking loud you could hear it for three blocks.

    Then, there was always a line of people waiting outside. Throughout shopping season they’d wait in the hundreds in that stupid line that led right up to the two guys dressed like bouncers who opened and closed the velvet rope gate for people. The store behaved exactly like a club, looked like a club.

    But the worst part was the perfume they sprayed into the street. The air was thick with it all along the line of people, and it was disgusting. It burned my eyes and stained my senses and cost me a portion of my appetite each goddamned day.

    And I feel like you could take all these journals and stuff them inside that annoying store, call all the writers who appear in them the idiot kids waiting on that stinking line in December, you could see the ‘editors’ (even ones like Darby who don’t edit) as the bouncers and the jerk offs spraying that stinking perfume all over the place, and I’m the moron who got into line, worked my way to the front and was told he can’t come in, and now I’m standing there screaming at these clothing store bouncers and trying to tell them their business.

    “Check the fucking list again, man. Do you know who I am?”

    “Oh yeah? Well your clothes such anyway. I hate them! You think you’re Bergdorf Goodman or Bloomindales, man, but you ain’t nothing but the JC Penny’s boys section dressed up like a bar, you lame ass, mushy-brained bastards!”

  • Donny says:

    I have to read shit before pressing the button. I just ruined that whole post by putting the word ‘such’ where the word ‘suck’ belonged.

    Woe is me.

    It’s a shame the world isn’t full of editors who don’t really edit anything. I could use one’s help.

  • Lonny says:

    I want my fucking time back. Shorter Donny: I’ve been hurt; I’m going to make it your problem.

  • Donny says:

    sounds scary…

  • Lonny says:

    Uh, that wasn’t a threat, dude. That was me paraphrasing your shtick.

  • […] I write in response to your interview at AbjectiBlog, which was in part a response to Roxane Gay’s letter to writers at PANK, which was in part a […]

  • Christopher Miller says:

    I think it might boil down to this:

    How to Write a Rejection Slip

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